I sat down at Jelena’s kitchen table to meet Jelena for the first time. Her story, a journey with breast cancer, is one that touches so close to home for me. As a daughter and niece of women touched by breast cancer, each year when October rolls around I feel compelled to turn my attention to breast cancer awareness in new ways. For many years I participated in Y-Me and Relay for Life, in honor of my aunts: Bonnie, who lost her battle with cancer and Mary, who has fought many times, still nurturing her body through post-chemo illnesses and conditions. After my own mother was diagnosed, I tried to rally some troops locally at our YMCA to generate support for the victims and survivors of breast cancer. This year we decided to take another direction and share the story of what really happens after a diagnosis from a survivor herself. Enter Jelena.
Jelena was diagnosed just last year, 2017, and quickly sought aggressive treatment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. She went through a long and destructive course of chemotherapy; she followed that quickly with an invasive double mastectomy. Jelena shared her story with me for a couple hours in September, over a very strong cup of Turkish coffee in her home. We took a few moments to enjoy the beautiful day and turn our attention to the future. The conversation left me forever changed, touched by her strength under such intense sickness; my heart warmed by the support her family shared with her.
In part one of our four part series with Jelena we learn about life before cancer and the day she learned she had breast cancer.