In May 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was scared and confused, but from day one, I decided I would beat it. My husband, Tom, was there by my side, and we knew we would tackle it head on. For us. For me. For our son, Theo.
After finding out I had the ATM gene and because I was “young” for breast cancer, I decided to have a double mastectomy. The surgery went well, but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. What we thought would be a relatively short process—double mastectomy, cancer’s out and on with our lives—became much more. We consulted with doctors. Got second opinions and decided chemo would be my next step. But the double mastectomy led to infection after infection and a summer with emergency trips to the ER, daily IV antibiotics and a lot of uncertainty.
After almost three months of delay, I started chemo on Monday, September 24.
That night, my world stopped. My husband, Tom—my amazing, beautiful, loving husband—ended his life. In an instant, Tom was gone. And my heart was shattered.
Tom was there by my side for my first treatment, but he wasn’t alive to celebrate my last. He said all we have to do is get through the cancer and the world was ours. He said he’d be by my side every step of the way. He was my biggest supporter and the one I could always lean on. I just wish he would have leaned on me in his last months, his last days. Most importantly, I wish he would have asked for help. The world was a better place with Tom in it, and it just doesn’t seem quite right that I conquered my disease, but he wasn’t able to conquer his.
At his memorial service, his priest called his suicide an emotional heart attack. And that’s what I’ve chosen to call it. Because the Tom I know, would not have left us. It could only be something so sudden as that of an emotional heart attack. Something so quick and so out of sorts that would cause him to do this.
Since Tom’s death, I’ve been dealing with my own emotional heart attack. One that has affected every single aspect of my life, every single cell in my being. The day after Tom’s death, I had to go in and finish my first chemo treatment. I had to jump in on four active real estate deals. I had to become a single parent to our son, Theo. I had to keep going. And I haven’t stopped since.
Today, I am a widow, a single mom, a suicide loss survivor, and a proud breast cancer survivor. Just two years after diagnosis and the devastating loss of Tom, I am proof, that, despite any insurmountable journey ahead of you, you can keep going and that life is worth living.
I am now a mental health advocate, working hard to erase stigmas around mental illness. I want to help stop suicide and show people that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. This rings especially true for those fighting cancer and the friends and family members who support and love them. I also tell every woman I know to get their mammograms and see their doctors. The last two years have absolutely changed me, but I am a survivor, who will share my journey and Tom’s story to help others.
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