Family Life

My mom survived breast cancer. Am I next?

On average, an estimated 15.2% of new cancer cases in the United States are women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. That means that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. 

These statistics are indicative of families, touched eternally by a cancer that is more than just a disease – it is linear. Breast cancer often weaves a thread, mangled in fate and fear, through mothers, daughters, and sisters alike. The survivors among them are the superheroes of nearly every generation of women, powering through all of the anxiety, body disfiguring surgeries or treatments, and impromptu decision-making associated with the onset of such an illness. They take this disease and nip it in the bud, almost passively, acknowledging the unforgiving weight that will forever be weighing down their bodies and minds. 

In some cases, before these women can even think about what comes next, they are sewed up, stripped, and shaved. Left without any sensation in their breast area after a mastectomy, and feeling less and less whole with every visit to the oncologist. It is hard for most women to even feel at home in their bodies anymore. 

In February of 2017, my mother sat in a bleak and claustrophobic doctor’s office for her regular mammogram visit and heard the dreadful words that every woman lives in fear of, “I think we’re going to need to take a second exam. There may be cancer.” 

There was. 

She has told me that she spent most of her life, 38 years to be exact, in terror of what was surely to come. When my mother was 17 years old, the same age that I had been when she was diagnosed, her mother passed away after a long and debilitating battle with breast cancer. Afterward, this disease became a constant threat. So, in some ways, her diagnosis was more of a relief than anything else.

For me, however, it was excruciating. I had a hard time fathoming the enormity of it. Often, I would find myself drenched in hot and burning tears, unable to put into words what I was feeling. I was incoherent and unable to be comforted. I really hated it when people tried to comfort me, too—it felt condescending. I didn’t want to need them.

But, at the same time, I wasn’t even close to being the strong person that I presented to the world. I was falling hard—and fast. Most days, I would go to school or hang out with my friends, but the entire time I felt as if there were a million knives stabbing my chest at any given moment, and I couldn’t help it. Sometimes, I even liked feeling the pain. If my mom had to suffer, then, I thought, so did I. 

Years later I’m able to articulate my thoughts a little more clearly. I was terrified, desperate, and I didn’t know where to turn. So much was happening all the time and I was grieving my old self. That is, the self that hadn’t yet felt such complete and sunken remorse. There was this urgency to do everything right. In a situation like that, there’s no room for mistakes and I was incredibly nervous that I would mess up. Or maybe I was nervous that something would mess me up. Either way, I changed a lot that year. 

Unfortunately, our story is not an uncommon one. 

A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer increases if her mother, sister, or daughter has been diagnosed. In addition, women who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene are at an increased risk of breast cancer than women who do not carry the gene. 

My mom is thankfully, and gracefully, in remission today. Her fight seemed, on the outside, to be continuous and suffocating. But, she is a survivor, bold and vivacious, in all of her glory. She has the scars and the strength to prove it, too. 

I am well aware that my risk of this disease is high. But, I am also confident that this does not mean that it is a death sentence. Regardless of being only 21 years old, I am diligent in conducting breast exams on myself at least once a month in an attempt to detect any early warning signs of breast cancer. What I search for is any abnormal lumps or changes in the breast tissue/skin. 

The good news is that with advancing technologies the survival rate of people diagnosed with breast cancer is steadily increasing, even though the number of people getting sick remains stagnant. 

Any cancer diagnosis is terrifying, but breast cancer for me feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I won’t be able to stop being overwhelmed by this sharp and unrelenting nervousness until it is completely out of my system. And we all know that there is only one way for that to happen. 

For now, I am trying to focus on what I am able to control. Breast cancer is certainly not one of those things. But, I am in control of my mindset. While it is important for me not to let my guard down, at some point I have to just let go and let it be. I trust that fate will run its course. 

I come from a long legacy of confident and courageous women, all beautiful and bountiful in their own right. So, it would be a disservice if I did not take their wisdom and hold onto it tightly. I mean, I watched while my own mother boldly stared her fears directly in the face. She never skipped a beat, not even for a second. Her resilience against a disease that is otherwise overbearing is nothing short of inspiring and I am so proud of her. Because of her, I am starting to think that maybe I can handle it too, that maybe I can be as brave as her, when and if the day comes. 

I am not alone in my fear, although it may seem like it sometimes. I am one of millions living and feeling these same anxieties at full volume, so I must not let it overcome me. Instead, I have to remind myself to be introspective and to keep moving forward.

Health Care Mind Mental Health Health Love Wellness

My chronic disease might be invisible, but I am still suffering

Physically, I’ve been struggling my whole life.

