Dena Stern is vying for the title of “sparkliest girl in chemo.” She is documenting her treatment and recovery on her blog, The Dameazon.
I found the 6-cm tumor in my right breast two days after my 29th birthday. I knew the second I felt this new, hard, cauliflower-like lump that something was really wrong.
A week later, my fears were confirmed — it was breast cancer.
The first thing that I did when I stopped crying was to write a letter on my fledgling fashion blog, asking my friends to start to check their breasts. I mean, who does that, right? Not really anyone I know. Feeling yourself up is awkward.
Well, I did, and it basically saved my life. There I was, suddenly a poster child for early detection and the power of the pink movement.
And so my life changed in a thousand tiny — and not-so-tiny — ways. I found strength in the fact that even though I was in this scary, awful situation, maybe I could do some good by encouraging other girls to keep an eye on their own health. My fashion blog became a cancer blog instead.
Despite this awful thing, this cancer, I've never felt anything but lucky. I had found it early. I was going to be just fine.
With all of that said, down days are rare for me, but they do happen. Days when I feel less like a 29-year-old girl, and more like a pincushion or a science experiment. Days when the doctors are running so many tests that they have to dig around to find a usable vein to draw my blood. Days when I just hurt.
Before cancer, I was a big believer in the power of occasional retail therapy. But on this particular down day, it just wasn’t working. I was walking around in the boutiques on Haight Street, and I would just look at all these cute clothes and think, “Well, can I wear that to chemo? Can I wear that to chemo?” And of course, the answer in my depressed, negative-thinking brain was, "no." My life was so different, so foreign from what it had been a few short months ago. Would I ever wear anything but pajamas again?
And then I saw these shoes. They were far from practical — I mean, they were sneakers, with heels. What did a chemo patient need with these shoes? Where would I wear them? I turned away. I left the store. Then, I went back in.
They were pink. Pink, the color of the breast cancer movement. And man, they were fun. I put them on. I thought, “You know what, why shouldn’t I get these shoes? Just because I have cancer? Pffffft. I am going to get better. I need these pink, you-caught-that-cancer early shoes.”
So, I bought them. When I look at my pink sneakers, they remind me of how lucky I am to be this pink poster child for early detection. And even though my life has changed in many ways, I can still rely on the healing power of a new pair of shoes.