Words with Friends: Miya

The following post is the first of two posts sponsored by the American Cancer Society's More Birthdays Campaign. 100% of the proceeds of this post will be donated (back) to the American Cancer Society on Miya's behalf.
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Miya on Halloween, 2000

I first met Miya (pronounced me-ya) in 2000 when I lived in a house full of dudes, one of which would later became Miya's boyfriend. I was nineteen when we met and she taught me the ropes of Los Angeles. It was she who took me to my first party in the hills, snuck me into my first bar, crashed with me on couches, our feet in each other's faces. At night we'd chase each other down Fairfax with stamps on our hands and in the morning, climb Runyan Canyon together nursing our hangovers with Venti iced-coffees.
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Miya with our then boyfriends, 2002
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Miya, 2003

We stayed friends over the years, through career changes and life changes. I married and then she married and at the beginning of this year, she and her husband decided they were ready to start a family. She even started a blog about what she thought would be her journey. That changed when two weeks later, Miya found a lump in her breast. The following is an interview I did with her, beautiful friend, wife, ass-kicker about her last nine months fighting breast cancer. (Spoiler Alert: After this week's radiation, Miya will be free and clear and in remission! Hooray!)

Name: Miya
Friend since: 2000
Type of cancer: Breast, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 2/Grade 3
Diagnosed: February, 2011
Age:36

GGC: In February you found a lump in your breast. What was your first thought upon finding the lump and then later finding out it was cancerous?

Miya: When I first found the lump, I was nervous. It was completely out of the ordinary, and it seemed like it came out of the blue. I check myself often, but I slacked for a few months and then there it was. I went to the Dr. (my Dr. was out so I was seen by another Dr.) and he checked it and said it was fine. He said it was probably just a calcium deposit. He didn’t seem alarmed. I went home and obsessed about it for days. I finally said F’ it and made another appointment to see MY Dr. She felt the lump and immediately scheduled a mammogram. They found the mass during the mammogram, then immediately did an ultrasound where they were able to gage the size of the mass. They did a biopsy a week later. I felt like everything was moving in slow motion and my heart was sinking each day. Then I got the call. It was cancer. I immediately felt like I was going to die. I felt sad about all the people I would miss and all of the things I didn’t experience in my life. I was so scared! I cried and cried. I was filled with regret on how I took my health for granted. I’m really glad I stood up for myself and pushed to see another Dr. If I would have waited longer to have my mastectomy/lymph node dissection my diagnosis could have been far worse. I was already at Stage 2 with 2 lymph nodes affected. If I waited, the cancer could have spread to my other lymph nodes and other organs. I’m blessed that I’m neurotic, I guess.
MeandJer
with her husband, pre-chemo

GGC: You had just started your blog "nightlife to nine months" about your journey from party girl to mom when you found you had breast cancer. Your third entry you announce the news not that you're pregnant but that you have breast cancer and since, your blog has been about a very new kind of journey. How has keeping a blog helped you? Are there other blogs about women enduring cancer that inspire you?

Miya: I think my blog helped me tremendously. It was a place I could tell my story. At times when things were way too heavy (which was a lot), the blog made me feel like I was telling someone else’s story. It took me out of the chaos of the situation. I needed to step out of myself in order to preserve myself. I didn’t read other blogs/message boards in the beginning. I was trying to build up my mental strength and hope, I was afraid to read things that would scare me or take me down. I recently starting following Chiagal.com because she posts pictures every two weeks of her hair growth. I needed to see what the road back to hair would look like. She is really funny, too! I also read purpleismycolor.com. She’s a friend I made on IHadCancer.com and has been an amazing support to me.
me
GGC: I loved the post where you're modeling all of your wigs. It reminded me of that scene in Sex and the City where Samantha is trying to match her own hair and eventually says "screw it!" and goes out in a neon pink wig a la Foxy Brown. How often did you wear a wig and at some point were you like, "screw this! I'm a hot bald chick!" (You are crazy hot with no hair, btw.)
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Miya: I really couldn’t stand wearing wigs, but I REALLY couldn’t stand being bald more. I never wore them at home only when I went to the store, which was not that often. I wore scarves too, but those scream out “I’m sick” more than wigs. I felt like I couldn’t win. My head would get cold, so I had to wear something. I did use (and still do) a pink knit beanie. It was a gift from volunteers at the hospital on my first day of chemo. When I first saw it I truthfully thought it was ugly. Now it’s like a baby blanket I can’t let go of. I will keep it forever. It was my go to cover up when I was at home. It made me feel less self-conscious. I never went bald. I’m only now able to walk around without a cover up. (cause my hair’s back, yay!!)
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Miya in her "blankie" beanie with husband, Jeremy

