One dreary morning in July, 2007 I received some awful news. I was actually having a good start to my day, watching ABC Good Morning America with Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer as I typically do every day. Only this day, I was away on a long-awaited family vacation in upper Michigan with my entire family - yes, it was true BLISS!
I was sipping my morning java with Mom while Dad was having his and reading the paper. Robin shared a very personal story announcing her diagnosis with breast cancer on national TV and my Mom and I looked at one another and both started to cry. It's not that we knew Robin, it's because breast cancer has touched our hearts. We had recently lost Mom's sister, Nina, and that moment in time brought back those memories - unfortunately, the bad ones of her long, ten-year struggle with stage IV malignant breast cancer.
No one knew Nina had breast cancer while she worked diligently as a biophysicist in nuclear engineering at Ford Motor Company until weeks before she passed. She hid it well draped in certain clothing and wigs. Mom was her soulmate and caregiver, as she has been for her entire family, gracious and patient in more than so many ways. You have to be a special person to know what it takes to be at one's side through thick and thin to help one keep going while living with cancer. I know because I too have been there. However, I am one of the lucky ones to survive. My breast cancer was caught at early stages (Stage 0 and 1 with bilateral DCUI) and now this July, I will be a ten-year survivor.
But back in July, 2007, I was the poster gal, you know, the "1 in 8 women in the U.S. diagnosed with breast cancer every day!" That's right, the day Robin announced to the world her diagnosis, I received my call that very same day. I was the "one" in "eight" women diagnosed that very same day in July. It was strange, ironic and bizarre. I would have never envisioned that this would have happened to me, but it did. My cancer turned out not to be hereditary nonetheless, I still got it.
You can learn more about my story from diagnosis through recovery and the pursuit of happiness in a book I wrote called My Pain Woke Me Up: BLISS! after enduring four (4) years of multiple, consecutive surgeries from bilateral lumpectomy, radiation, mastectomy, 4 reconstructive surgeries, MRSA, breast cellulitis and more complications. But I made it through it all. I sent Robin a hand-written personal note with a copy of the first printed edition and look forward to meeting the lovely lady and survivor someday and continue to watch her each morning while I sip my java. She doesn't know this yet but we bonded from that day forward, like most survivors do. I guess it's called perseverance, resilience and fortitude to succeed in life -- that's what I meant by the pursuit of happiness in BLISS!
My motto since breast cancer has been Don't Let Cancer Get the BREAST of You! It continues to be. I have been unstoppable and now I pay-it-forward with the introduction of CRISSCROSS Intimates, my new Luxury Intimate Apparel line launched just last month, the first bra named The Nina Bra, I blog about breast cancer advanced technologies, and stay abreast of survivor stories, among other interests.
I wish all survivors during National Survivor's Day week and every day, all the breast! Jean
About Jean Criss – Criss is a ten year breast cancer survivor of bilateral cancer (DCIS — Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). She is the Founder and Designer of CRISSCROSSIntimates.com – luxury intimate apparel for women and men who undergo post-op surgeries! Criss is the Author of a trilogy series, My Pain Woke Me Up – BLISS!, Legal Injustice and LIVE Your Dreams and will be publishing another book on short reality stories soon. Criss recently received five CME accredited Breast Cancer Management Certifications from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons and also received a Certificate of Honour by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons–Patients of Courage:Triumph over Adversity Award. Criss served on the Board of Trustees:Susan G. Komen North Jersey Affiliate, has produced award-winning PSAs, co-chaired gala events, is a member of their Speaker’s Bureau and continues to fundraise and volunteer with Komen affiliates. She works with research organizations and educational charities to support breast cancer at large.