This is me.

This image tells a lot about me but what it doesn't say is that I've had cancer. Just after I turned 30 years old, my right breast began to feel painful and swollen. I couldn't feel a lump. The doctor sent me for a mammogram, but it didn't show a lump either. It did show tiny specks called calcifications. There were so many that the x-rays looked like a little galaxy inside each breast.

The surgeon said he feared I had "highly aggressive, highly malignant" breast cancer. He was right.

On May 24, 1993, I had surgery to remove both breasts. Because my cancer had advanced by the time it was discovered, the doctors gave me a 50% chance of surviving five years and a 40% chance of surviving 10 years.

I now live with an emotional intensity, full of spirit and hope. I don't mess around with things that consume my time and energy pointlessly. I keep in mind that loving and laughing are my best healers.

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