It’s been, like, I dunno, a million years since I sat down to write anything… it honestly feels pretty fucking weird, but in the best way. Just like riding a bike? Meh… more like trying to roller skate again, except this time blindfolded, but whatevs, I’m rollin’ with it.
I’m just relieved to feel motivated enough to write again about things I care about, and things that I think other people should care about. I was worried for a minute… the fog of medicine head and biologic depression is real — every.single.day. But after a shit ton of self-care and soul searching these last two years, and a move across the country to California, I think I just might have found my way back…
But more on all of that in a future post. Today, on Halloween, I’m here to talk about everyone’s favorite topic: BOObs.
You know the drill… make sure you click through the hyperlinks throughout the post for some laughs and knowledge bombs. HERE WE GOOOOOO!
Today is Halloween, but it also marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in my opinion, this year’s observance has been one big eye-roll. Why? Because now more than ever, it’s critical to know EXACTLY where your donation dollars are going. Sadly, since it’s inception — three decades ago — the annual breast cancer awareness bandwagon has turned into an over-cluttered and often futile “me too” effort to be part of a media story… an outdated story.
Again, this is coming from one survivor’s perspective (me, duh), who has also worked as a publicist in the healthcare and pharmaceutical spaces for about half that time… I’ve brainstormed, helped execute and have attended more BCAM shit than you can imagine. And big companies SPEND…
Sadly, the cause doesn’t always see a lot of that money. What’s more frustrating, is there are so many great smaller local efforts and organizations that donate most if not all of their BCAM earnings, but they tend to get overshadowed or missed altogether.
The good news is, while I’ve been self-caring my ass off these last two years (aka spending countless hours laying in bed and scrolling through my Instagram feed), I’ve literally watched a new movement unfold in front of my eyes, fueled by real survivors who’ve taken their lemons and made so much more than just lemonade… and they didn’t wait for October to come around to start working.
That’s because survivors knew something was missing…
The raw realness of breast cancer portrayed in the mainstream.
The true, unfiltered stories that hit home and inspire real change.
The celebration of beautiful battle scars, survivorship and struggle in general.
The topics that got swept under the rug because they were too shameful to talk about so publicly.
It was always my mission to shed light on these things through this blog, at least through my eyes, so I’m honored to feel like I’ve contributed something to this long-awaited revolution. When I went into my depression hibernation, I also ended up finding a TRIBE of bad-ass survivors who, like me, are committed to helping others in small and some not so small ways.
When I first sat down to write this post, I had one topic in mind. But as I reflected back on these last few years, a new story unfolded… one where I get to introduce you to a few of my recent heroes.
These inspiring trailblazers have consistently helped me, and millions of others, over the last few years, in ways that cannot be quantified… that’s what happens when you put the work in every day instead of just for one month out of the year… #PROGRESS.
And since there are so many of them for you to meet, I realized one blog post was not gonna cut it. Instead, I decided to put together what I’m calling the “SHE-ro Series.”
So get cozy with the Halloween candy you were supposed to give to the trick or treaters (or the back-up bag you secretly saved for yourself) and settle in for an inspiring read.
PART 1: Let me tell you a little story about my girl Paige…
January of 2017 was when my life started to go from “I’m a powerful, driven survivor! I hit the gym five days a week! Watch out world,” to “Oh shit, Tamoxifen ain’t playin…” to “WOW, all I want to do is sleep for 72 hours straight, fuck life, fuck work, fuck showering, fuck phone calls, fuck everything.”
In January, the universe also introduced me to Paige More by way of Instagram. At just 24, this creative, brave and adorable little pop-tart decided to share her journey of being diagnosed with the BRCA 1 mutation. She documented every step leading up to and following a preventative double mastectomy, and her story immediately went viral.
A decade older than her, I couldn’t help but be so damn proud of her guts, her grit and her gorgeous truth. She had authenticity oozing out of every atom. She regularly engaged with her audience. She was fearless. She was connected. And she went tastefully topless to show the world what really goes on when faced with breast cancer.
