Kelsie Barnhart

Age: Adult
Association: Patient
Region: Illinois
Cancer: Breast

"But in reality, my story started on the day I was conceived - not the day I was diagnosed with cancer."

Like most people diagnosed with cancer, it can feel like my story starts on the day I was diagnosed – December 18, 2018. Or it can feel like I should be known by the type of cancer the biopsy results indicated – invasive ductal carcinoma with lymph node involvement. When I look in the mirror, I am tempted to only see the length of my scar – 6.5 inches due to a modified radical single mastectomy. Any stranger who wandered into my home would see multiple bouquets of flowers from co-workers, a kitchen full of fresh fruits and vegetables ready to combat cancer growth, and the papers tracking the output from my two surgical drains.

But in reality, my story started on the day I was conceived – not the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I am actually known by my character attributes – opinionated, adventurous, and pensive. When I look in the mirror, I should see a 27-year-old who chose to get out of bed and embark on the day even though the future holds more unknowns than I would ever find comfortable. And a stranger who wanders into my home will also see my snail shell collection, a bookshelf full of old journals, and a display of encouraging words from friends long before I had cancer.

As I start chemo and my outer shell reflects the reality of my insides, even more, I will continue to remind myself and others that cancer, or any other health issue, is neither the beginning or the end of our stories. May our identities always be found in something more than a diagnosis. May we continue to fight the disease. But, may we also fight to bring the person behind the disease back to the foreground.