Kisha's story.

The beginning: In thinking about how to tell my story, I’m not quite sure how to define the beginning. It would seem natural to say that it all started with my diagnosis but truthfully, my story probably started when I was a pathology resident. I came across a biopsy of someone with the same first name, right down to the spelling (Kisha with an e is far more common), who was my age whose excisional biopsy was a carcinoma. Somehow, I decided, maybe not decided, but I knew, that I would get breast cancer (actually I used to say die from it but somehow now, it doesn’t seem nearly as trivial a thought).

Fast forward: So then we can push the story forward 6 years to when I was so busy focusing on my life that I forgot my premonition. Then one night I felt a vague nodule in my right breast at which point I announced to my friend that I had found my breast cancer. During a visit to a physician for review of a finger injury, I mentioned the lump. My doctor was not perturbed after examining it and thought it was nothing. I didn’t quite buy it but since I was going away for two weeks, I decided to check on it again when I got back. When I returned my gynecologist wasn’t quite so unimpressed. We moved forward with a breast ultrasound and mammogram. It’s never a good sign when that takes two hours and yields a suspicious mass among three. Ultimately, following an ultrasound guided biopsy, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal adenocarcinoma of the right breast on December 8, 2009 at 35 years old. The good news is, I had a wonderful Christmas, I called it the cancer euphoria (not an original term). I celebrated Christmas (with my first tree ever) with family and New Years with friends, finally making it to Nobu (granted, Nobu Next Door). I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction on Jan 4, 1010. I’ll fast forward through the thrilling (forgive me, cancer euphoria does not get rid of sarcasm) experience of fertility preservation and tissue expanders - there just isn’t enough space - and started chemotherapy on February 16, 2010. I can sum up chemo as doable but horrible. I’m happy to provide further details on request. In anticipation of hair loss (my oncologist was very honest with me), I shed my locks and then I went with my friends and aunt to look at wigs. I had a horrible experience with someone who was presumably an expert in “ethnic” hair with disastrous results and never went back. After I got 5 different wigs, when my hair fell out in clumps and large bald spots popped up if I even so much as scratched my scalp, Drea used my Venus disposable razors (yup), to finish it off, just in time for USCAP. Quite simply, being bald is not for everyone, but wigs made me feel like more of a foreign person than being bald did, and it was no work at all. That’s where Jeff comes in... and now here we are. Kudos to Jeff, the human phenom.

Not quite the end: Hair’s coming back, put a red color in and will top it off with pink highlights. My breast cancer was by no means a gift, my life was just fine before, but without it, I would probably not recognize adequately all the other gifts I have in my huge network of friends, my colleagues, my family and my significant other. I like my life, I liked it with my dreads, I loved it bald and I love it now with ultra short red hair. PS: I won’t join the mammogram debate but from my perspective and experience, no one knows your body as well as you do? Be proactive, not fearful, but proactive.