In 2020, at 29, I faced a life-altering moment: a breast cancer diagnosis. This revelation, amid a pandemic’s isolation, felt like the ground dropped beneath me, and suddenly, I faced the toughest challenge of my life.
The diagnosis sent me into an endless spiral of emotions and questions — “How will I look without my hair?” “Will I lose my breast?” “What if I don’t make it?” Sitting in my office alone that day, I dreaded what was to come next.
Sharing the news with my family was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Seeing the concern in their eyes reflected my own inner struggles. My father’s tears, recalling the loss of his sister to the same disease, were especially heart-wrenching.
As I navigated the early days of Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I was surrounded by a team of medical professionals, each adding a piece of the puzzle to plan the best course of action.
My family was there, too, advocating on my behalf and asking the questions I couldn’t face in the beginning. Thankfully, my mom and best friend were able to come to those first few chemotherapy sessions, holding my hand, encouraging me, and loving me unconditionally.
I refused to sit in sickness. I stayed active by continuing to work my 9-5, hitting the gym four to five times a week, cooking healthy, and turning my chemo sessions into a statement of defiance. I “showed up and showed out” by dressing up for every chemo session as a small way to reclaim my joy and dignity.
My journey also required making a difficult choice, balancing the future of motherhood and the stark reality of reliving this ordeal. The decision to undergo a double mastectomy was not made lightly.
Before starting chemotherapy, I had already stored my eggs, and even though I couldn’t experience the intimacy of breastfeeding a child, I chose my peace of mind rather than the risk of facing this illness again. Living through breast cancer once was enough for me.
An unexpected idea took root through the beautiful struggle of physical pain, vulnerability, and embracing my scars. While I was lucky to have the support of my family and friends throughout my cancer journey, other young women who looked like me could be less fortunate.
I founded R Fight, a non-profit organization that supports minority women under 40 who are dealing with the impact of breast cancer. Since 2020, we have provided resources, education, and a sense of community to dozens of cancer patients and their families.
Today, cancer-free, I reflect on my journey with gratitude. Every challenge has shaped me, and I’m committed to helping others on their journeys.
I cannot stress enough the importance of early detection and regular screenings. Organizations like Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA) play a crucial role in breast health by offering services, including clinical breast exams, mammogram referrals, and patient education on breast self-awareness.
To learn more about PPLA’s comprehensive range of affordable, high-quality health care and well-being services, visit https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center.
Article written by Cynthia Wood. Cynthia Wood is a Compton native and breast cancer survivor.
Top Photo by Tara Winstead: https://www.pexels.com/photo/handwritten-love-banner-sign-8384602/