[Guest Blog by Jenna Brady]
Cancer. You never think it will be you. You hear stories around you from friends and family about how a friend of a friend of theirs was recently diagnosed with cancer, or you watch an actor portray the life of a cancer survivor. Yet, you never think it will be you.
My name is Jenna Brady, and I am a four-year sarcoma survivor. I was diagnosed at age 28 with Myxoid Liposarcoma in December of 2017. The average age for this disease is 65 years old (just my luck, right?). I had a tumor wrapped around one of my quad muscles. I thought it was just a pulled muscle as I had recently broken my foot a few months before and had to wear a walking boot for 12 weeks.
The broken foot was truly divine intervention; there really was no reason that I had such a bad break, but that break led to the discovery of my tumor. That tumor and one of my quad muscles were removed in January of 2018 and I have been cancer free ever since. I will have long-term side effects from the surgery to include the loss of feeling in half of my right leg, but that is a price I am willing to pay to still have my life. And can we talk about scanxiety? I have six more years to go of scans (God willing) and am scared during each scan and while waiting to hear the official report from my oncologist.
Of utmost importance, I fought, and I’m still here. From this experience, I have learned many lessons that I hope can one day help someone else who joins this club that no one ever thinks they will be a part of:
Lesson 1: It is okay to be completely terrified and lose your mind when the word cancer comes into the mix of what you thought was a normal doctor appointment. The unknown, the stress, the fear, the “Am I going to die?” conversation. Go ahead and scream, cry, question. This is your body going into fight or flight mode, and you have to fight.
Lesson 2: Lean on your family and friends, or whoever you call your support system. You will not be able to journey through cancer without them. I remember my parents making and taking every phone call for me, medical ones included. I didn’t want to hear anyone or anything; I just wanted to get the tumor out. They are your comfort, your sounding board, at times your voice, your strength, your caretakers, your believers, and your angels on earth.
Lesson 3: Ask as many questions as possible. Whether you think they are crazy questions or not, ask them. This is your life, your body, and your decisions to make.
Lesson 4: Trust your gut. Chances are you have done this if you’ve been through cancer. Have a weird pain that won’t go away, a weird bump that you’ve never felt before, or just don’t feel normal? Go to the doctor. Get the tests. Don’t just pass it off as “nothing serious.” If I did that, who knows where I would be today.
Lesson 5: Don’t give up. Scared? Tired? In pain? Fight through it. You and your story could be the reason behind saving someone else’s life, but more importantly, you are still here. Follow those dreams, inspire others, and do it all unapologetically.
There are still many, many lessons left to learn through this experience, but I wouldn’t change my circumstances for anything. I was dealt this hand for a reason and will play it to the best of my abilities for the rest of my life.
Jenna Brady is a four-year sarcoma survivor diagnosed at age 28 with Myxoid Liposarcoma in 2017. The tumor and one of her quad muscles were removed in early 2018. Jenna has been cancer free ever since but deals with long-term side effects from the surgery. She is a big advocate for rare cancer and works to raise funds for research and patient support. Grateful to have her life, she works to ensure that future children do not have to fear cancer in any shape or form. Jenna currently works as a Public Affairs Specialist for the Department of Defense and a trained public speaker. She loves to share her story in hopes that it will bring awareness to rare cancers. Follow her at Facebook @Jenna.C.Brady, Twitter @Jenna_Brady, and Instagram @JennaBrady.
Jenna is part of the Official NCSD Speakers Bureau Roster. To access the Roster, register your event today.