Issue 4's "Warrior," Brooke Long, talks about how she stays strong after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis ... twice.

As told to Britt Julious

One day, my aunt called me from the road.

She said, “I found a lump, and we’ve been watching it for a couple of years, but we’ve confirmed it’s [ductal carcinoma in situ], and I have breast cancer.” I remember [being] on the phone with her, pushing on myself, and thinking, I feel something. I go to check it out. A couple of days later, I got diagnosed: stage II invasive ductal carcinoma. In a way, [my aunt] saved me. We did a double mastectomy. Lymph node clearance. I did IVF, and then I did chemo right away. 15 rounds and then a month of radiation.

I had to really rebuild [my] muscles and do physical therapy with pilates. By the end of 2018, I was able to do that, [but] my pecs were not healing. I had an appointment with my oncologist and said, “I did this workout the other week. I’m still sore.” Two more weeks go by, and I order my own CT scan. They said, “You have a 4 centimeter lesion that is eroding your sternum bone.” I flipped out. This cannot be real. We were just thinking of starting a family and really moving on with life. The biopsy list was three weeks out, and they said, “There’s nothing we can do. You just have to wait.” But what if this kills me?

I got a new oncologist. The hope is we could put it into remission. I love that reframing. If you show up and you’re ready to meet it and grow from it and survive it, then you want to be aligned with someone who’s going to help you do that.

Instead of just firehosing my whole body, we irradiated it with ablative radiation. I’m on a really strong aromatase inhibitor injection regimen. And I take a daily pill called ibrance. It stands in the pathway of cell division, [stopping] it from replicating. If I can just buy time with this regimen, maybe two or five years, immunotherapy will be where it’s at.

My needs are different, and that means my approach is different. Not just because of age, but because of the mindset, the culture, the anthropology of what it means to be sick right now. Get real comfortable with uncertainty because that is the only constant. I have so much to share.


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