Name: Marissa Thomas
Occupation: Healthcare Program Manager, CoFounder of For the Breast of Us
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 35
Breast cancer type: 35% ER + DCIS
Breast cancer stage: stage II
Treatment: Lumpectomy, Chemo (AC & Taxol), Radiation, 2-breast reconstruction surgeries
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer
I’ll give you two fun facts about me. You can take me anywhere once and I will know how to get back to get back there again. I have a crazy sense of direction and know my North, South, East and West no matter where I am at. The second fun fact is I like to bake from scratch; it’s a sense of therapy for me.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
“Dedication” by Nipsey Hussle
How did you discover your breast cancer?
I discovered my breast cancer one morning after getting out of the shower. I was putting lotion on, felt a lump and I immediately knew something was wrong as I don’t have lumpy breasts. It was a Saturday and I knew at the time I couldn’t do anything. So instead of festering about the “what if”, I finished getting dressed and took my son to his football game. All the while I was screaming on the inside worrying about this lump.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
A little bit of everything went through my head. My first thought was “why me?” I believed I did everything right so there was no possibility of breast cancer coming knocking at my door. I now know, it’s normal for most of us, if not all to blame ourselves for being diagnosed with cancer. But as Dr. Dizon recently said in one of his awesome Tik Tok videos, “It is not your fault that you were diagnosed with cancer.” My mind then shifted to survival mode and wanting to make sure I received the best care possible so I could be around for my son.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
“I’m so glad you got the good cancer.” Umm, I didn’t know being diagnosed with cancer was ever a “good” thing!
Who is your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?
My family and friends were extremely supportive during my experience. There are few special ones that come to mind. My dad, who drove about an hour every day to take my son to school for me and also just sit with me and clean my house. My sister Amber who was always ‘tracking’ to make sure my schedule of medicines were written out and help keep things organized for me. And my best friend Chanda who would just come sit in silence with me when she knew I didn’t want to talk or be bothered but wanted someone there. They all worked together as a team so that the following nine months of treatment was as fluid as possible. I can’t forget my son Siaire. He was 13 at the time and man, kids are more resilient than what we give them credit for. Siaire continued to stay on top of his school work and grades with everything going on and let me throw my wig off without being embarrassed because of an impending hot flash that was about to happen.
What is the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
I don’t think this can be summed up into one part or thing. A few difficult parts of being diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age is feeling alone when you go to the cancer center as there are not a lot of young women there or watching your friends have milestones that you may not ever see like having children. The culmination of all of this would be having to rebuild yourself for this new person you are now. Most of us in our 30’s are settling into our careers, dating, getting married, raising kids and figuring out who you are. Then cancer comes and slaps you in the face like “Bam b*tch, wake up!” Once cancer and all that accompanies that, spits you back out like the tornado it is, you are left to figure out not only who you are now, but what parts of your old self you are wanting to take with you.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself?
In a weird turn of events, I learned it was ok to be vulnerable. To shed all of these layers I have put up to protect myself and be free to let others in. I have probably cried more in the past four years than I have my whole life and I am ok with that. The joke I keep making is that I’m “losing my gangsta” and that’s fine. Each day I feel a little bit more free of the hurt, pain and past traumas I am leaving behind.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
This is only a chapter in this book called life and it will not define you, so be you, unapologetically.