How Cancer Mellowed Me The F**K Out
In March 2018, Tiffany Dyba was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer at age 35, after feeling a lump in the shower. Tiff is a serious badass and so funny, she has her own blog dedicated to raising awareness and creating a space for women diagnosed with breast cancer under 40 called C.D.R.E.A.M: Cancer Doesn't Rule Everything Around Me. Tiff wrote this blog specifically for KAB and we're so excited to share it with you! 2018 has really thrown me a huge bag of WTF. I was supposed to be traveling, and running my own business, and drinking Sancerre on rooftops with friends.
Spoiler alert: that is not what I am doing at all.
Instead, my 2018 has been filled with things such as surgery, doctors appointments, and chemotherapy. Most of my summer nights have been spent indoors enjoying a cup of hot water with lemon. Finding excuses for not being able to go to brunch, because I don’t want to admit I am tired, and also can I really have fun at brunch without bottomless mimosas? (I am not a lush, I can definitely have fun without drinking...I think.)
Let’s rewind this tale to the tune of something like Sarah McLachlan. (She really knows how to set a mood.) It was March 2018 and I had just been diagnosed with Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. I have no lymph node involvement, and am ER/PR+ & HER2-. That’s a lot of letters. Essentially, I call it the basic bitch of Breast Cancers, as it is the most common. I found my lump in the shower while on a trip with my husband in Iceland. Did I mention I was 35? Because I am a real recovering WebMD addict, I determined that I was dying and enjoyed the rest of my trip to Iceland wondering if my husband would remarry someone better looking than me. (As you do)Turns out, cancer doesn’t always mean death. For me, it means quite the opposite. I won’t bore you with the details of my shockingly “easy” double mastectomy, or the introspective things I said while taking Percocet; I would like to fast forward to right now. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy to mitigate a recurrence of cancer in my body. Being that I am node negative, I am fortunate to not be “battling” a current mastitis; rather giving my body the extra insurance policy. The Geico of cancer, if you will. As I sit in the chemo chair round after round, I have a lot of time to think. Historically, I am the most anxious person I know, so in my heyday, a paper cut meant tetanus. A missed phone call from Mom meant someone died. (Because who calls, these days?)
Now my mind wanders to things like “where will my husband and I take vacation when I am done with chemo?,” or “what will my post-chemo comfort meal be today?” I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for me to have an epic meltdown where I start writing my will, or giving away my semi dope shoe collection. That moment hasn’t happened yet. Am I in denial? Before you start rolling your eyes and telling me I am not normal, I want to throw a disclaimer in here. I do have moments where I get emotional. And sad. And angry. I am not saying those feelings aren’t there. I am saying that I process them in a much more constructive way than I ever thought possible. I continue to amaze myself with how “together” I am. Who is this girl? Certainly not the girl seen popping Xanax before a flight Kristen Wiig style.
And then the unthinkable happened: other people started to notice this change as well.
Many of my friends have said to me how much more chill I seem, and how I am handling this so well. The onslaught of adjectives like brave, rockstar and badass have been circulated quite a bit. And you know what? For the first time ever, I believe that I am all of those things. Slow clap for cancer, and getting me to love myself just a little bit more.
So how did I get to this place? I understand that everyone processes unwelcome news differently. I certainly never thought I would be the person to handle Breast Cancer the way that I am. However, I won’t lie... I get by with a little help from my friends. I attribute a lot of my zen-like behavior to having a pretty solid support system-- one that extends past my core group of comrades. Upon being diagnosed, I wanted to know everyone in their 30’s that has been diagnosed with cancer. And I started building a network that now I call my “cancer crew.” It is so important to have people to talk to that understand your weird chemo side effects, and what being “too tired to sleep,” means.
I am also in therapy. I don’t mean like just any old therapy. Intense, powerful, good therapy. Ironically, I found my new therapist a week before I was diagnosed. Hands in the air for the universe. I see you. My therapist and I talk about much more than cancer, yet I still attribute so much of my refined coping skills to the work I do on myself. Every single day. If that isn’t a PSA to go out and find yourself a therapist, then I don’t know what is. It has changed my life.
In short, I am a full on believer in things happening the way they need to happen.
I don’t condone the universe handing me a cancer diagnosis to teach me these lessons, but if that is what it takes to get my stubborn ass to listen, so be it. I am a much stronger and balanced human because of my breast cancer.
How’s that for making lemonade out of chemo?
Tiffany Dyba is a dedicated Career Coach & Consultant based in New York City. She enjoys helping people recognize their professional calling, while helping them to take risks. Tiffany has a strong background in leadership and recruitment from companies such as Tiffany & Co and Burberry. As a Consultant, works with organizations to help identify and attract top talent so they can effectively grow their business. Tiffany was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer in 2018, and has been working to create awareness for women diagnosed under the age of 40. Follow along @tiffanydyba for business & personal adventures, and @c.d.r.e.a.m to follow her Breast Cancer journey.