How I Reset My Life After Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Advocacy Ricki Fairley revamped her life after her breast cancer diagnosis. Now she works to give a voice and hope to women battling triple negative breast cancer.
On October 20, I celebrated five years of breast cancer survivorship. My breast cancer story is not unlike that of many other women. I am your typical multi-tasking, miracle-working, superhero black woman who went to the doctor for my annual check-up.
My doctor found a lump and diagnosed me with stage 3A triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive breast cancer subtype. It has a higher mortality rate than other subtypes and does not have a targeted therapy to prevent recurrence. It represents 30 percent of breast cancers in black women.
I had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. In my first meeting with my oncologist she told me that I probably had only two years to live and that I should get my affairs in order. At the time, my younger daughter was a sophomore at Dartmouth. I not only wanted to see her graduate; I had to work to pay for her education. I told my doctor that death was not an acceptable option, so she and I and God would have to work something out.
By the grace of God and a lot of support from my family and friends, I watched my youngest daughter graduate and then watched my older daughter get married.
I realized that I had to find peace and eradicate all of the cancers out of my life. I quit my life and started a new one. I divorced my husband of 30 years. He is now my “wasband.” I separated from my business partners. I sold my five-bedroom suburban house and moved to a one-bedroom condo on the Chesapeake Bay. I started my own company between my third and fourth rounds of chemo. I now paddleboard with each sunrise and know that my peace is non-negotiable.
“As black women, we try to take care of everyone — often at the expense of our own mental and physical health.”
Though I am blessed, other black women are not as fortunate. According to the CDC and ACS, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among black women. For women younger than 45, incidence and mortality is higher among black women.
I am dedicated to supporting the TNBC community and to funding research that will lead us to targeted treatments for this subtype of breast cancer. Every day, I try to be the voice telling at least one person to check the breasts that you love; I know you have a pair. If you follow me on Twitter @RickiDove, I tweet a monthly reminder on the 20th of each month.
As black women, we try to take care of everyone — often at the expense of our own mental and physical health. We don’t always have to be superheroes. Listen to the direction of flight attendants and put the mask on yourself first. Take a pause for yourself every day, take care of yourself and find peace in your life. I find peace in making a difference in this fight against breast cancer.