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.


Here’s why tattoos are more than just skin deep

There has always been a lingering, extremely negative stigma around tattoos. Whether that be the impression that they’re a reckless craft or profession, that they’re a reflection of unprofessionalism on the wearer, or that the kind of person who gets tattoos is a bad influence and misguided. My whole life, the narrative that tattoos are associated with illegal activities and reckless behaviour has been practically embedded into my social imagining. For a while, I believed it too. I thought that having a tattoo very much meant being unsuccessful in the career that I chose and that I would be going against the picture that had been painted for me. And in doing so, I would be letting everyone around me down, everyone who played some kind of part in raising me. Funnily enough, these are the same people who told me countless times that it is important to march to the beat of my own drum and to be the captain of my own ship. Go figure.

Especially being a girl, I’ve been told that tattoos are ugly, inappropriate, and distasteful. That the second I taint my body with ink, the body that is also supposed to be my own canvas, my worth diminishes dramatically. People start to look at me differently. I am no longer the girl that they thought I was. In a matter of seconds, their entire perception of me changes and everything they know about me is altered. 

This is the reality for so many young people and it is incredibly disheartening because most tattoos, if not all, can hold a deeper meaning. Plus, it shouldn’t even matter if the tattoo is meaningful or not, as long as the person adorned by it is happy and comfortable. Tattoos can be an exceptional medium for self-expression. Every little detail in a tattoo is an example of individuality that is impossible to replicate because everyone’s skin and everyone’s intent is entirely different. 

Most tattoos are real-life embellishments drenched in symbolism and motifs, and if you really think about it, tattoos are beautiful beyond being art. They are meant to be read like a book and tell you something about the wearer. You can learn a multitude of unspoken stories about a person just by looking at their tattoos, and these are usually the things that are most dear to their heart and truly make them who they are. These are the things that they’re so determined to never let go of that they literally make it a part of their skin and their blood. They tell you stories of growth, romance, culture, grief, passion, religion, wit, and determination. People wear art that speaks to them and makes them feel something. Tattoos are a love story in and of themselves. 

I cherish my tattoo. It’s a very small pink dove near my left rib cage. I was 18 years old at the time that I got it done. Most people thought that I was acting in defiance, that I was being rebellious, and that I would regret it eventually. 

Well, they were all wrong. 

I wasn’t being defiant and I will never regret it. I got my tattoo because it is something that I knew I needed to do for myself if I was ever going to move past what had happened, if I was ever going to move forward. That year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. With all of those odds against her, she survived. She is the strongest woman that I’ve ever known and will ever know. 

But still, the pressure and the helplessness that I felt and continue to feel can sometimes seem never-ending. I can never shake that fear, no matter how relieved I am to be out of the thick of it. So, I decided to commemorate the moment with something meaningful that is mine, and mine entirely. 

My favorite quote from the novel Jane Eyre says this: “I am no bird and no net ensnares me, I am a free human being with an independent will.” That quote seemed to describe what I was feeling, and really what I needed to be told, effortlessly. So, my bird is pink for breast cancer. I got it as a daily reminder of strength, resilience, and soaring above the ashes, just as my mother did. I too can soar.

Work Now + Beyond

The five things I learned as a young writer writing for The Tempest

Growing up, I always wanted to be on the other side of the articles I read, the one doing the writing, but it always seemed unreachable, impossible, and overwhelming… especially as a young writer.

Last year though, I came across an article on The Tempest and I fell in awe with its raw narrative style and its mission to disrupt the norm. Once again, I yearned to be on the other side and, by sheer luck, I came across a form to apply for their Spring Editorial Fellowship 2019.

Today, I’m here. A year later, a year older, on the other side of some of the articles I read and with five pieces of advice to every other young writer starting out:

1. Reach out to people who you know are a part of the company you want to write for, even if you don’t know them.

A baby penguin waves in greeting.
[Image description: A baby penguin waves in greeting.] Via GIPHY
I was incredibly lucky to have known someone at my school who could help me with my application process. That said, don’t ever hesitate to message people at the company itself and ask for guidance! As young writers starting out, we become so determined to make it on our own, almost as if we need to prove ourselves ten-fold to feel like we belong among the older and more experienced. I felt the same way.

Even today, a year after being a part of this wonderful community, imposter syndrome attacks at times. What combats it is improving and knowing that your ideas are important. If I’d never have reached out, I may have never applied. Sometimes, you just have to ask.

  2. You’re going to need to word vomit. A LOT.

 A cartoon gnome is spewing rainbows from his mouth.
[Image description: A cartoon gnome is spewing rainbows from his mouth.] Via GIPHY
There are many writers out there capable of organizing their thoughts and penning them down with very few edits. I, however, usually run through mutiple vomit drafts and see myself doing it 10 years down the line as well.

Sometimes, your first draft will be wonderfully raw and exposed, the way a chilly wind feels after rain. And sometimes it’ll feel like quicksand and sludge and you’ll need to become a writing architect to transform it into a sandcastle. There is beauty in both routes. It works, just don’t stop drafting.

