There may only be a few days left in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but there will always be voices that need to be heard, stories that deserve to be told and survivors who will always continue to fight.
During the month of October we talked to women: individuals, mothers (matriarchs), friends, wives, and daughters, that have been affected by breast cancer. We also partnered with Young Survival Coalition—the largest nonprofit dedicated exclusively to young adults diagnosed with breast cancer age 40 and under—to help tell their stories as they serve as a foundation for these very women and provide them with a community of endless support.
Like YSC, we believe in the power of community, which is a key survival component in the everyday lives of elephants. Together, we serve as one amplified voice, one that believes there should be a herd behind every individual because no one should have to fight alone.
PART TWO: MIRANDA
Q: What elephant trait are you and why? Passionate, loyal, friendly, empathetic, compassionate..
A: I bring an empathetic approach to all that I touch in life. Brené Brown put it best when she said, "two of the most powerful words when we are in struggle are 'me too.’ I believe that sharing my story and having an empathetic heart supports our community in whole.
Q: Who is Miranda? Describe yourself in 3 words OR one sentence.
A: I am a tenacious woman in a period of transition and growth, with great hope for what lies next!
Q: What is your experience with breast cancer? Tell us how you discovered it.
A: While I was aware of breast cancer, it was pretty far from my mind. There was no history of it in my family and I thought I had little risk. In 2018, I left a high stress job to focus on rebuilding my work - life balance. It was then that I decided to start yoga teacher certification. After my very first yoga instructor training session, I felt a lump in the shower. I had hopes that the pain & lump were just a cyst or pulled muscle, but my doctor sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. A biopsy was taken the same day, with a cancer diagnosis confirmed a day later. I had stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma.
Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed? Does breast cancer run in your family, or was this a complete shock?
A: I was 35 years old when I found my lump and was diagnosed. I felt blindsided because I had no family history. I was healthy and active. I drank green smoothies, did yoga several times a week, even meditated. I felt like I did everything right, yet was still betrayed by my body.
Q: After receiving your diagnosis, what went through your mind?
A: When I was diagnosed I instantly felt alone. I didn’t know any breast cancer survivors closely, let alone someone close to my age. I was worried most about change. The changes to my body and my health. I was angry that I would need to put my yoga training on hold. I worried how it would affect my husband. I instantly felt like my plans for life had been re-written and limited.
I quickly learned that relinquishing control was what I needed most. I could not control that I had cancer. I could not control what happened, but I could control how I reacted to it. That made all the difference.
I also found it necessary to build a network of support. First and foremost, I had a medical team that I trusted. This included a panel of cancer specialists, known as a tumor board. Next, allowing my community of family and friends to help was a huge, necessary step. The most helpful assistance was an organized meal train and those who sat with me during my weekly chemotherapy infusions that last several hours.
Then, in my final weeks of finishing chemotherapy, I found Young Survival Coalition. There was an event less than 2 hours from our home celebrating the YSC 30th Anniversary, so my husband and I decided to attend. There we were instantly welcomed by survivors and their co-survivor partner. We made friends and shared stories, along with some laughters & tears. I found a community which felt like home.
Before sending you these questions, I wanted to learn a little bit about you and found your post about Tour De Pink, you wrote: "One year ago, I was bald with no eyelashes or eyebrows. I often got winded going up the stairs of my home. I was fighting nerve damage in my feet & hands. But, holy hell... Look at me now! Cancer couldn't hold me back."
Q: One year ago, would you have imagined you'd be where you are now?
A: One year ago I was still in treatment and was about to have my 14th chemo infusion. I was bald with no eyelashes or eyebrows. I often got winded going up the stairs of my home. I was fighting nerve damage in my feet & hands. I was a fighter and proud of it, but each day I had to renew my fervor and enthusiasm.
When I finished treatment, I knew that I wanted to set a goal for myself. That goal turned out to be Tour de Pink, a 200 mile bicycle ride over 3 days supporting YSC. When I began training over 12 weeks ago, I could only ride about 5 miles. Yet, I kept going and kept training. Kept pushing myself to do MY best, whatever that was for the day. On Day 1 of Tour de Pink, I successfully completed a metric century (aka 100km), which is roughly 3x longer than I’d ever ridden before! On the final day, as I turned the corner to the home stretch on the Jersey boardwalk and could smell the salty sea air, I cried. I could not believe how far I’d come in one year. I was overjoyed in what I could accomplish and in that I’d made it to that exact moment.
If I were to take away just one thing from the Tour de Pink weekend and being nearly one year since I completed treatment, it would be that I can do hard things.
Q: Breast cancer doesn't only affect the person who has been diagnosed - it can hurt family, friends, etc. What has your experience been like with your husband?
A: My husband, Ian, likely saved my life. When I first found my lump, I downplayed it as a likely cyst and planned on waiting a couple of months to have it checked out until a regularly scheduled annual visit. He insisted I made an appointment, which resulted in my diagnosis. I actually had my bilateral mastectomy on the exact date I was supposed to have that annual appointment. He was with me from day one, committed to seeing me through this fight. When I was diagnosed, he asked me what I wanted and what my goal was. I told him, ‘More time with you. More time living our life together, enjoying adventures big and small.’ During treatment, I had a lot of anxiety and pain. He helped me develop the tools to pull myself out emotional spirals and not stay stuck. He was the voice on my shoulder for a long time. Through it all, he remained a rock.
Q: You are a survivor and a fighter - what would you tell someone who is currently fighting?
A: Keep looking forward. Whatever you feel in this moment will pass, even if you aren’t in control. Take this moment, breath by breath. This is where your power lies.
Q: Looking back, what is some advice you would give to your younger self?
A: My younger self needed the advice to prioritize yourself by taking ownership of your own health - both mental & physical. No one is going to help you do this and it is crucial for your lifelong wellbeing. Don’t discount your concerns or worries. Trust your gut; it’s usually right!
I also needed to know that asking for help is a sign of strength. I previously took pride in being a stoic person in the past. I didn’t want to share my weakness. I hope that by sharing my story and my vulnerability, it will convince other people that it’s okay to ask for help.
Established in 1998, Young Survival Coalition (YSC) is the largest nonprofit dedicated exclusively to young adults diagnosed with breast cancer age 40 and under and their co-survivor support networks. YSC also educates and influences the medical, research and legislative communities to address breast cancer in young adults.
To support YSC and women like Miranda, shop our Limited Edition Breast Cancer Tees. 10% of net sales will be donated to Young Survival Coalition.