If you have ever had a crisis, we have something in common. I never could have guessed what was about to unfold as I went in for a checkup—but I am getting ahead of myself.

As you begin this book, keep in mind it has a happy ending. It starts off pretty tragically and scary, but the outcome is good. It has been well over a decade since I found out that I had stage IV cancer. For most hearing that news, it sounds like a death sentence. I was 26.

I know the power of hope, and I will do all that I can to promote it. This book is not a how-to and there are no magic potions listed. I do know that each of us can make an impact, so why not start there. When I was diagnosed and looking for inspiration, it was so hard to find. That is why I wanted to share my story with you. If you read this and feel as though you can make a difference for yourself or someone else, I will have succeeded.

I am an ordinary woman. I say this because I want you to know that I believe that each of us has the ability to triumph over crisis. A crisis is often the catalyst to becoming the very best version of you. The opportunity to shine appears often, yet it is up to us to seize the chance to grow, to hope or to inspire others. I have no doubt that it is within all of us to do these things.

It is important to point out that I didn’t walk into cancer with any special knowledge or information that would have helped me prepare for it. I had to learn quickly; to surround myself with good people; and draw on my own strengths. Each of us will do it differently, but the ability to succeed is there.

Just as I am not the person that I was when I underwent treatment, the world of breast cancer has changed too, in the last decade. The treatments that I decided on may not be the best anymore. The important thing is that the treatment that you choose is right for you and that you participate.

What started out as a collection of letters to my baby girl, grew into this book. After writing its first version, I realized I had not gone through this alone. I have included some thoughts and reactions written by my friends and family. Despite the fact that they were not diagnosed, they were along for the ride.

Though it was cancer that was the stimulus for change in my life, I know that there are many other factors out there that can set the ball in motion. I believe, more than anything, that how we handle challenges determines who we become.

Here is my story.

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