3. Articulation can be a bitch.

A woman with dark, curly hair looks confused. A bunch of animated question marks bounce around her.
[Image description: A woman with dark, curly hair looks confused. A bunch of animated question marks bounce around her.] Via GIPHY
Sometimes, your fingers will be stuffed with emotions and words, words that you so carefully want to type out. You’ll want to explain the eccentricities of the chocolate box village, the reason fairies glow, why she cut her hair, etc. All these emotions and words will be bubbling over the surface and you want them to resonate equally with your readers. So it can be so disheartening when your first draft doesn’t reflect the depth you found yourself writing from. It’s tough but it’s okay.

Tell the voice whispering “you’re too young to be a good writer” to sod off and try again.

4. Find your writing style, and don’t let anybody change it.

: A group of seagulls sitting on a lifeboat shouting, 'MINE!
[Image description: A group of seagulls sitting on a lifeboat shouting, ‘MINE!’] Via GIPHY
Flexible yet formal? Factually informal? More than anything else, a writer’s style is their biggest weapon. Craft it. Hone it. Use it. It can be a combination of anything – simply discursive or abstractly argumentative.

The point being, don’t let anyone trick you into thinking your writing style isn’t good enough. And no, I’m not talking about presentation, grammar, and punctuation. I’m talking about the bones of your writing, the voice that carries it. If you can be confident in that and allow your voice to carry the message you truly want to share, the authenticity will always show.

5. And finally, the struggle of writing something, you don’t feel is good enough. It is. It is.

A cartoon blonde girl says, "This is getting good."
[Image description: A cartoon blonde girl says, “This is getting good.”] Via GIPHY
I’m talking about content, not style.

I recently wrote this article on skincare acids. I spent quite a while on it, doing extensive research, finding reliable sources, and facts. It’s something I’m super interested in – writing it was easy. However, when it came time for it to be published, I found myself feeling like the topic itself wasn’t important enough to put out there.

I couldn’t help but feel, that in the grand scheme of everything in the world happening right now, skincare acids are so trivial but you never know who your words will touch and how they will resonate, so take that chance – your voice matters.

It might seem scary, this feeling of vulnerability that comes with unleashing your voice. It feels almost paradoxical for vulnerability and power to co-exist but your experiences, your voice, your thoughts are what makes those words mighty.

Gender & Identity Life

10 things I wish I could tell my younger self

We all have things we wish we knew when we were younger, right?

It may sound a bit weird, but I enjoy writing letters to myself, whether it’s for the past, present, or future. It’s therapeutic and allows me to recharge my personal battery to continue pursuing my goals.

Because let’s be honest, life can get a bit robotic and mundane at times. Pausing to reflect on my past definitely brings me more hope, optimism, and joy.

Isn’t it amazing how, although we all have our own upbringings, and personalities, that somehow there are common themes we can all relate to? My hope is that my list will inspire you to create your own as well. Try it out, you’ve got nothing to lose!

So here’s what I would want my younger self to know:

1. There will be people you come across in life who you become close to, but who manipulate or hurt you. No matter what, keep your heart open. Learn from these people, but never generalize a few rotten tomatoes for the whole crate.


I know you love Spongebob, but for the love of God, please don’t follow Squidward’s philosophy.

2. You will never be able to make all of your family and friends happy. Once you accept this difficult reality, you will feel much more empowered.


It will probably take you a long, long, long time to learn this, but that’s okay.

3. Your parents will get on your nerves. But remember that they are not perfect humans and they’re trying their best.

Be as kind as possible to them because you wouldn’t be where you are without their unconditional love and support.

4. Spend your time wisely. Even if those around you are wasting it away, realize that you will never be able to get it back.


Oprah is a wise woman who will help you in life – listen to her!

5. There may be people who try to project their insecurities onto you. Do not take it personally. Although it may not feel like it, what they say has nothing to do with you.


I couldn’t have said it better myself.

6. Please don’t rush yourself into knowing what you can only learn with time and experience. Take a deep breath and relax.

No matter what happens just keep swimming.

7. You will definitely get lost at times and feel like you’re completely on your own. But you’re not. 


However, on many days, it will all seem to make sense and you’ll be able to connect the dots.

8. Some guys may only like you for your physical beauty–politely distance yourself from them. Don’t fall into the trap of only focusing on how you look. You are so much more than that.

Once again, don’t just generalize those dumbos to all men.

9. Sometimes you will say and do hurtful things to those you are closest to. Never let more than a day or two pass before you find the courage to let your ego down and apologize.


I know it’s not easy sometimes, but life is short. PS: If you’re too scared just send an email or text.

10. No matter how many times you mess up, you will always be loved.

No matter what you are a person deserving of love.

None of us will make it through life without having some sort of realizations we wish we had known sooner. That’s part of the fun (and pain) of growing and evolving. I need to remind myself of these messages on a daily basis.

The difference between my attitude now and around a decade ago is this: I refuse to beat myself up over not being perfect. I embrace my strengths and my areas of improvement because those are the qualities that make me who I am. These are lessons I will have to learn over and over again, but I accept that I will fall down many times. However, I will also rise back up. And so will you.