35, diagnosed at 32, family history, no known genetic mutation
FIERCE. Our theme for A Calendar to Live By 2021, INSPIRED, shares the word that resonates most with each of our calendar ambassadors and reflects the woman she has become since her cancer journey began. Rita's word is FIERCE. Here is her story.
A special education teacher and mother of three, Rita regularly practiced monthly breast self-exams. She happened to do so lying down one day instead of in the shower, as she normally did, and she felt a lump deep inside. Her nurse practitioner ordered a mammogram, which led to a biopsy and a diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer. Treatment included chemo, a double mastectomy, and reconstruction. Having breast cancer has changed her life in many ways, but Rita is grateful for every moment, every relationship, and every experience that has come her way. Her family and friends were a wonderful support system; writing a blog about her experiences also helped her cope. Rita continued working throughout her treatment and her students showed lots of compassion. The word fierce has had deep significance for her – in fact, she called her blog The Year of Fierce. “I knew the year ahead [after diagnosis] would be daunting and I knew I was going to have to find strength from down deep to not let breast cancer rule my life.” She continued to work fulltime, took care of her kids, and continued to live her life. “The year of fierce is over but it will stick in my mentality forever.”
MORE TO ADD: "Here for the Girls made a great impact on my cancer journey. I found them on Facebook shortly after diagnosis. Here for the Girls gave me a community of survivors who supported me. The women answered many questions I had and shared their experiences. I ran many questions by the group as they arose. I've made several friends – and lost one too."