GGC: When you found out you had cancer you immediately went to fertility clinic to freeze your eggs so they wouldn't be effected by the chemo. Can you tell us a little about how that all went down? What is was like?

Miya: When I found out there was no escaping chemo, my Dr. suggested we freeze embryos. A friend of mine told me about Santa Monica Fertility. I called and got in within a few days. At the consultation, I explained my situation. They offer a discount to women with cancer, which was amazing. We did an ultrasound to check my eggs right on the spot. The timing was perfect so they started my fertility treatments that day! I had daily shots to the belly, which sucked, but was worth it. A few weeks later we had 8 embryos on ice!
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GGC: Last week you posted your first "hair regrowth" pic. How does it feel to lose your hair and then watch it come back?

Miya: Outside of being diagnosed with cancer, losing my hair was really devastating. I knew it was going to happen. I prepared for it, got my hair cut really short, bought wigs, scarves, etc. When it happened it was shocking, I was panicked. I was crying and shaking. My husband came running into the bathroom when he heard me screaming. I was standing in the shower crying, holding little pieces of hair. After a Xanax and many conversations with my husband and parents, I calmed down. I think I was very connected to my hair and the image of me WITH hair. It was beyond difficult to see it disappear. To see that person disappear. I was no longer that Miya. I would now be the Miya who had cancer. After spending so many months with no hair or eyebrows watching my hair grow back is exciting! I wish it would grow faster, but I’m grateful for each and every hair. I feel reborn, the new “me” is here and ready for whatever comes my way.
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Miya with her mama

GGC: How has the last year changed you? How has it changed your relationship with yourself? Your husband? How do you think it will change you as a mother?

Miya: This last year has made me more appreciative of life and all it’s moments good and bad. I got reconnected to my spiritual side. Having faith in God and his plan for me made this journey uplifting rather than miserable. I won’t lie, chemo was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, but I’m thankful to have gone through it to save my life. I will not ever take my health for granted again, meaning I’ll make better choices to ensure I stay healthy. Eat better, sleep better, and exercise more. I feel like my husband and I have grown closer. I’ve seen first hand through adversity how strong our love is. I’ve learned that my obsession with perfection (beauty wise) is not important and not something I should spend my days trying to achieve. I’m perfect in my own special way, with all my imperfections. I won’t be able to try for a child for five years (I’ll be on Tamoxifen, a hormone therapy), and even then my Dr. thinks it may not be a good idea to carry a baby. I’m estrogen positive, which means my cancer feeds on estrogen, which makes it grow fast. As you know, when you're pregnant your hormones go out of control, which could possibly bring the cancer back. This is pretty rough to hear, so my husband and I are going to take it day by day. See where the road takes us. Baby or no baby we’ll have each other.

GGC: You are one of the most positive women I know. In fact, reading your blog and facebook updates, you continuously blow my mind. Cancer is a dark place and yet, in every photo you post, you look AMAZING. Radiant, even. (That was not a radiation pun, by the way.) Where do you gather your strength and what is your advice for women having a hard time finding theirs?

