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Having Fun With Cancer

One wig at a time

A breast cancer diagnosis at 27 is not very different than a diagnosis at the median age of 62. The few big differences are that I am at the start of my career, I do not have my own family yet, and I have friends who want to go to after-work happy hours that I could not attend.

After the first two months of pure shock, I decided that I did not want to lose my current life of having a job and having fun. I was determined to have fun with my cancer. 

First, find the perfect wig…or 5!

After being diagnosed, the first thing I asked my doctor was whether or not I was going to lose my hair. I asked my friend Jen Francis to go shopping with me to find the perfect wig. I always wanted bangs, but I have naturally curly hair and hairdressers always steered me away from bangs.

After this, I started going to the bi-weekly Sisterhood of Support Group headed by the wonderful Mollie Sugarman. She informed me that American Cancer Society offered something called a halo where the top is cut off, so you can wear a hat in the summer without the heat of the wig.

Mollie also informed me that the American Cancer Society offers free wigs. The two wigs I had above were real hair. I decided I wanted a synthetic hair wig that was somewhat wavy and long. I made an appointment with the organization and picked out this wig.

At this point, I thought I was done. I had 3 different wigs and I was confusing everyone when I met with friends and family. Then, I was introduced to 5 Under 40, an organization that specializes in donating services to women with breast cancer under 40. The organization donated a wig to me and this time I wanted blonde.

I also received another free halo from 5 Under 40!

I wore different wigs all the time. This was especially hard for my doormen to recognize me as I moved into a new apartment during chemotherapy.

Second set a goal!

I was in the 4th year of my career and I had taken 7 months of medical leave from work. During this time, I wanted to pass the CPA exam. I knew it would be hard, but it would give me some sort of purpose because sitting at home without having anything to do was making me sad. There were times I had my mom read the questions and multiple choice answers out loud because I was too dizzy to see them. The day before my last part of the exam, my oncologist told me I needed a blood transfusion. I woke up early on the day of my exam, received the transfusion, and then went to my exam in the afternoon.

After I passed the exam, I was so happy. Although there were so many challenges that went into accomplishing this goal, I would not trade the feeling of accomplishment that came with it for anything.

Lastly, sign up for every free cancer event!

Having breast cancer was my life. My friends were very supportive throughout the entire time, but I could not go to the bars at night or go to boutique fitness classes. I needed to make my own fun and meet different people. I did everything from the Sisterhood of Support Group, to Spa Day at the JCC in the Upper West Side, to a Strength for Life Retreat on Long Island. I also went to a makeup event, where a celebrity makeup artist taught me how to draw on eyebrows. I went to a Glam for Good event where they donated Tadashi dresses to cancer patients. I went to lectures at Gilda’s Club, hospitals, and Support Groups.

I am living proof that a cancer diagnosis does not have to be a gloomy and depressing experience. There were definitely bad days, but overall it was an experience that helped me appreciate life. As ludicrous as it sounds, I actually had fun during my treatment of chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation.

I challenge you all to have fun having cancer!

- Erica

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Great Neck, NY 11021
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