You Can Help
I have an unfortunate tendency to let things “snowball”; when one thing goes wrong, any other little challenge or mishap adds on to the others until it seems like everything is impossible. The other day I got a $300 bill in the mail for a visit to the Urgent Care center in November when I had a double ear infection and a sinus infection. Added to other things going on, suddenly everything seemed insurmountable and I was reduced to tears.
Maybe you’ve been there before. It’s so easy to feel bad for yourself and feel like the whole universe is against you. When that happens, I guarantee what anyone needs is a good dose of perspective – a little slap-in-the-face “quit your whining” action. For me, that came (indirectly) from Dena Stern, a beautiful, funny, admirably confident woman who found out a few days after her 29th birthday that she has breast cancer.
She’s so much like many of you – consciously living a healthy lifestyle, exercising, writing a style blog (with fun DIY projects), generally just being her fabulous self. Unlike many of you, she is in the process of undergoing chemotherapy and coming to terms with the fact that she will have a bilateral mastectomy when she’s finished with chemo.
Reading through the archives of her blog had an impact on me. I met Dena years ago through a good friend of mine and I have quietly followed her via Instagram, Pinterest and her blog. I still laugh every time I think of the time Dena, myself and a gaggle of other girls physically (somewhat violently) dodged a wedding bouquet being tossed in our direction – only to find Kate standing alone in the middle of the crowd holding it! (Guess who got married next??)
When I found out she had breast cancer, I felt horrible and I felt very small and helpless in the face of such a scary diagnosis. I felt like as one person, far away from San Francisco, I couldn’t possibly help. It wasn’t until now that I realized that I can help Dena – by sharing her story with this community of strong, smart women (and men!), raising awareness of the importance of taking care of your body as a young woman, and hoping some of you will donate whatever you can to help her through this.
Her positive energy is absolutely infectious. Dena’s blog now gives a very real, 29-year-old perspective on her entire experience from diagnosis through chemo treatments, and she does so with major style and grace. She offers shopping lists, helpful tips and for those going through chemo, and the one post you really really MUST read if you are a woman: HER POST ABOUT SELF EXAMS It is in bold because it is important. In Dena’s words: “So while regular mammograms are how they usually find cancer in older women, unfortunately the test just doesn’t work well for young women. We young women have these perky breasts because our breasts are made up of mostly breast tissue. As we age this tissue is replaced by fat, which looks black in a mammogram.Thick, dense breast tissue looks white in a mammogram. So does cancerous tissue. When you get older, the white cancer spots shows up loud and clear. When you’re young they don’t show up as well. So young women don’t get mammograms, but they do get breast cancer.
I’m gonna say that again, our best and only option is breast self exams.”
I felt like if she can have an awesome attitude and take adorable pictures of herself giving thumbs up while wearing a hospital gown in the face of her daunting recovery, I should be able to turn my thoughts around too. She also has her bad days, and she welcomes them as part of the experience not only as a cancer patient but as a human.
Dena is not alone. She has a big network of friends and family she is super grateful for and a wicked cute boyfriend. Since her diagnosis, Dena has been featured on Refinery29, Stripes and Sequins and With a CH. Recently, her friends started a StandBuy donation page to help her raise money for her chemo and offset the cost of being unemployed for a solid chunk of time. You can donate any amount, and any amount helps. Lately, a $15 parking ticket will make me stomp my feet, but I donated to Dena because if I were in her situation, I know I would need help from absolutely anyone who would offer it and I can’t imagine it’s very easy to ask for help from people.