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Pink Is My New Favorite Color

PINK IS MY NEW FAVORITE COLOR, LEAST YOU CAN DO IS ROCK IT IN OCTOBER FOR US WARRIORS

Thank you so much to the SN community for such a positive response to my first article about my breast cancer diagnosis in July 2018.  I am so overwhelmed by the support and am thrilled to be back during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to give you an update on my health and life in the “new normal.”

In case you missed my initial piece, here is a summary: I found out at 28 that I am a BRCA1 mutation carrier, I have been under surveillance at MSKCC since 21 due to family history of breast/ovarian cancer, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at 34 years old (despite doing everything right!), I underwent 8 rounds of intense chemotherapy (last one December 4th, 2018), I had a double mastectomy (new ones are quite fab!), I had a hysterectomy (refuse to risk getting ovarian cancer too!), and most importantly am a SURVIVOR who handled the C word with a smile, laughter, optimism and style (very relevant for you SN lovers!).  

It is hard to believe that a year ago I was getting rounds 3 & 4 of chemo. I spent last October dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness and giving back to the community.  Two highlights were being on the Today Show with Fighting Pretty and organizing a charity ride for my 35th birthday (10/16!) which helped raise over $7K for the BRCA Foundation. 

Today, I am happy to say that I am officially on the other side of this (WOOHOO!) and I am taking advantage of a clean bill of health. For a solid year I had to watch every move to avoid germs since my immune system was compromised (try doing that with two young kids and during flu season!).  Since then, I started a new job at Vistar Media, and I am back to commuting, traveling, and riding the subway all day every day. I am beyond fortunate to work at a company that is so understanding and supportive of my family, health, and dedication to wellness. To give you some context, I started Vistar in March 2019 and was wearing my long blond wig.  Prior to starting I had given myself an internal deadline of April 1st to remove the wig as my security blanket and to just own whatever hair growth happened.  Walking in that day was scary/nerve-racking but my new colleagues made it so comfortable and gave me the confidence to rock it.  It was such a pivotal moment in my journey, and I am so grateful for their support!

During the entire process, I always focused on what the end date was and all the things I wanted to do once healthy.  It kept me positive and gave me a look into life post cancer. I promised myself I would accomplish the following:

A mud race/obstacle course: I lost all strength during my treatment and multiple surgeries; there were points where opening a door was super hard, so I knew I had my work cut out for me.  I signed up for a personal trainer out in Merrick (Kevin from Beyond Fitness, THANK YOU!!). Multiple times a week we have been slowly building my muscles and I am happy to report that I completed the Rugged Maniac in Calverton in September alongside my two girls, Jen & Polina. Crushed it! We finished in 58 minutes and are now addicted.  Tough Mudder in early 2020 is next!!  

Travel, travel, travel! Right after my final surgery in January, we looked into booking Portugal and hitting that submit button was EVERYTHING.  My husband Marc and I went with two of our best friends, Jen & Seth, to Lisbon, Porto, Douro Valley (most magical place in the world!), and the Algarve.  I cannot say enough incredible things about this trip!  Every minute I had to pinch myself about how lucky I am to be healthy and to get to see the world.  There is a different level of appreciation for life after experiencing cancer and this trip to me marked living to the max again.  Huge thanks to both our parents and Paulette (our nanny of 6 years who completes our family!) for watching the kids! 

Commitment to wellness and clean beauty:  Eating healthy, exercising, taking vitamins and using clean products are all a big part of my new normal.  I am now a consultant and avid user of BeautyCounter (email me if of interest!).  

Being a resource to others who are diagnosed and questioning getting genetically tested for BRCA.  The amount of outreach I get via Instagram, Facebook, email, and friends of friends is incredible; this is why I put my story out there and was so open about my diagnosis.  Cancer sucks but attitude/positivity is key, and I am beyond confident that’s what helped me handle this with such ease. Over 15 people I know got genetically tested because of me and the number of mammograms that have been scheduled is too high to count! Knowing I had BRCA saved my life–it is so worth knowing and being in control! DO IT.

 Continuing to share my story:  Public speaking comes naturally to me given my profession and personality.  It is my mission to raise awareness and to lean on platforms that share a similar goal.  I spoke in May during Women’s Health Awareness Month at a LuckyForks GiveMe5 event in NYC.  I was on a panel with so many inspirational women all with a different story to share. My mentor Chad Hickey started this organization that focuses on Social Responsibility and I am so grateful to have him in my life and this opportunity

October is a month that brings awareness to Breast Cancer but also one where women are constantly reminded of how often a diagnosis occurs (1 in 8!).  Think about you and your friend group (it’s scary and trust me, I have caught myself doing it far too many times). October is a time to celebrate good health, recognize those rock stars who survived, remember those who caught it too late and lost the battle, and thank our lucky stars that there is so much that can be done to take control of your own life.  

I could not be at this place of Zen without my support system.  My family and friends were there throughout (my chemo room was always filled!) and I am forever grateful.  I am obsessed with my birthday which happens to fall in October (16th to be precise!).  I will be 36 and this year is MINE.  Since 35 would have been my big bash, we are throwing a GIANT DOUBLE CHAI birthday (36!) to celebrate LIFE (because I can!).  I am the best version of myself right now in this moment and can only be grateful that at 36 I get to be surrounded by all my favorite people (my best friend Jamie since birth is even flying in from New Mexico!).  At 36, I am surrounded by love everyday (thanks to my husband, my amazing kids Riley and Pierce, family, and friends) and look at cancer as an experience that forever shaped me into looking at the glass half full. This only has made me a better person and one that when my kids can truly understand, one they will be proud of!

By Gabby Stoller Wasserman

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