Portrait of Grazia De Michele -- A Furious Amazon

Grazia 946-500

My breast cancer was diagnosed during the final year of my Ph.D. It came totally unexpected, as I do not have any family history of the disease. I lived in the United Kingdom at that time, and I moved back to Italy because I wanted to be treated in my country.

I am a historian. My job is to explain why things happen. I could not accept what doctors told me about the causes of my disease: “It’s impossible to know.” Family and friends suggested I don’t think about it, but I could not.

Breast cancer had abruptly stripped me of my youth, forcing me to face my mortality. It has changed my life forever and for the worse.

I started to read everything I found on the topic until I met a woman on Twitter. Her name is Anne Marie Ciccarella. She lives in the United States and is a breast cancer advocate and blogger. Anne Marie does not accept that so many women are diagnosed with and die of breast cancer, and we do know almost nothing about the cause. Meeting her, even if only virtually, made me think for the first time that I was not alone.

Through Anne Marie, I learned of the existence of a grass roots organization, Breast Cancer Action, whose main aims are to stop the breast cancer epidemic and change the conversation about this dreadful illness.

I realized that there wasn’t anything like this in Italy and decided to start a blog, The Furious Amazons, in order to give Italian women the opportunity to get involved in the international debate. I also became a member of the Breast Cancer Consortium, a network of scholars, activists and artists founded by Gayle Sulik, the author of the inspiring “Pink Ribbon Blues.”

I do not know how many years or months I have left, but I shall do everything I can to let people know that breast cancer is not either a destiny or a pink ribbon; it’s a horrible disease affecting more and more women around the world and it has to be stopped.

LOCATION: Eastbourne, England
DIAGNOSIS AGE: 30
DIAGNOSIS STAGE: Stage II
NONSURGICAL TREATMENTS: Herceptin, Radiation, Tamoxifen
DIAGNOSIS DETAILS: ER positive, HER2 positive, Invasive cancer

Lives with breast cancer.

Published in “Faces of Breast Cancer,” The New York Times on October 15, 2013.

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