My name is Amanda. I am 36 years old, and I am a breast cancer survivor.
I found my lump in October 2021. My husband and I had just moved into our first house in late August, and had been looking forward to a new chapter after a very tough time. Both of our mothers had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier that same year, and the fear and worry that our families dealt with was still with us. I had been dealing with significant fatigue around that same time, but had chalked it up to the various stressors of the last few months.
So when I found the lump, I thought: there’s no way that I could have cancer, too. Not after everything else we’d been through. Not while my mom was still in her own treatment. Because of everything that had happened to our families, when I was diagnosed, I felt like I was headed into a fight with one arm tied behind my back.
The feeling I remember most after diagnosis was loneliness. The materials I received from my cancer center all had pictures of smiling older women on them. My peers were focusing on career changes, having children, buying houses. I didn’t fit in in either space. When my breast center gave me information about Gilda’s Club, I jumped at the chance to connect.
I started by attending the Breast Cancer and Young Adult support groups. These were immensely helpful for being around other people who understood. I attended Write to Heal, the monthly writing group, and when Gilda’s started offering in-person programming in the summer of 2022, I decided to drop by a fabric art class out on the patio.
That art class was a tipping point for me. I was at one of my lowest points since my diagnosis. I was dealing with crippling anxiety and insomnia, on top of a rough recovery from a second surgery. But that class lit a spark of creativity I was able to nurture and grow. I was able to start building the version of myself and my life that I needed most. That class also planted the seed of a very wonderful friendship with another Gilda’s member – another gift.
Gilda’s gave me the tools and resources to process the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been on since I heard I had cancer in November 2021. Gilda’s helped me reconnect with writing and art, two things that had been important to me when I was younger, but that I thought I had lost along the way in life. Now, I have an art studio in my basement and a laptop filled with poems. I have friends who understand. I have all of this because of Gilda’s, and continue to gain more with every program I participate in.
As a young cancer survivor, Gilda’s was and is the only place where I don’t feel like the odd person out. Gilda’s has helped me when I’ve felt my most unmoored. It’s the only place I really feel understood as a whole person. They’ve supported me at every stage of my healing, and the life I have now is infinitely richer and more fulfilling because of what Gilda’s has given me. I was not expecting to be able to say that after all that’s happened, but it’s true. I’ve gained more than I ever thought possible from Gilda’s.