Miya: Thank you for the compliment! I wasn’t so positive when this began. I was very, Why is this happening to me?, I’m going to have to live the rest of my life hoping this never comes back. I prayed to God a lot. I made the decision to not spend the time I have on this earth worrying about things I cannot control. I’m doing all the treatment available to me and that’s all I can do. I have to really enjoy every minute I have, cause I’ve seen how quickly everything can go away. I feel sad that this happened to me and sad for the stress it caused my husband, family, and friends, but I also feel it changed my life for the better. I’m calmer, kinder, and more open to love. I used to let things get to me. I was very sensitive and my feelings were hurt fairly easily. When you go through the ups and downs of a Cancer diagnosis and then treatment, you learn quickly how to adapt and become your own cheerleader. You have to keep yourself positive in order to get through.... Cancer made me a stronger person and I feel blessed to have a second chance at life.
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GGC: Lastly, if you could give your pre-cancer self life advice, what would it be?

Miya: I would tell my pre-cancer self to slow down!! Stop living in the past and stop allowing the negative things in the past dictate the quality of your life.
Yippee! (1)
Miya at the top of Runyan Canyon, 2011

(Thank you, Miya for sharing your life with us. You're amazing.)


GGC

...You can follow Miya's journey on her blog, here.

40 comments:

Catherine | 6:31 AM

I'll definitely be rooting for you, Miya! Thanks for sharing your story with GGC. So many women do not worry about breast cancer in their thirties, including me until recently. My husband is a radiologist specializing in breast mammo and he has definitely woken me from that lull of "I'm too young" (I'm 34). Happily, he has seen a lot of his patients come through healthy on the other side. But, your story will hopefully make a lot more women conscientious of self exams and just being aware of changes to their breasts. I'll be following your blog, too, and sending you all of my most positive healing, and hopefully soon, mothering, vibes.

Arnebya | 6:58 AM

I love how your pictures pre-chemo are with your arms raised like you're so high on life. And then to close with a similar one just brought it home for me. I'm so glad you pushed the doctor; more women have to stand up for themselves when we feel something is off. Best wishes for your continued remission and overall health.

Kelsey Geist | 7:36 AM

Miya is so inspiring. This is just what I needed this morning.
Thank you...

Perfectly Impurfect Me | 7:52 AM

While you are an inspiration any day of the year Miya, thank you for sharing your story today...2 days before Thanksgiving. It is a reminder to all of us worrying over things like turkey vs ham, pumpkin vs pecan, or whether the mom-in-law is going to make condescending comments on the placemats, that there are so many things to be grateful for this holiday. Wishing you all the best not just this Thanksgiving but on every day! Thank you for sharing your story!

Strongmomma | 7:58 AM

I loved this...as a momma of four and a survivor of Hodgkins Lymphoma (2009 diagnosed) this made me cry.

Miya...you are freaking awesome & I loved hearing your story today.

JC | 8:02 AM

Miya - You are awesome. And STUNNING, esp. in the short 'do!
Congrats and more wishes for continued recovery and health!

Jen | 8:06 AM

Miya you took my breath away. One of my dearest friends was diagnosed almost one year ago and is now in remission. Another dear friend of our family is in the process of mammogram/ultrasound/bioposy awaiting her results soon. Cancer sucks, but you are battling with such grace and courage. I will share your site and story with the brave women in my life.

Clandestine Road | 8:07 AM

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Miya. I'm so grateful you are cancer free! You are an inspiration and so stunning.

Erin | 8:15 AM

What a beauty! With hair! Without hair! Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your story, Miya.

Emma | 8:16 AM

My younger sister was diagnosed in March, at only 25 years old. She was the same stage, and has just finished the same treatment, and it has ripped me apart to watch her go through this. There was so much I was unsure of, so much I didn't understand, or know what to expect. I have read this in tears, to know a story so similar with such positive endings. Thank you, thank you, thank you. With much love to Miya, and to everyone.

rosie | 8:58 AM

wow! stories like these just make us think that our problems are NOT really problems. Not too long ago a friend of mine was also diagnosed with cancer. Luckily for him we had heard of Penguin Cold Therapy you can see a video that explains a bit more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbgDPh9huMY&feature=player_embedded i hope other women can find help out of this :)

Marie-Ève | 9:17 AM

Thank you so much Rebecca for introducing Miya to us. This is one of the most inspiring posts I've read in a long while.

