Kirsten Olshan

#WeAreAllTheFaceofBreastCancer This October

KIRSTEN OLSHAN

STAGE 2   |   ADVOCATE   |   IDC HERS2-

In Her Own Words…

I had started graduate school the week before I was told I had cancer and I was teaching many dance, yoga, and pilates classes a week. This was partially how I made my living. Being active. I have always been an athlete and someone who loves being physically active. Having to pull back on so many things all at once was the worst part of the journey. I love being in the ocean and on an MTB and in a dance studio. I loved teaching classes with some of my best girlfriends. This is where I THRIVE being my best self. So when you do not have the strength or energy to do these things it made everything else outside of the cancer stressful.

My twin sister has always been my inspiration and watching her as an athlete go through her breast cancer journey made me have a lot of anxiety. She has always been so strong and I look up to her. I remember with my first care team I was told it would be best to drop out of graduate school. To not surf, to not MTB, and to be careful. Only because they felt they needed me to conserve energy. I did not drop out of grad school. It was so good for me and I had an unbelievable experience at Cal U Pennsylvania and felt very supported. I also applied my degree to what I was learning along my journey with cancer and found it was healing. I applied myself to using the skills in sports psychology and nutrition. I never stopped surfing, dancing, or MTB.

I did not have the same stamina. I felt ashamed, angry, and frustrated. Why was this happening to me? I went right into taking the 20mg of tamoxifen and felt horrible and could not function. I was not given the choice to take less, just told if I did not take it my chances of the cancer coming back were higher. I became very depressed and unable to follow through with many tasks. I lived far from the cancer center and balancing getting my son to sports, my treatments, grad school, working full-time, and maintaining relationships was becoming more and more difficult. I left my job and lost my health insurance. I felt like I had nowhere to turn and remember asking so many times for help and felt unheard.

I switched my care to Stanford and It was amazing how different my care team was and how different my care was. I was told upfront who did what and when I had questions who they got directed to. My oncologist was such a great active listener as well as her nurse practitioner. I always felt they were working in partnership with me and not telling me what to do. They allowed me to shift and find my own way that was best for me. They always followed through and never left me wondering.

I was so inspired by my care that I personally wanted to do more and became a breast cancer advocate. We started me on 5 mg of tamoxifen and was told to let my oncologist know how I was doing on 5. Then we can try 10, 15 then 20. This felt doable for a while and I made a personal decision to stay off it. I also had a psychologist to work through my anxiety around cancer and someone to talk to outside my very supportive family and friends. My takeaways from this experience are having a strong support system, ask questions, educate yourself on your choices, and have friends that you know no matter what will show up for you. Stay strong, breathe and allow yourself to have the emotions.

 

 

Q&A

What has been the most challenging part of your journey?

The beginning and finding out the way I was told. It was very overwhelming with all of the doctors and information at once.

What one thing you want all breast cancer patients to know?

Stay physically active even in short bursts and listen to your body when you’re tired. REST. Get out in the sunshine!

What is your superpower?

Strength and resilience.

What is your theme song?
What is your favorite movie?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961

What is your go-to snack?

Chips and salsa and BITCHIN sauce

What your spirit animal?

Hummingbird

What is your favorite food?

Sushi

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Africa

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

 Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

— Marie Curie

WE ARE ALL THE FACE OF BREAST CANCER

  

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