It started in elementary school with the seizures. Eventually, that disorder did heal, but left a giant scar. It wasn’t a physical scar on my body, but a mental scar, filled with the pain of going to so many doctors appointments and taking hundreds of pills and being hospitalized, and the CAT scans, and the MRIs, and the secret tears I know my parents spilled, accompanied with migraines, which I still get today. I thought that was it for me with my health issues. Clearly it wasn’t.

After moving to Texas, I got Walking Pneumonia. Who knew that was even a thing? This also resulted in a mild pancreatitis, which both healed again.

I’ve taken immense solace in the fact that my physical health diseases have always healed.

But, this time, it didn’t.

I can plaster on my fake smile and go about my day like nothing’s wrong. 

Last year, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disease that has no cure. My chronic disease is by far not as severe as others. I take Remicade, which takes away most of the pain. Still, some days are worse. Some days, I spend time sobbing my heart out because I don’t know how long I can do this anymore. 

I was barely 16 when I was diagnosed, and I just can’t imagine what more I’ll have to go through. I hate pain.

Even more so, I hate pity.

Just because I have a chronic disease doesn’t mean I need to be taken care of differently. I don’t need anyone to go the extra mile for me to feel happy. I’ve learned that yes, my chronic disease is a hindrance in my life, but it won’t stop me from living my life the way I want to. I’m still traveling, I’m still going to school, and I’m still writing. I refuse to conform to my autoimmune disease; it will not control my life.

My physical illness is invisible, just like my mental health issues. No one can see what I’m going through. Most of the time, I’m grateful for that. I can plaster on my fake smile and go about my day like nothing’s wrong. 

I wish people would stop judging me, hating me, leaving me out.

Other times, I wish I could shout it to the world. There’s a constant struggle in my mind of whether or not people knowing would make a difference– whether or not they even need to know. I wish people would stop judging me, hating me, leaving me out. It seems like such a horrible thing to say, but I wish they would pay attention to me for once, and see that something is wrong.

I wish they could just magically guess that I’m sick and treat me right. I wish they would care enough to see that I’m breaking down on the inside; I’m falling apart. I wish they would notice – or even just notice me. Despite this, I try to pretend like the hate doesn’t phase me. It doesn’t matter if they like me or not. I’ve told myself that repeatedly for the past few years that I can barely sleep at night, so I’m up until 2a.m. wondering what the hell I did wrong.

And it’s hard to admit it, but I do care what people think, and I guess that’s the first step in recovery. I don’t want to be known for my disease, but I want to at least be known.

I feel numb now, going to the doctor, getting a needle stuck into my vein for two hours, getting it wrapped in a bright, sharp blue bandage, and sleeping on the car ride home because my eyes won’t stay open anymore. It doesn’t phase me that what I’m going through is not normal. Instead, I end up feeling empty inside most of the time because I’m scared. 

I hate admitting it, but I’m scared of death, of pain. I’m scared of needles. I’m so damn terrified that I just go numb. Then, I end up faking a smile and pretending like I don’t care that the person next to me is oblivious to my condition and is unknowingly hurting me, And all I can think of, all I can envision is that pain that I have to go through again. I can’t see it or feel it or touch it.

And there are millions of people out there who can’t see, feel, or touch their disease. I don’t want this to be a story of hope that everything will be ok one day. I’m still suffering with millions of people. I want this story to say that it’s okay to be sick. It’s ok to feel what you’re feeling. Sometimes, I feel things that scare the hell out of me, but I’m okay with that.

I will not conform to my auto-immune disease.

Even through COVID-19, it’s okay to lay in bed for a whole day doing nothing. It’s okay to feel the pain and understand what you’re going through. It’s okay to be jealous and it’s okay to feel hurt when someone treats you wrong without knowing what you’re going through.

I want people to know that we are all going through this together, and there is no disease that can stop us from moving forward and living our lives. We will not conform to COVID-19, and I will not conform to my auto-immune disease. And even if no one sees that I’m suffering, I think I’m okay with that, and I won’t let it stop me from living the way I want to.

Love Life Stories Wellness

When I didn’t get my period for six months, I thought I was pregnant – but the truth was worse

I had just celebrated my 21st birthday, and I was so grateful for being in the pink of health all these years.

 It didn’t once occur to me that the most basic function my body was capable of would fail me.

But I celebrated too soon. Two months later, I felt the usual menstrual symptoms at the time of my month; cramps and mood swings.

But I didn’t get my period.

At first, I was overjoyed. This meant that I won’t have to spend a day curled up in my bed, trying to swallow the pain with an Advil. But I didn’t get it the next month, and the month after that. I got a little antsy and googled irregular periods. I read online that it was quite normal for teenagers to experience it until their cycles were stabilized. But I’d just transitioned from teenagehood last summer.