Best of luck Miya!!!

Glenda | 9:31 AM

Best of luck to Miya. So happy to hear that she is Cancer free! F*** Cancer! it took my Mom in 2004.

Miya Goodrich-Phillips | 9:55 AM

Thank you!! You all are so sweet!! I'm so honored that Becca chose to share my story!! It really keeps my spirits up to read such wonderful comments! Much love to you all and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Blessed With a Boy | 10:13 AM

What an insperation she is. I will for sure go check out her blog. Thank you for shining her light her. So glad she is well now. I hope and pray they will find a way to have their child.

Have a wonderful day!
Jackie

Kasi | 10:48 AM

Miya, you are such an amazing person! I am so glad to have found you. Being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment has been the worst thing that ever happened to me. But if I hadn't gone through this, I never would have met you and for that I am extremely thankful. You are absolutely gorgeous! <3

Anonymous | 10:57 AM

I am in remission from aml leukiemia...they declared me terminal and gave me two weeks to live. I took an experimental chemo they thought would give me another month...it didnt. It gave me 13 years and counting. I didnt freeze eggs because I was 17 and as a terminal patient it wasnt offered. After 7 years of fertility treatments we gave up and quit... 3 months after the whole I quit no kids...I got pregnant with twins no less...but since I didnt know I could get pregnant I was 16 weeks along before I found out. We lost a twin during that pregnancy but I have a beautiful amazing little boy....after going back to the doctors for a check up and readjustment of my thyroid meds they told me I would never have another baby that the one was as much a miracle as me surviving cancer...I went back 12 weeks later for another blood test to make sure the meds were at the right dosage they accidentally did a full blood panel with showed hcg levels off the charts. I was pregnant again...this time they thought with multiples....needless to say I now have 2 sons. Cancer made me who I am...Cancer shaped my character and made me a better person. I am so thankful for every moment of everyday....I wouldnt have it any other way. Congrats Miya my fellow cancer warrior. cassie214star(at)yahoo.com

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:06 AM

Wow, Cassie. Just... wow. Thank you for sharing your story. Amazing.

And rock on, StrongMomma! (You certainly are.)

Much love and strength to your sister, Emma, and your friend, Jen AND ALL OF YOU. xx

Rachelle | 11:35 AM

Thank you for this blog post.
Miya, you rock!!!!
I am amazed at how oblivious I've been to breast cancer and recently I've begun to open my eyes up as it has hit close to home. I researched a small aspect of some cancers for a little for 2 years (about 10 years ago). I recently found out a fellow researcher of mine had a breast cancer diagnosis last year. You can read her blog at: http://carnations.blogspot.com/

I think it is so important to get the word out... I wish I hadn't been so oblivious to the fact that it can be common in women in their 20's and 30's.

Sending lots of healing and remission thoughts your way Miya!

Christina @ busybmommy | 11:42 AM

Tears in my eyes as I think of the strength of your friend...the strength of my beautiful friend who is battling her own illness. Strength inside of them they never knew they had. Strength I am in awe of.

When we became friends over Urban Decay glitter eyeliner and drinking red wine out of bottles, we never knew there was life beyond those moments, adventures, and magic. Adversity beyond skinned knees and bruised hearts.

Now years after we've stopped running down sidewalks holding hands and chasing boys we're still soul sisters. And we still hold hands. And we still see magic.

Thanks for the beautiful post Rebecca.

flyrish | 1:36 PM

Such a beautiful woman Miya is, inside and out! Thank you much for sharing her story. I'll be sure to check out her blog now. My mom died from a rare form of cancer two years ago, so I love hearing the happier outcomes. Blessings for your future, Miya!

