By Contributing Writer - January 04, 2021
In August 2019, Susannah Parish went in for her annual physical.
“I honestly didn’t do regular self-breast exams,” Parish said. “I was under 30 and did not have a family history of cancer. I was working, traveling, volunteering, having fun with friends, planning a trip to Greece and just being a regular young adult.” Parish said.
But a few months later, she noticed a lump while performing a self-check in the shower.
“I knew this was a new lump and needed to be checked as soon as possible,” Parish said.
Parish was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound the following week, followed by a biopsy two days later. She was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative invasive ductile carcinoma.
“When I received the news, I was in complete shock. I felt numb,” Parish said. “My doctor asked me to come by her office in the morning to discuss. I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. I was terrified.”
Parish would have an uphill battle as she faced a tough treatment plan in the middle of the pandemic. On April 15, 2020, she had a bilateral mastectomy. She later went on to participate in a clinical trial, as well as 25 rounds of radiation therapy to her chest.
Parish’s hair began to fall out within the first few weeks of treatment.
“By the seventh week, I got the courage to shave it all off,” Parish shared.
Prior to her own cancer experience, Parish spent years working with the American Cancer Society.
“I was an employee there from 2015 to 2017 and later became a volunteer through their Associate Boards of Ambassadors,” Parish shared. “Looking back, I truly think ACS prepared me to fight through my own battle. Without the knowledge ACS provided me about cancer, I’m not sure I would have been as proactive about my cancerous lump.”
There is strength in community
“My friends and family really stepped up and supported me throughout my journey,” Parish said. “There’s also an amazing community of survivors that I’ve connected to. When I was diagnosed, I desperately searched for others who had similar stories to know I wasn’t alone. There is strength in community. It’s hard to understand what cancer is like unless you’ve been personally impacted. Meeting people who can relate and understand has been monumental to processing my diagnosis.”
Parish said her life is forever changed because of cancer.
“Cancer can change a lot, but I won’t let it change me,” Parish said. “Looking back, I was diagnosed just three months after finishing my graduate degree. I was looking forward to pursuing my career after graduation, then BAM! Cancer.”
Parish still has goals, they’ve just been delayed, not denied.
“I’m learning not to rush the process or put any unnecessary pressure on myself,” Parish said. “I think just speaking out about my diagnosis gives me strength. Being able to share my journey and what I’ve gone through and being so open has helped me accept my diagnosis. Opening myself up and being vulnerable is scary, but there is power in talking about our experiences with cancer and hopefully it can raise awareness or help someone else realize they aren’t alone.”