It was what I knew was missing.
Paige also made me feel crazy nostalgic… my 20s were FUN and I was super career-driven, always chasing and earning the next promotion and never afraid to speak my mind. Just like me, Paige made it crystal clear to everyone that a little BRCA problem and massive boob surgeries would not stand in her way… she was going to enjoy the shit out of life and she was taking us all with her.
As I fell deeper into my depression spiral, Paige got deep into the dirty details of breast cancer, NOT just from her eyes, but from women of every age, race and diagnosis. After linking arms with three other #BossBreasties (new fave hashtag, today year’s old) — Leslie Almiron, Allie Brudner and Brianna Majsiak — a year later, the non-profit organization The Breasties was born.
Paige puts their mission perfectly: “What the four of us have realized is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a previver, a survivor, a caregiver or if you’ve lost someone that you love… if you’ve been affected by cancer in any capacity… you’re a breastie. No matter where you’re at in your journey, we’re here to help you move mountains.”
The term “support group” makes me think of some sad, musty basement filled with crappy folding chairs, terrible lighting and shitty snacks where everyone sits around and one by one shares something, whether they really want to or feel forced to.
In other words, excuse me as I bolt in the other fucking direction, probably towards lots of bad decisions that feel great in the moment, and definitely toward my bed because I’d rather be sleeping.
But The Breasties filled the gap — true, unfiltered, generally unscripted, FUN, comfortable connections. They started by hosting casual meet-ups in different cities so that women from every background could connect in person or via social media and enjoy a night out while also having very real, authentic conversations. Think of this as a steady stream of book club meetings except instead of books there’s free booze, free food, and you’re with your most fabulous girlfriends. It’s casual, it’s cathartic, it’s eye-opening and emotional, it’s heartwarming, it gets you safely out of your comfort zone, experiencing new things and networking with all kinds of awesome people.
These meet-ups quickly grew and the co-founders added weekend wellness retreats, more day-events like group spin and yoga classes, and even an annual gala… AND NEVER AT ANY COST TO ITS MEMBERS (!!).
I’m not gonna lie, in the beginning, while I was super impressed and proud of the impact this made, I also thought, “This seems a little too kumbaya for me, but go millennial breasties! You’ve got this!”
Let’s not forget, that was largely the depression talking… that type of misery HATES company. Depression prefers to cower in bed, judging you and comparing yourself to others, thinking terrible and confusing things with the phone turned off so you don’t have to show anyone your brand of crazy.
Still, I kept watching and stayed in semi-regular touch with Paige from behind a device.
Even that distant connection, and seeing the momentum from The Breasties grow over time, was encouraging as I navigated through my own shit the way I wanted to. As I put my own pieces back together, I knew I always had a massive virtual support group cheering me on too.
The Breasties accomplished its original and simple mission: helping me and others easily and comfortably connect with other fantastic women eager to be part of change for the better.
And just as I experienced by keeping up with this blog, The Breasties has accomplished so much more than they ever set out to. For this and so many other reasons, I’m grateful for Paige and the whole Breastie community.
This past summer, I finally made my way to a breasties happy hour and got to thank Paige, Ali and Bri in person… and I of course kicked myself for ever pre-judging the vibe of these meet-ups. They’re worth every second of your attention.
I say it all the time… it’s really wild how much can change in one year, let alone two. And it’s really crazy how social media has changed our discussions, our mindsets and our actions. It’s always going to be a double-edged sword… there will always be trolls trying to bring down the dreamers and visionaries. There will always be people and brands who persuade us that their filtered and edited-to-perfection highlights reel is true reality. And it won’t always be easy to not let that affect you. But it helps to know that wherever you are in your life’s journey, there are others out there rooting for you, or frustrated by the same things that frustrate you, or are inspired by you, or even commiserating with you, and often silently… and these same people will be ready to celebrate you once you’re ready to emerge from the dark.
So if you get to choose, choose to be the light that brings us all together.
This Halloween, I’m taking my mask off so my true self can finally shine a little brighter ❤