MBC and Solace in Comedy — A Wildfire Story

As a normal 29-year-old woman, I had never given cancer any thought. My mind was consumed with normal 29-year-old thoughts: normal millennial concerns such as finding a larger apartment, reaching career goals and perhaps even starting a family of my own. I had a wonderful boyfriend, plenty of friends and a loving family. I worked and enjoyed hobbies such as dance and filmmaking, to name a few.

As a woman on the brink of turning 30, I was aware that I had to take my health a little more seriously. My metabolism was not as fast as it once was and I knew diabetes and heart disease ran in my family. I watched what I ate and joined a gym and thought everything would fall into place, until, of course, everything fell apart.

It was mid-July and everything was going well. I had just celebrated my 30th birthday and was ready to have a great decade. That was until I noticed my breast density had changed. I went to my doctor who immediately sent me to the Breast Health Centre at my local hospital. The minute I knew something wasn’t right was when the nurse looked at me and asked “What has your doctor told you?” “Is it cancer?” I asked. “I can’t tell you that.” She responded. I panicked. I screamed. I cried. The doctors ran test after test over the next few days until I was finally diagnosed with the Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) that had spread to my liver and spine. I was numb. My world had been flipped upside down.

My boyfriend and I decided to move closer to my parents and the hospital. As soon as we moved into the new house, my mind began to split my life into two segments: Before Cancer (BC) and After Cancer (AC). Here we were in a new house, facing a new life; in a matter of weeks, my life had completely changed. A switch inside of me flipped. I needed to get back to the things I loved.

I signed up for horseback riding and dance. My boyfriend and I bought a hedgehog and, soon after, a poodle. I knew the only way I could keep myself from drowning in sorrow was to do things I could enjoy and find more things I could pour my love into.

A feeling that naturally comes with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is a sense of overwhelming loneliness. The feeling grows even larger in the middle of a pandemic. I turned to the internet to find online support groups. I met many wonderful people with whom I am still friends to this day, but it did take a while to find exactly where I belonged. I quickly learned that metastatic cancer is its own beast. The earlier Stage cancers have their problems, while those with MBC face a different set of struggles. Finding a group that was age appropriate was also not an easy task. I needed people to discuss the struggles of having your fertility ripped away from you at the age of thirty. People to acknowledge that this disease crushed dreams we had just begun to have.

I have always found solace in comedy. Whether it’s writing comedy sketches or performing in improv shows, comedy has always been a safe space for me. I began to express myself by making short, comical cancer videos on the app TikTok. Friends and family began to reach out and say they were learned so much from my TikToks. I was even asked to be on a breast cancer podcast as the first guest with metastatic breast cancer after the host came across my videos. I feel proud that I am able to educate others about metastatic breast cancer through humor.

Emily Powell • Diagnosed at 30. Stage IV de novo, ER+, PR+. Emily has a background in film production, screenwriting and advertising. She is her happiest when creating something new. She hopes to cobble together her video diaries and shoot new footage to release a documentary film about her MBC story one day. Headshot provided by Caileigh Langford. @emilytiana • TikTok @emilytiana90

This piece has been republished with permission from WILDFIRE Magazine, the “Changemakers” issue, published originally December 11, 2021. More information available at  wildfirecommunity.org    

WILDFIRE Magazine is the only magazine for young women survivors and fighters of breast cancer under 45 years old. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, WILDFIRE is a beautiful, story-based bi-monthly magazine published on different themes relevant to young women survivors, from stage 0 to stage IV. Beautiful and ad-free! Visit  wildfirecommunity.org for more info.

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