Laura @ Hollywood Housewife | 2:00 PM

This is amazing. Thank you for posting.

Lena | 2:29 PM

Thanks for posting this and sharing the incredible story of your gorgeous friend, Miya. We go through life, through motions, all the time thinking that it is not good enough, we are not successful enough.... and where will we end tomorrow.... I loved Miya's advice to slow down.

A few months ago, I went through a scare where I had a biopsy for cancer - during that scary time, I pledged to slow down, to be calmer and to enjoy more. Thankfully, the results were benign. Fast-forward a few months and my life is again moving at a million miles an hour and work commitments and pressure I put on myself is again out of control. Thanks for yet another reminder as well as an introduction to your friend - I wish her nothing but continued recovery and lots of many happy years. She is a true inspiration.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Rachael | 2:49 PM

Thank you for sharing Miya's story. I have a very good friend who is currently in treatment for stage 4 breast cancer. She is only 29 years old, and I can't really read stories like Miya's without bawling. But, it is helpful to read about how there can be positives to come of all this.

stew | 6:03 PM

awesomely inspiring! Keep kicking ass!!!

bbgHappY1 | 7:41 PM

What a beautiful woman!

God bless you for doing this story. I am inspired to live life to the fullest.

bbgHappY1 | 7:42 PM

What a beautiful woman.
This has inspired me to live life to the fullest.

Lindsay | 9:30 PM

So, I sit here reading this as I await my appointment next week to get a lump checked out. As soon as I realized what this entry was going to be about, I thought it was going to freak me out and scare me even more than I am already. For some reason though, it didn't. In fact if anything it calmed me down a little. That's a powerfully strong friend you have there. So thanks for this. (though I'll still gladly accept any good vibes anyone wants to throw out into the universe for me)

Miya Goodrich-Phillips | 9:58 PM

Lindsay, I'm saying prayers for you and sending good vibes your way!! XOXO

Heather | 9:11 AM

This post brings tears to my eyes. One of my best friends is in remission from cancer and has been for five years. Each day is a blessing, as they told her over and over that she had a sprained knee and basically to suck it up. This just reminds us all to be persistent because in the end we are the only advocates we have.

Amanda | 10:46 AM

This post easily brought me to tears. I'm so glad that Miya is doing well. My husband died March 18th, a little over 8 months ago, of acute lymphoblastic leukemia - he was 36 years old. Diagnosis to death was a mere 8.5 months. We have a son that will turn 4 on January 18th. Being his caregiver thru that horrific journey made me aware of how much support and help patients and their families need. Some simple ways to help are donating blood, registering to be a bone marrow donor (especially if you belong to a minority ethnic group), or contact the American Cancer Society to see what direct volunteer opportunities there are in your area.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:05 AM

I am so sorry to hear that, Amanda. I can't even imagine how difficult it's been for you and your son. Sending you love and light. Your strength is superheroic, thank you for sharing.

Amanda | 11:42 AM

Thank you for your kind words Rebecca, it's hard and it will be for awhile; it helps to talk about it.

lrkeenan | 4:55 PM

thank you for sharing this! it really touched me...thank you.

Miya Goodrich-Phillips | 5:39 PM

I'm sorry to hear about your loss, Amanda. You're in my prayers and I wish you and your son all the best going forward. I'll be thinking of you...XOXO

C | 10:13 AM

I'm a 30 year old cancer survivor. Thank you for posting this. I'm happy Miya pushed her doctor for additional testing. Too often young women are told "you're too young for cancer" and it is simply not true.

To all the women out there, you are never too young for cancer. Please don't ever let a doctor tell you otherwise.

Amanda | 3:10 PM

Thank you Miya, and I will be thinking of you too. Your new hair is beautiful!

tina | 4:43 PM

Thanks for sharing. I'll include you in my prayers...

david | 8:43 PM

so happy to hear you are doing well! this is wonderful news!

Alicia | 8:59 AM

ilove youxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx