It’s Just The Beginning

I come from a large Italian family. We are close, do most everything together, and support each other no matter what. We don’t keep anything from each other. No secrets ever. I knew that I was so lucky to have a family like mine to be there through this but I feared how it would effect them. I worried about how my parents were coping, my siblings, my grandmother, but I really worried about my nieces and nephews. I knew that my nieces were a little too young to understand, but that is what made it hard. I knew that I wouldn’t look the same, I would be sick, recovering, unable to completely be myself and do the things I would normally do and how they would process that. I worried that it would scar them. I worried about my nephews in a different way though. They were old enough to understand what Cancer was. They were old enough to understand that I was sick. They would understand what multiple surgeries would mean for me. They were old enough to be worried about my life.

Both sensitive and intelligent, I knew that they would have questions and get emotional. My Sister-in-law waited to tell them for this very reason. We didn’t have answers yet. We didn’t know exactly what this all meant and what my treatment would look like. I knew that I would see them that weekend though and knew that my “I have cancer” word vomit would get the best of me.

It was Valentine’s weekend and normally it would have been spent doing cute things with my boyfriend at the time but this year just wouldn’t be the same. Friday was spent literally on the phone the entire day trying to track down my pathology slides so that I could get it to the hospital where the surgical oncologist that I was set up with was. They required the actual slides of the cells not a report. Penn needed to have their pathology lab dissect them in order to get their own diagnosis. You would have thought I was trying to track down the National Treasure but it was in fact the most important thing in my life in that moment.

I treated myself to a much needed manicure that evening and my friends came to join me. They came with gifts and flowers. My one friend had gone through breast cancer and brought me the Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. She told me this would be my bible during my journey and she was right. I carried that big thing everywhere I went. It was full of everything that I needed to know and be prepared for. She then handed me a card from her step-daughter and I immediately burst out in tears. It was a Get Well Soon card with the sweetest little message. 17349547_1202480113203409_1495142766_o

I felt so incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life.

The next day my boyfriend took me to a Flyers game. I knew that it would be a struggle but I wanted to do something normal, something fun. I needed to get my mind off of this.

I tried, I tried so damn hard. I tried to be in that moment and be appreciative for everything good in my life. To be appreciative for the man sitting next to me. Appreciative of the fact that we were sitting on the ice at a Flyers game. I just couldn’t get the tears out of my eyes. I heard the crowd roaring in a far distance, there was that underwater feeling again. It was like everything was in slow motion. I couldn’t stop being completely and totally distraught. He could tell I wasn’t doing well and suggested we leave during the 3rd period and head up to my family’s house.

There I was, about to face my nephews and the fear of seeing them and them not knowing tore me up but the idea of them knowing was equally if not more upsetting. How would I say it? Would they believe me when I told them that I was going to be ok? Would I even believe myself?

I pulled my sister-in-law aside and told her I needed to talk to them. I couldn’t not tell them. We never kept secrets in the family. She agreed and we decided to sit them down and tell them together. They were receptive, inquisitive, and confused. “You have cancer? How? Are you going to be ok?” I told them yes and yes and I promised to be honest and tell them how I was every step of the way. “We love you Aunt Janine.” More tears…

The next day was Valentine’s Day. My bf offered to take me to a nice dinner but it just didn’t feel right. I knew where my head would be the whole time. I just wanted to be with him and my family all together because those were all the people that could always make me feel better, make me feel somewhat normal. Strength in numbers. Usually, my boyfriend and I post cheesy Valentine’s Instagram + Facebook posts with each others picture and saying how much we love each other blah blah but today was different though. Everything was just different. He put up a photo of me saying “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

We hadn’t publicly told anyone of my diagnosis yet and I really wasn’t sure I would ever make a formal announcement. That is pretty awkward if you ask me but I knew eventually people would find out and have questions and be concerned. After this post though, people had questions. I thought to myself, hold on tight, this is going to be a bumpy ride.


Laws Of Attraction

Erica drove me home and we sat in her car and she told me that she would be there for me in every capacity that she could be. She told me that this was going to be the hardest thing in my life but I would get through. We hugged goodbye and planned to meet the following week for dinner after her infusion. We both came from Italian families who appreciated a great meal and I told her that my boyfriend and I knew all the best spots and we would make a tradition out of it.

I walked into my house and everything felt weird. My boyfriend was anxiously waiting for me to get home so that we could talk about my appointment earlier that day.  I sat down on my steps to the kitchen and just broke down. It was uncontrollable. I was scared. Scared for my future. Scared for my relationship. I couldn’t be there. I immediately felt like I needed to get out. I couldn’t hold my tears in another second. I told him I was so scared not only for my life and everything I was about to endure, but for our relationship. I listened to what Erica said about how difficult it was to get through as a newlywed and I couldn’t help but worry about our five year relationship. We loved each other but I knew that I was about to go through hell and wouldn’t be able to focus any attention on being a girlfriend and partner. I feared that things would fall apart and said, “maybe we should just end this right now, this is going to be a hellish ride and I don’t want you to have to go through it too.” He told me I was crazy and that he would never leave me, that I was there for him during the hardest time in his life and he would be there for me, and that he loved me and the last thing I should worry about is our relationship. He told me all I needed to focus on was getting though this and coming out on the other end healthy. He told me that before we knew it, we would be in Italy and this would all behind us. He made me feel safe and in that moment I relinquished my emotions and let it all go. I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of making it through. In that moment I put 100% focus on going full speed ahead to being healthy again on the other side of hell.

He suggested I go to the spa the following day. He had recently given me a big gift card at the trendiest spa in town and a day of relaxation was just what I needed. I called and the happened to have an opening. This was perfect. I needed this.

I went to the spa the next day ready to zen out. It was every bit of perfect in there. I changed into my cozy robe and sat in an uncomfortably quiet waiting room and sipped on some tea. It was too quiet, I couldn’t drown out my thoughts and worries. I thought to myself, if I don’t cut this out, there is no way I would be able to enjoy this massage. Think zen thoughts, think zen thoughts… errrrrr I have cancer. I have a flashback to sitting in the waiting room at my mammogram that day. The fucking terror of that day. “Janine?” a soft voice calls. Follow me.

I disrobe and get on the table. I go to lay on my stomach and realize that I am still incredibly sore and uncomfortable from my biopsy. Not happening. When the massage therapist came back she asked how I was and if i was comfortable. ” I have cancer.” What is wrong with me, why did I just say that! “Oh my gosh I am so sorry,” she says. Why did I just say that? I mean there is a way to tell someone and that wasn’t it! It was like word vomit. I let her know that I couldn’t lay on my stomach and told her I was going to try and “zen” out but instead I did the complete opposite. I laid there for 90 minutes and sobbed and told her my entire story.

The massage was over and I had no recollection of it. What a waste. I went into the locker room and decide that I will go in the steam room and then take a really long shower. I needed to get some peace dammit!

I am in the shower for a significantly long time, finally at peace when I have a flashback to about five years prior.  I was sitting in my naturopathic doctors office complaining about my recent weight gain. I couldn’t understand why I was gaining weight all of a sudden mainly all in my breasts. I already had big breasts and they were seemingly growing even bigger. I already had chronic back pain and this was just unacceptable. I told her I hated them. I hated my breasts. She looked at me, very seriously and said “You know, you have to learn to love your breasts because if you hate them,  you will end up with breast cancer.” What…the…fuck… She then proceeded to hand me over a copy of The Secret.  I was confused, annoyed, and of course a little freaked out so I purchased the book.

Now I am not doubting the law of attraction and I even try to practice it almost daily, but now standing here, five years later, with a Breast Cancer diagnosis  I can’t help but blame myself and that just seems ridiculous. Or was it my breasts? Have they turned against me?! Should I be apologizing? I am sorry boobs, I am sorry I didn’t love you more… This is ridiculous! I couldn’t have possibly gotten breast cancer because I had a negative connotation with these big things.

I get out of the shower and my attention draws to my reflection. I look different. I almost don’t recognize myself. I feel different. I feel like I will never feel the way I did everyday prior to February 8, 2016. How could I? Everything has changed. I am not invincible. This is happening.

Hey Guys! Press Play :)

First of all, thank you so, so much for following along my journey. I am truly humbled by all of the love and support. I felt compelled to start this blog and share my story and anticipated that I would be doing more live videos and getting more personal with you all but it is most definitely intimidating when I am talking about the most personal, intimate, and frightening thing I have ever gone through. I wanted to make this quick video today and I definitely plan to continue doing so.

Please continue to send me your messages and questions etc. I will be answering them ALL via video because every single one I have received so far could most definitely help someone else. I have so many exciting things coming and I am SO, SO excited to share with you guys soon!

Keep sharing my journey! My hope is to help anyone going through hardships in their life even when they feel like they can not possibly endure another thing.




I’m Not Alone

I left that appointment with a breast MRI scheduled for two days from then. I never had an MRI. I really don’t know what to expect. I also left with enough paperwork to make my unorganized mind incredibly uneasy. I was lost, I was confused. I didn’t know how I would possibly pull it together.

We got in the elevator to leave and there was a woman in a wheelchair in there, clearly being wheeled down to surgery or a procedure. We made eye contact and I smiled and said hello. She looked terrified and anxious and said, “you don’t want to go where I am going.”  It was like the wind was knocked out of me in that moment. My eyes welled up with tears and I said, but that is where I will be going. I completely lost it in that elevator, embarrassing full on breakdown. There was another couple in there who 100% where judging me but I did not care. It was like I saw a glimpse into my future and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. This isn’t fair.

We got outside and everything felt different. It was that underwater feeling again. I was dizzy, anxious, and short of breath. My parents and boyfriend tried to talk to me, tried to remind me that this wasn’t all bad news, but I couldn’t make sense of it all. I needed to talk to someone that has been here. I needed someone that could understand even an ounce of how I felt. I needed to meet Erica.

Coincidentally, We had plans to meet that afternoon for the first time. I was nervous but excited. We had been talking these past two days and I couldn’t wait to put a name to a face. I couldn’t wait to sit down with someone that has been through this and could understand the feeling that I have. It is inexplainable. I also knew that I needed hope. She was diagnosed at age 27, just two months after her wedding. She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Although I wasn’t sure which hospital I would go with at this point, I was hopeful that if I had her doctors, than I would be ok.

She walked in and I knew it was her. We had an instant connection. She handed over a bag with a few things in it. I pulled out the binder. She explained how she knew how completely chaotic and unorganized this process would be, and how helpful her binder was for her. The amount of doctors, procedures, surgeries etc would be overwhelming but this would help. There was also a list of all the doctors that she used and every type of doctor that I would want to see. She handed me a book that would be my guide to eating through this. She gave me valuable information that no doctor had given yet. Why hadn’t my doctor talked to me about these things? I needed to know how to live through this, and she was my answer.

She told me about her journey and everything she had to endure. She told me how the hormone therapy was probably the worst part of her treatment. She said how shutting your 30 year old body down into menopause feels just as unnatural as it sounds. She told me how she is scared every day of her life that it will come back. How once you have cancer, it never truly goes away. She told me about her surgery. The same surgery that they talked to me about earlier that day. She said if she had a choice she would never have done it this way. I asked her to see and she laughed and said of course. We went into the bathroom and she took her shirt off right there. We couldn’t help but laugh. She showed me her hip to hip incision where they took tissue from her abdomen to build new breasts. She showed me her scars which were very present but faded four years later. She showed me her tattoo 3D nipples which looked real until you got close.  She told me that she had zero sensation in her abdomen and chests. That she was completely numb. I couldn’t wrap my head around that. How does that feel? She also told me that even though she wished she never had to get this surgery, that her surgeons were the best and she was as happy as she could be with her results. She told me how it effected her relationships with everyone in her life. Being that she had just been married when she was diagnosed, it obviously changed her relationship with her husband. She said that there were times that she didn’t know if they would make it and it was terrifying. She said that the people closest to me would see me in my most vulnerable state, they would see things that I would never want them to see. They would see me in a way that I could never get back. She said how hard it was to be a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister and fight for her life all at the same time.

I sit here in the place where I met her exactly a year later. One year since I sat here in this Starbucks and waited for her to be done her full body scan. Exactly what I am doing right now. I think about how much this year has changed. I think about everything that I have gone through and it brings me to tears. I feel that lump in my throat as I write this and can’t wrap my head around it all. I think about that girl that was sitting here scared out of her fucking mind. A girl that was just told she had cancer at 30. A girl who had no idea what I was about to endure. I felt so alone. I felt so scared. I felt so unsure about everything that I was ever sure about in my life. Suddenly, nothing mattered. Nothing that I thought was important at least. Everything looked different though. I overhear peoples conversations and they seem so unimportant. How is this person complaining about this? Or how is that person talking about that? Who cares about your clients bad attitude, who care about making your sales quota. People are dying. Everything just felt different. I knew that life would never look the same.


The Real-est Hour

We met my parents at the cafe in their hotel that morning. I was sick to my stomach, I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat but also knew that if I didn’t I would feel worse. I ordered a croissant and a cappuccino. Maybe it was the caffeine or my adrenaline that kicked in but all of a sudden I was ready. As ready as I would ever be. I wanted to talk to the surgical oncologist. I needed to hear everything from him. I had so many questions that needed answers. I wanted to know what I was dealing with.

We walked down to the hospital. It was the same building that I had come the week prior when I had my mammogram and biopsy. I had a flashback, it made my shudder. Here I am, just over a week later and it’s real. I have cancer.

I signed in at the front desk and they gave me a load of paperwork to fill out. More than usual. There was pages and pages of family history questions. My head started to spin. I called my mom over to help. Then I get to the part where it asks if I have any medical conditions. That’s the part where I usually just check off the one box that pertains to me, thyroid problems. But today there is a different box to check off.  Cancer. It took the wind right out of my sail. The harshest reality. Cancer, check.

We sat in the waiting room and I felt the panic from everyone. They called me back and I asked my boyfriend and Dad to wait in the waiting room at first. I just wanted my mom back there when they first explained everything. I knew that hearing it straight from the surgical oncologist was going to be hard to hear and I needed to hear it first.

The PA came in first.  She was sweet, relatable, and a fellow Italian. It made me feel as comfortable as possible in a uncomfortable situation. She told me that the doctor was the best of the best. He was the chief of surgical oncology.  He came in and instantly made me feel calm. He had a warmness about him. He told me, it’s true, you have cancer but it’s ok. “It’s ok??” I thought. He said it looks like we caught it very early. He said that he reviewed my pathology and file and I must have a guardian angel. He told me that I was lucky. Wow, this is good news right? He said yes, but first we need to get a breast MRI. That would really show everything going on and make sure that it hasn’t spread anywhere or into my lymph nodes.


Then he said we would need to schedule surgery right away to get the tumor out and then we would have a better idea on how to treat it. Then he added that I would need to see a plastic surgeon, and oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a fertility specialist, genetic oncologist, and best I meet with the social worker to better cope with all of this. But first the MRI.

Wait, slow down, what?!  How the fuck am I supposed to do all of this and why do I need all of these doctors, he just said I was going to be fine I thought. He just said that I was lucky. Surgery? Are you sure that is necessary? And why the plastic surgeon? He said it was not an option, that tumor needed to come out and right away. He said I would need a plastic surgeon because the lump they would remove would be significant and I would need a plastic surgeon in there to make things even, but the other possibility is a Mastectomy.

Wait, stop, slow down. What the fuck. A mastectomy? Lose my breast? No, no, no. I am only 30. My grandmother had a mastectomy in her 60s and I have a flash to that. I want to explode. This is a living nightmare. I can’t see straight. I don’t want surgery, I don’t want any of this. I want to go home, go back to work and I want none of this to be true. I want my life back. I thought he said I was going to be ok? This isn’t ok.

Radiation? Does that burn? Won’t that damage my heart? My lungs? I barely wanted to get a mammogram and now you are talking to me about 12 weeks of radiation every single day? But you are a surgeon? What do you know about radiation or my treatment? Maybe you should stick to what you know, surgery. And I am certainly not interested in that.

Genetic Specialist? Fertility Specialist? Why, Why??

I hear words and pieces of his sentences. I hear him explain the genetic oncologist and how uncommon it is to be 30 and have breast cancer, it can be a genetic mutation and they will want to check for other cancers. I hear Fertility and how if I needed chemo I would need to freeze my eggs but at this point he doesn’t think I would. He says regardless I would need Hormone therapy, being that I had a hormone positive cancer. I would have to shut my 30 year old body down into menopause for 5 years and most likely my body wouldn’t come back from that. Egg Freezing would be my only chance of having a baby no matter what. My mind starts to completely shut down and I can barely breath.

The surgeon said that naturally he knew that I would be visiting other hospitals but gave me the list of his team that I would need to see if I went with him. So I start to do the math, I have 3 surgical oncologist that I have appointments with. So with every surgical oncologist, I would need to see a different Plastic Surgeon, Medical Oncologist, Radiation Oncologist, Genetic Oncologist and Counselor, and Fertility Specialist.  18 doctors plus an MRI  to determine even further treatment, multiple tests and procedures those doctors would order plus surgery and treatment PLUS the therapy I was going to so clearly need.  I have a job. I have a life. How in the fuck is any of this possible?

My parents and my boyfriend look hopeful but freaked out. They force some smiles my way and it made me mad. The doctor left and I told everyone to give me a minute. I needed to be alone. I needed to process. I knocked on the surgeons door and broke down. I told him I couldn’t do this. I wanted to give up right then and there. He said, you have a very bumpy and windy road ahead of you, it’s going to be really hard, it’s going to be so exhausting, it will take almost everything out of you. He told me that I was going to want to give up every day. But then he told me there was a light at the end of the tunnel. He told me that I would be on that trip this summer to Italy, happy and healthy, he would make sure of that. He told me I was going to survive and my life might never be the same, but it would go on. He promised me. He promised that I was going to be ok.

It’s Real. I Have Breast Cancer.

I opened my eyes the next morning nearly gasping for air. It hit me like a ton of bricks. That wasn’t a bad nightmare. It’s real. I have breast cancer. My eyes welled up with tears and I had crippling anxiety. How could this be? I went into the bathroom and saw my reflection in the mirror, I couldn’t help but stare. I took my shirt off and stared at myself. I looked at my breasts and cried. How could this be?

I thought about my day, and my appointment with that alternative “doctor.” Our phone conversation the previous day had given me some hope so I got a jolt of adrenaline and felt that same hope again. I looked in the mirror and had one of those “you got this” pep talks with myself. I made a promise to myself that I would stay positive, the entire time, even as hard as that may have seemed. I needed to try. I needed to believe that I was going to be fine. I took a picture and sent it to my two best friends. I was holding up one finger and told them this is day one of kicking this fucking things ass. I had tears in my eyes. I was petrified.  I wanted to believe it but I wasn’t convinced. We named my tumor Bertha, so I apologize in advance if someone reading this is named Bertha!

I came out of the bathroom and my dad had left me a note. It had a telephone number to some Doctor on it. My Dad is a fixer. Not just in my life, but with everyone. Sometimes we call him Oprah. He is resourceful and he has connections. He has always been a major problem solver in my life. No matter what the situation, he knew someone or something that could fix it. He had solutions for everything. He knew that he couldn’t take my cancer away and I know that crushed him, but he also knew that he was going to get me the best of the best doctors imaginable.  I had the number of the president of the board at one of the best cancer centers in the world now in my hand. I felt a sense of calmness knowing that no matter what the outcome, I was certain I was going to get the best care possible but I also knew that I needed to feel comfortable with my decisions on how I was going to treat this thing.

My Mom and I got in the car to head to this alternative appointment. I asked her on the way to please hear him out. She is generally a skeptic and I knew that a lot of what he may say, would go against the grain. I just knew that I needed to uncover every possible option before I was going to be able to think clearly but all I was actually doing was clogging my already fogged mind and starting my mental torment.

Everything he said sounded too good to be true. How could this be? If I just do x,y, and z my cancer will go away? We hung onto his every word. We sat there for hours, we kept looking at each other with hopeful, but skeptical eyes. He advised me to avoid surgery at all costs. He said that could make it worse. He knew of my upcoming appointment at the surgical oncologist office the following day and asked me to call him after. Was he going to guilt me to go against every form of modern medicine? How was I going to choose to forgo everything a medical doctor advised? We are talking about cancer. We are talking about a fatal disease where time is of the essence. We are talking about my 30 year old life. I wanted to believe him, but I just didn’t know if I could chance this.

My mom had a bag packed and we headed into the city. My Dad was on his way as well. They were going to be checking into a hotel right near our apartment for the night so that they could be at my early appointment the next day. It made me feel safe.

I walked into my apartment and felt a rush of emotions. The last time I was here, I thought I didn’t have cancer. The last time I was here was the Friday they said it was benign. I packed my bags that day and had no idea what was going to happen shortly after. I remember that feeling as I was leaving that day. Here it comes, anxiety. I go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror again. I cry. I try to tell myself to pull it together. We had dinner reservations and I figured doing something ordinary that I loved, could maybe help me regain some normalcy. I surely didn’t feel it though.

We went to dinner and ordered all of our favorites. My dad bought three bottles of Ruffino Gold Label, we were surely going to try and have a great night. We told stories from our amazing trip to Italy the summer before, and talked about our upcoming trip that summer. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to be on that trip. Everyone told me that no matter what, I was going. It would be my light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t believe them though. Who knew what was about to happen. Who knew what I would go through. We tried to talk about all of the good things in life but our conversation kept coming back to the obvious. The four of us were full of anxiety. I have a picture from that night and you can see it in all of our eyes. Fear. We had no idea what to expect that next day. We had no idea what was in store for us.




There’s Been A Mistake Part 2- Fight or Flight

The fight-or-flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Somewhere around my second glass of wine my fight mode kicked in and I had a surge of adrenaline. I told myself and my family that I was not going to let this take me down and I was going to do everything humanly possible to get through. I told them that I was going to explore every available option and I was going to need their support. I knew that time was of the essence and I did not want to waste a second of it. I called the Surgical Oncologist and set up my appointment for 2 days from then. I called my holistic doctor and tried to get answers from a different frame of mind. I called friends that had someone they knew go through this before to get some more perspective. I had questions, so many questions. I was scared and I needed answers. I did research, I was in full fight, adrenaline pumping, mania and I feared that I could not stop. Calls, so many calls. Then I remembered one friend telling me about this super alternative doctor. Well he wasn’t actually a doctor per-say, he was a scientist but he had made claims of curing cancer. I needed him, maybe this nightmare could end if I talked to him. I was desperate. I called him up and was weary but scheduled an appointment for the next day. He gave me hope and maybe at the time, hope is exactly what I needed.

I was back on my phone, doing research, reading message boards, and completely freaking myself out when my phone rang. It was my gynecologist. My stomach dropped. I couldn’t help but feel animosity towards her. How didn’t she catch this? She indirectly did but she didn’t catch this actual cancerous mass. I was half mad half grateful towards her. I was mad that she didn’t find the problematic lump, but grateful that for whatever reason, she sent me for that mammogram. I was in hysterics. She said she received my results and she was terribly sorry but so happy that we caught this. I thought to myself, no you didn’t catch this. How did this even happen? She told me that I was lucky and in a few months from now, we would be dealing with something much more advanced. Huh? How much time would have made a difference? She said, I don’t know, 3-4 months?  I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know how to respond. A flash came through my head. I thought about my birthday 4 months from then. I thought about turning 31 and not knowing I was dying. I thought about my upcoming trip to Italy that summer, a trip that I counted the days down until. A trip that gets me through most shitty days.  A trip that we took the year before that changed me in so many ways.  I thought about being there again, with my family and my boyfriend, creating new memories, making more self discoveries, and having the time of my life,  and not knowing that I was dying. I thought  “would I even have made it to that trip?” I had no answers. I needed answers. I always need answers.

A friend of mine gave me this girls number who had gone through this. She told me that she was diagnosed two months after her wedding, at 27 years old, stage 4, and she is here four years later doing well. It gave me hope. I texted her and she immediately told me to call her. I sat there with my pen and paper, with her on speaker phone and my mom sitting next to me. I was ready to write down EVERYTHING that she said. She gave me hope, she gave me so much hope and she made me feel less anxious. She was living with breast cancer, but she was living. We made plans to meet in two days and I knew from that moment, she was going to be such an important part of my journey. She was going to be my sanity.

Somewhere in the midst of pure chaos, I remembered my boyfriend was due to come home that night. I couldn’t fathom going back to our house. I was traumatized and didn’t want to leave my parents. I needed to be with my family but I needed him there too. After all, he was a major part of our family. He was my family. My brother offered to go pick him up and bring him back to their house. He would have done anything for him and truth be told, I think he couldn’t wait to have him there. He wanted him there as much as I did, he wanted him there for me, he knew that I needed him and I think he needed him too.

I waited in that airport terminal for what felt like hours, I frantically checked the flight status and stood by the escalator waiting for him to come down. I didn’t know what would happen when I saw him, but I knew that I needed to have his arms around me more than anything in the world at that moment. He came down and I ran into his arms and cried, I cried so hard. The adrenaline had left and I was left with so many terrified tears. He held me and told me that everything was going to be ok, and in that moment, it took my fears away. In that moment I felt peace.


There’s Been A Mistake Part 1- It’s Cancer

I woke up on February 8, 2016 in peace. I slept at my parent’s house since my boyfriend was still out of town and started my work day. I went on my sales meeting and told my co-workers the good news. I told them it was all nothing like they suspected and that I did not have cancer. I was so relieved saying those words. I felt peace.

My meeting ended and my mom and I were putting our coats on to go grab lunch. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. My phone rang, it said “unknown.” I don’t normally answer unknown numbers but this time I did. I heard my doctor’s shaky voice on the other end as I said hello. “Hi Janine, it’s doctor E…I am so sorry but something didn’t sit right with one of the pathologist and he went back to your slides and cut deeper and well I am so sorry to say this, but there’s been a mistake, it’s cancer.”

White, everything went white. I looked at my mom and she started to scream,”WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?” she must have seen it in my face. I couldn’t get the words out, I tried, I stuttered, it’s cancer, it’s cancer.

My doctor was still on the line talking and I dropped to my knees, I was hyperventilating/crying. It’s like when you are dreaming and you are being chased and you try to scream, except barely anything is coming out of your mouth even though you are trying with all your might to scream.  I tried to get out “It’s cancer? Am I going to die? What Stage? Will I need Chemo? Will I die?” She had no answers.

She told me to get out a pen and write this down…

I scribbled some words she told me.. Ductal Carcinoma, Surgical Oncologist, and CALL IMMEDIATELY.

I remember her saying that they were waiting for my call. She gave me her number if I needed anything and I hung up the phone.

I dropped back to my knees on my parents bedroom floor. I lost control of every muscle in my body. I couldn’t breathe. I was screaming for my mom to call 911. I wanted to be sedated. I didn’t know how I would get through the next 30 seconds of my life without being sedated. I laid there in fetal position and cried, and cried, and cried. I felt like I was on a roller coaster going upside down and backwards and I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t see straight. I couldn’t pull myself together.

I heard my mom in the distance making frantic phone calls. I heard her whispering over and over. “it’s cancer, they made a mistake. I don’t know, they made a mistake but it’s cancer.”  I heard this over and over again. My tears stopped, I couldn’t move. I was stunned. I felt paralyzed.

My little dog came over to me and looked so perplexed. He always panicked when I cried and he just seemed so concerned. I sat up, picked him up, and caught my breath. My boyfriend. I needed to call my boyfriend. Or do I wait? He had a flight late that night to come home. Do I just wait to tell him? I don’t want to ruin the last day of his trip. How am I supposed to wait to tell him this? He will be mad if he knew that I waited until he got home to tell him. FUCK. I call. I ask him to sit down, my voice is trembling and I can’t get the words out. This is surreal. I can’t get the words out. “Eh, so you know how they said it was benign? Well it’s not, they made a mistake, I have cancer.” I hear myself saying those words out loud. It doesn’t sound right. I have cancer, I have cancer, holy shit, I have cancer. He says he will be on the next flight home but I tell him to stay, he will be home soon enough tonight and I would be fine. He told me he loved me and that everything was going to be ok. He seemed lost, scared, and I think that in that moment, the both of us knew that this was going to change everything.

I hear my sister frantically coming in my parents house. I hear my nieces. I felt relieved but scared. I didn’t want to cry in front of them. Then I hear my Dad walk in the door, I knew my mom called him but he was coming from NYC, a solid 50 minutes away and it seems like that was only 30 minutes ago. I then hear my brother and my sister in law.  I came out of their room and walked into the kitchen. They were all gathered around the kitchen counter whispering. I sat down and my Dad disappeared and a minute later came up with a very expensive bottle of wine. Opus One. He said he promised everything was going to be ok, but now, we drink.



False Hopes

I woke up the next day and wished it had all been in bad dream. It wasn’t, I was bruised, I was hurting, and I was waiting to find out if I had breast cancer. How would I make it through these next days? Work. I needed to work.

I hopped on my first meeting of the day and everyone expressed there concern. I blew it off as it was probably nothing and pretended like the day prior wasn’t living hell. I didn’t want to seem weak. I never want to seem weak. Stay strong, walk it off, it’s no big deal.

I made it through my day and it was time for some unwinding. My boyfriend and I put on one of our favorites, Shameless. It was a good distraction until the story line was all of a sudden about a woman dying of breast cancer. He quickly turned it off and said we weren’t going to be watching that again. I was mad. It’s like the train wreck that you can’t look away from and I needed to keep watching. It definitely hit a nerve for him though and truth be told, it hit mine as well.

The next day was weird. Maybe it was a defensive mechanism but I stopped panicking. I stopped thinking about it. I worked and somehow convinced myself that I was fine. It wasn’t until that evening when I had an ultimate breakdown.  More tears. I called my mother and went on about how upset I was that I had a titanium marker in my breast from the biopsy. It was foreign and I wanted it out.  But truth be told, what I really wanted out was that suspicious mass that they had sucked pieces out of me to biopsy. What I really wanted was to wake up from this nightmare and not be waiting to find out if I had cancer. I cried, and screamed, and cried. I was the most scared I have ever been in my life thus far.

The next day was a Friday. My boyfriend was leaving for Miami that night to visit friends for the Superbowl. He said he would stay home since I was so upset but I told him not to be ridiculous and I insisted that he still went. I had offered to watch my nieces that weekend so I knew I would be preoccupied anyway. I was going about my day when I realized my steri-strip was hanging off and my open wound was exposed. I looked at my extremely bruised, massacred breast and started to panic. I called the hospital to let them know and they asked me to come in. I panicked even more, I didn’t want to end up with a scar since the stitches got messed up. I called my boyfriend to let him know I was going in and said he was on his way and would meet me there.

I got settled into a room and the sweet nurse from the day of the biopsy came in. Pam. I will never forget her name. She fixed me up and then proceeded to tell me that my biopsy results were in. She said to sit tight and the doctor would be right in to talk to me. I felt like I was going to faint. I couldn’t imagine what she was about to come in and say to me. I thought, this is it. This is where I get the news.

The doctor from the biopsy came in. She was sweet, she was smiling, she had my fate in her hands. She looked at me, asked me to sit down and with an assuring smile. She said, “Janine, great news! It’s benign!!” What? I didn’t know how to react. I wanted to smile, I wanted to scream with joy, but I couldn’t react. I was sure that I was dying. This was good news though, so why couldn’t I smile? I said, are you sure? And she said, “yes, you are all clear, these things happen,  we will see you when you are 40!”  I looked at her and said, “40?  Don’t you want to see me for some follow-up within these next 10 years? I mean after all you just put me through, should I be worried in the slightest for another incident?” She smiled again and said to go celebrate, because everything was OK and that it was not cancer.

I got dressed, walked downstairs and got into my boyfriends car. I was silent. I was confused, and I looked over at him and said, “it’s benign.” He looked so relieved. He looked so happy. Why couldn’t I be happy? Something just did not feel right.

I kissed him goodbye and was off to my parents. I didn’t call them, I figured I would tell them the good news in person. I walked in the door and I couldn’t get the words out. It’s like when you have to tell someone something but you don’t really believe it yourself so you feel weird saying it. I thought maybe this is normal? Maybe I am just in shock from everything I went through with the waiting and the biopsy and it was all just a mind fuck. I mean obviously I wanted to believe it. I wanted to be relieved but I just was uneasy. I walked in the kitchen and said, “well it’s benign.” My parents started to tear up, they were so relieved. My Dad went down to the wine cellar and brought up a few bottles of really good wine and said we should go out to dinner to celebrate. My whole family came to dinner, we went to our favorite Italian BYOB in town. We toasted, we celebrated, and maybe it was all the wine fogging my head but I started to feel relieved.

The next day I went to my sister’s to stay and watch my three little nieces. I noticed how much pain I was in when the little one kept wanting to sit on my lap and have me hold her. I was feeling super mushy. We were getting ready for bed when I went in the bathroom and removed my bandages. FUCK. My GG breast was completely black and blue. It didn’t seem normal. Oh no, here it comes. I started to cry. I couldn’t control it. My 4 year old niece must have heard me and came into the bathroom. She looked scared and concerned. I told her Aunt Janine had a boo-boo but  I was ok now. It made me more upset. Snap out of it Janine.

The next day was Superbowl Sunday. My family were never big Superbowl people, or football for that matter but we did our Italian version of Superbowl Sunday accompanied by a massive Italian feast which is really just any usual Sunday at the house. We sat around and talked about how relieved we were that everything panned out the way it did. Everyone expressed how scared they were but we could all admit that now knowing that everything was ok. I looked around and allowed myself to feel happy. I forsook my worries and began to feel grateful. I had nothing left to fear, right?

Looking back I  get nauseous. I went to bed that night not realizing that the next day was going to change my life as I knew it and I had absolutely no fucking idea what I was in for.


Mammograms, Ultrasound, Biopsy…Oh My

February 2, 2016. This day was strange, unlike any other. Looking back I think, what if it was like the movie Groundhog Day, and I had to repeat this day over and over. How fucking awful would that be. But back to that morning in 2016, I just knew in my heart that things weren’t ok. It’s strange really how you just know. I walked over to the women’s breast center and checked in. They give you a locker and I remember saving my locker combination in my phone and thinking, this is where it will all start. That number will haunt me forever. I sat in the waiting room looking all around at the other women waiting. Were they wondering why this young(relatively) girl was there for a mammogram? I didn’t spot a woman under 50. Were they thinking, what’s this poor girl doing here? We were all in our pink robes just waiting.

A tech came into the waiting room. “Miss Bruno?”  she looked familiar. She was pregnant and I remember envying her a tad. I’m here to get a mammogram to see if I’m dying basically and she is pregnant, she is happy and carefree. It clicked that I knew her sister and we got to talking. It calmed me and I felt a sense of relief. I told her how worried I was for the pain because I hear these things are very uncomfortable.  She assured me I would be fine. Before I knew it we were all done, piece of cake! She ushered me back in the waiting room to make sure they got a good shot. More waiting… A new tech came out. “Miss Bruno? Follow me.”  I thought this is where they might say ok all clear enjoy your day, change your clothes. But they didn’t. They said we need to get a few more images and that this sometimes happens. I was worried but hadn’t hit the panic button just yet. My very large breasts were awkwardly shoved back into the awkward mammogram contraption. This time it wasn’t so painless. Back to the waiting room. I texted both my mom and boyfriend telling them they had to take 2 sets of mammograms and it made me feel uneasy. My mom said it’s happened to her before. Ok phew.

A new tech came out. “Miss Bruno?” This confused me but I realized I was being escorted to the ultrasound room. I started to get extremely nervous. Shaking uncontrollably they put that cold gel on me. I felt like my breasts were being abused by this point. They finished and I thought I would go back to the waiting room but no. I was ushered into the mammogram room for a 3rd time. It all happened so quick. My heart nearly stopped. My stomach was queasy and I needed to know what the fuck was going on.

I am once again being pushed and pulled awkwardly into this machine when I realized, they were only taking images of my left breast. But wait, I am here for my right breast? I panicked and asked why they were only taking left images when I am here for a right breast lump.

“You’re right breast is fine.” ( I thought to myself YES!! I AM FINE!!!!!!)

Then she said, “But there is a problem in your left breast.” (stomach drop)

Before I could even process what she was saying I was ushered into a little room where I waited for a Doctor to come talk to me. I was shaking, sweating, and couldn’t imagine what I was about to be told. A very sweet doctor came and and let me know that they had found something very concerning in my left breast and that I would need to get a Biopsy ASAP. I asked how soon and she said we should do it right now. How could this be? I came here for a right breast lump and here I am being told there is something in my left breast?? What if I never got that mammogram and just did the ultrasound like I insisted I do? None of this makes any sense. My head was spinning, I needed time to process this but unfortunately time wasn’t being something I was offered. I told them I needed to make some calls first as if someone else had the answer. I first called my Mom. I heard the panic in her voice and heard her heels pacing around the house. She said she would get in the car but I told her to wait. I called my boyfriend and he said he would get there as soon as possible. This calmed me. I knew if he was there, everything would be ok.

I called the Doctor back in the room and told her I would do the Biopsy today but I needed some time. I needed some fresh air and I needed to try and sort my thoughts before I had a full blown mental breakdown right there in her office. I told her I needed to go walk my dogs because I really didn’t know what to say. I asked if it would be ok to give me an hour to process my thoughts and allow my boyfriend to get there in time to calm me before I went in for procedure and she agreed.

I walked home in a state of complete anxiety. I looked around at all of the other people on the street and envied every last one of them. I was mad and confused. I thought to myself this is why you should always be kind to others, you never know what they are going through.  No one knew what I was going through. No one knew that I was scared out of my fucking mind.

I got home and packed a bag of comfortable clothes to later come home in. They let me know that I would not be able to wear a bra(obviously) and that I would go home wrapped in bandages. Being that I had GG sized breasts(yes that is a thing) I knew I needed some baggy clothes.

I got back to the hospital and was getting prepped for my procedure. A nurse came in and explained how the whole thing was going to work. She explained that it would be very uncomfortable and I would need to stay still for the entire hour, face down, on a metal table, with my one breast hanging through an opening and clamped tightly. She explained that they would give me multiple shots of something to numb me and this would feel like multiple bee stings. She explained that they would make an incision and pull parts of the mass out to be tested. She told me she wouldn’t leave my side the entire time and that everything was going to be OK.

They set me up on the table and clamped me in and gave me a pink squishy heart to hold onto. My head was smashed to the side and in the most awkward, uncomfortable position they asked me to not move at all for the remainder of the procedure. How was I going to get through this? It wasn’t just uncomfortable, but mentally how can I do this? They are going in there looking for Cancer. The idea of that just made me completely nauseous.

They let me know they were going to begin and as I was shot up with the “bee stings”  I put my fist in my mouth and tried not to scream. The pain was unreal and it didn’t stop. They made the incision and I felt them start to tug at my breast, I felt them pulling out samples of tissue. I felt everything. I had the pink stress reliever thing in my hand squeezing so tightly and my fist in my mouth trying to fathom how I was going to get through the next 45 minutes of my life. I started to cry, not because I was in pain( which I was, in SO much pain) but because it was all hitting me. I was scared for my life.

They finished the procedure and stitched me up. They then told me that I would need a FOURTH mammogram before I left to make sure they can see the titanium marker they put inside of my breast. “WHAT?!” How was I going to have my completely abused breast smashed back into that thing right now.  More tears. I felt violated and I needed to get home. They wrapped me up in bandages and I got dressed.

My boyfriend was in the waiting room and I couldn’t have been happier to see him. I wanted to hug him but I knew my body couldn’t handle that. It made me sad. He drove us home and I took a big dose of Motrin and got right in bed. FUCK. I can’t sleep on my side, the pain, FUCK. How am I going to sleep? More tears. He made me a pillow barrier so I was propped up on my back and I tried to sleep. Not going to happen. I laid there and cried. How did this happen? Do I actually have Breast Cancer at age 30? I can’t possibly, right? More importantly, how am I going to wait 3-5 days for these results without completely losing my damn mind.

My Pink Squishy Heart that stayed with me through everything.