I went on with life, ignoring the fact that I didn’t get it, and secretly enjoyed it. While my friends complained about their monthly nightmares, I was constantly reminded of my loyal lady friend that never came. I even missed her a little.

Slowly, I started to gain weight. I’d always maintained a constant weight for most of my teenage life. I didn’t realize it until my mother pointed it out. My diet hadn’t changed and I wasn’t much of a junk food enthusiast, so I had no idea how I had gained 10 lbs in less than two months.

My face started to erupt in fresh pimples everyday. This was surprising as I’d always had clear skin for most of my life. No amount of foundation would help cover them.

My friends looked at photos of me on Facebook and asked why I’d gotten fat. A particularly close friend of mine commented on a photo and asked me if all I did was eat all day. Although he meant it as a joke, it hit me hard.

It began to slowly affect my confidence and I started to back out of social outings.

My otherwise high self-esteem was at an all-time low and it had started to worry my parents.

One day, I decided to take a stand and visit a gynecologist. I’d never been to one before and was prepared to be thoroughly examined. To my surprise, all she did was take a few basic scans. She asked me about the symptoms I’d been facing. I told her that about my weight gain and acne, which were terrifyingly similar to pregnancy.

After a few days, I heard back from her. She told me that I have a disorder called PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). It is a hereditary disorder that my mother has and now is a part of me too. The doctor said that this may lead to fertility problems and depression in the future.

The only way I can keep it under control is through proper diet and exercise. Essentially, that means that I need to nurture it, so it takes care of me. That way, we can both live in harmony.

Since then, I’ve been doing what I can to eat healthily and exercise every day. Okay, I won’t lie, not every day. 

It’s true. Life gets in the way. Your career takes the wheel. Chaos is inevitable. But all this will be for naught if your health goes for a six.

It was a good thing that I got it diagnosed early, and now I know what steps need to be taken. But I know a few friends who ignore it for too long until it’s too late.

If you’re like me and you’ve been experiencing similar symptoms, don’t let it pass quietly. Consult a doctor and put that beast to rest.

Tech Now + Beyond

6 apps that will completely change the way we see and hear the world

Smartphones and apps have become so ubiquitous these days that they seem mundane, and it’s easy to forget how much potential they have. Luckily there are innovators who don’t take the technology for granted, and are always trying to see what they can do to aid the visually and hearing impaired. The results are a range of apps and attachments for the standard phone that can either help diagnose or ameliorate the effect of vision or hearing loss.

1. Vula Mobile

One of the biggest problems in eyecare is not the lack of equipment, since glasses are usually available and can be bought in some places for as little as $2.50. In many cases, the struggle is in getting a diagnosis for the correct type of glasses. Vula Mobile is a diagnostic app that has various test including  a basic vision test that asks the patient questions about their vision, requests a photo of each eye, and then sends the information to a vision specialist for a diagnosis.

2. uHear


The hearing-impaired equivalent of Vula Mobile might be uHear, an app that lets non-trained users perform three easy hearing tests right on their phone and then compare their hearing to the normal hearing levels. The app also allows users to connect with a professional, and offers basic information about hearing loss.

3. Peek Retina

Peek Vision
Peek Vision

To diagnose some visual problems doctors need to look at the back of the eye, known as the retina. Usually doctors need an instrument called an opthalmoscope for this. But the Peek Vision Foundation developed an app and a lens attachment that allow non-specialist medics to take photos of the retina that may be needed to diagnose a patient.

4. Tap Tap


This app is not a diagnostic app, but instead helps the hard-of-hearing deal with hearing loss. For many people warning noises are easily distinguishable, but for the hard of hearing they may be harder to discern. This app plays the role of someone keeping an ear out for warnings: vibrating and flashing if it detects shouting, a doorbell, or a fire alarm that its user may have missed.

5. Aipoly


This app is also aimed at helping the effects of vision loss instead of diagnosing it. Aipoly is an object-recognition software that allows users to turn on their cameras and point it at objects around them. The app will then tell them what it is that the camera is “looking” at. The app does not use wifi, like other similar apps. It currently has about 1,000 objects that it recognizes, but creators hope to expand that number to 5,000 by the end of the year.

6. HamiltonCap Tel

Hamilton CapTel Facebook
Hamilton CapTel Facebook

If you’ve ever heard of TTY technology for the deaf, this will seem familiar to you. But rather than relying on human interpreters or multiple calls, this app transcribes audio, either as a message or in-call. Users can also download the app for phone, computer, tablet and smartphone.