My name: Danielle Tropsa
Where I live: Queens, NY
How far out of active treatment?: 10 Months
I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in October 2017, at the age of 30 years old. I had two small tumors in my right breast. One at about 1cm and the other 0.9cm. I had a double mastectomy in November of 2017 where I was officially confirmed to have Stage 1 Breast Cancer, no lymph node involvement. My tumors were tested by the board (ER/PR + HER2 -) to reveal a 19 and 22 score on the oncotype scale, which meant I needed to undergo chemotherapy for six months. I proceeded to go through (2) rounds of Egg Preservation before starting chemotherapy in February 2018. I had (8) rounds of CMF Chemo and finished my last dose on June 28th 2018. I then had my reconstruction surgery on August 9th 2018. I am out of active treatment, but continue to take Tamoxifen daily.
What does the word 'survivor' or 'survivorship' mean to you?
To me, survivor means strength. It doesn't necessarily mean overcoming something because life is constantly changing and evolving, each day has new challenges to overcome. Being a survivor is a direct association to the strength shown for a particularly challenging situation like fighting cancer. To be a survivor is to have shown your strength not only physically, but mentally—to be strong is to be vulnerable, and your truest form. Being a survivor is a new chapter in life. It allows for a new perspective. These are all signs of the strength we as survivors have. We survived the fight, and continue to fight through life no matter what the hurdle, but we have come in contact with our strength and we know exactly how to use it.
If you had to describe what survivorship feels like in 3 words, what would they be?
STRONGER THAN YESTERDAY.
What's one thing you wished people outside of the cancer community understood about survivorship?
It's not a cookie cutter experience. No one person's journey through survivorship is the same. We all experience survival differently, and continue to evolve through it differently. There aren't right or wrongs when it comes to survivorship. No words or actions will help us, we need to find the strength and light within ourselves and that is our biggest challenge as we move forward. Being there for us to support, hold our hand, wipe our tears and encourage us to keep looking towards our light is the most helpful thing you can do. Never allow us to dim our life, motivate us to live large. We only have one life to live and survival comes with new chances and perspectives. Accept that we have changed, and we will continue to change. Try to understand us, but acceptance is the best gift of all. Sometimes we won't be able to explain what it feels like, but we might try, we might not. Listen, love and comfort. That's all we could ever ask for.
What are some things that have helped you during this time?
Dancing has helped me the most over the course of my active treatment and life after cancer. It is a way for me to use movement as a way to express myself. Particular songs, beats, lyrics, they all can communicate how I am feeling. Once the music plays and I start moving, I lose myself in order to find myself. Dancing is my truest passion in life and it is what continues to push me forward even in the darkest times.
Biggest survivorship pet peeve?
"At least you were Stage 1" or "You look amazing! you don't look sick at all!"
What, if anything do you think should be done more in the cancer community in terms of survivorship?
Resources that tie directly to lifestyle, Cancer Research, new trends in treatments, etc. I feel like it would be great to have a whole Facebook style site for cancer survivors where we can have discussions, see new news, talk lifestyle changes, or discuss with professionals.
What's your favorite swear word?
What's something you haven't said out loud about survivorship that you want to get off your chest?
I am scared. I can put on a brave face, I am positive almost everyday, and I know deep down how special life is. But I am so scared that it is going to be taken away from me at any point. I love life so much, I want to live it as long as I possibly can. This isn't fair that this happened, I don't understand it, but I am slowly but surely accepting it as time passes.
What's your theme song?
’In My Blood’ by Shawn Mendes
Consider this a free space to say anything you want about this topic. Word vomit, away. No judgement. I want the realest of the real here.
Life after cancer is both confusing and more beautiful than ever. I find it hard to explain all the feelings it brings, but what I can say is I continue to push myself to find more positives than negatives from the experience. I love life more than most and I count that as a blessing. I am so grateful for this experience, it showed me my strength, my vulnerability, my perseverance. It taught me how to be proud of myself. For that I am so thankful.
Connect with Danielle on her website.