My name: Shoni Brown
Where I live: Long Island, New York
How far out of active treatment?: Two and a half years
In September of 2015, after coming from a run, I started to get undressed and rubbed my hand over my left breast and I felt something. I got in the shower and rubbed it harder and no matter what I did it felt like that damn lump pushed back and my heart sank. All I could do is cry for what felt like an eternity. Finally, I realized I had two choices: keep crying or put my big girl panties on and figure this shit out. Immediately out of the shower, I picked up the phone and started trying to figure out how to get a solid answer. Sadly, in my head I already knew it was cancer, I just needed to confirm it. So after fighting for a sonogram and mammogram they sent me right away for two different biopsies. I had my single mastectomy January 13, 2016 diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma stage 2b with an auxiliary lymph node dissection. I was only given option to remove one breast and trusted the process. I advocated for myself to freeze my eggs before chemo, which they wanted to start right away. I went through 18 rounds of ACT changing to Taxotere for the last four rounds. Then sent on to receive 25 rounds of radiation. I went for the exchange of my expander and mastectomy of right both to implants but came back out with expanders again. After another year, I finally went into receive my implants. Those things were just as hard and 3 cups smaller than what I started with and that sent me into a horrible depression. The plastic surgeon tried fat graphing nothing made them feel good. I massaged them all the time. People thought I was feeling myself up. Finally while still dealing with neuropathy and chronic pain from the chemo and radiation. I found The Breasties who let me know I had options. So I went back to my plastic surgeon and told him I wanted the diep flap and I’ve never felt better.
What does the word 'survivor' or 'survivorship' mean to you?
Taking it one day at a time. I also had to learn how to find my new me and mourn the Shoni I used to know. Going through all the changes that cancer put me through and still coming out on top means I survived and surviving everyday is survivorship.
If you had to describe what survivorship feels like in three words, what would they be?
What's one thing you wished people outside of the cancer community understood about survivorship?
Its never ending… I’m surviving every day.
What are some things that have helped you during this time?
Yoga, The Breasties, pink shoes, breast cancer organizations, walking, music
Biggest survivorship pet peeve?
”At least you don’t ever have to wear a bra again.”
What, if anything do you think should be done more in the cancer community in terms of survivorship?
Definitely more resources, compassion, support groups, fertility help—even when you are done with treatment your journey isn’t over.
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?
It fucking sucks living in fear everyday not knowing.
What's your theme song?
”Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten.
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.
We are still people. We changed, yes. It’s difficult for me being single and 40. There’s talk About fertility for younger breast cancer survivors but for more mature women it becomes the “Why do you still want to have kids?” How do I put myself out there and start to date because I know my body is not the same? So, I’m scared. I’m scared to have to put myself out there.