Cancer Destroys, Cancer Builds

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on May 8, 1993, while working toward a PhD in Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. I was finishing my last classes and research requirements before turning to my dissertation. I worked hard and practiced healthy life habits: I ate a mostly vegetarian diet, enjoyed an occasional glass of wine, indulged in a chocolate now and then, and exercised by swimming, bicycling, running and playing ultimate frisbee, volleyball and softball. I felt terrific.

Then my world changed. I was diagnosed with "highly malignant, highly aggressive" breast cancer shortly after my 30th birthday. By the time it was discovered, it was in both breasts and it had already begun to spread. I immediately had surgery to remove both breasts. I then underwent an aggressive chemotherapy regime that ended with a massive blood and platelet transfusion. Although I gain confidence with each day, my prognosis is not bright. There is a 50% chance I will die within five years after my diagnosis, and a 40% chance I will survive the next 10 years.

Cancer is the most difficult, and the most meaningful, experience of my life.

by Stephanie Byram and Charlee Brodsky

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Photographs copyright Charlee Brodsky. Text copyright Stephanie Byram. All rights reserved. 1996.