I’m Stephanie Seban and this is my story. Like any other young woman in her early thirties, I was finally discovering my purpose, learning from the mistakes I had made in my twenties, and looking forward to a bright future as I was excelling in my career as an English teacher in Los Angeles where I was born and raised. Everything in my life finally seemed to be falling into place, until life presented me with a set of circumstances that would forever change my path.
In the early months of 2011, I felt a lump growing in my breast. I didn’t think twice about it and figured it was nothing to be concerned about. A couple of months later, I realized the lump had gotten larger so I decided to go get everything checked out. I went from mammogram, to ultra-sound to biopsy, and within a few days, in June of 2011, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 31. Having no family history, this shocking news was unanticipated and totally devastating. I had to quit my job on the spot in order to start immediate treatment. I was suddenly thrust into this "world of cancer" and found myself completely consumed by fear. My life would never be the same.
I went through multiple surgeries and testing only to discover that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and bones, making it an instant stage 4 diagnosis. Why me? How did this happen? Was I going to die? I had so many unanswered questions, and all of the unknown had me absolutely terrified. With all of this trauma and information, I didn't know what to do or where to turn to. So many "life and death" decisions had to be made..and quick. Several people kept telling me that I should pick up and move back East because "the best cancer center in the world" was out there. So I did….
I remember preparing myself prior to my initial consultation with my new oncologist in NY. I knew how “poor” my situation looked on paper (on my medical records), but I made a promise to myself that no matter what I was about to hear, I wouldn’t panic because my will to beat this disease was greater than any number or statistic they were going to throw at me. I was given a 15% chance of going into remission and although most people might have been totally discouraged by this, as the odds were not in my favor, in my mind, I had a chance and I was going to be in that 15% at all costs. I underwent years of differing treatments; chemotherapy, hormonal therapies, bone infusions, and other specialized therapies….You name it, I’ve done it. I was monitored closely every few weeks through blood tests and pet scans. I was never considered to be "cancer-free," but things seemed to be smooth-sailing until about a year ago, when the cancer returned, and pretty aggressively.
My tumor markers slowly started to rise, indicating that there was perhaps new activity and within a couple of months, I could feel that in my same right breast, a new mass was starting to form. My treatment had to change and my oncologist put me on numerous drugs specific to they type of breast cancer I had, which were newly FDA approved chemotherapies that were supposed to be the "latest and greatest." However, my numbers continued to rise and during one appointment last summer, I remember my oncologist telling me, "My drugs aren't working." What did this mean?
In my gut I felt like something was way off, and I had felt this way for over a year, I just didn't know what it was. When you experience something so life-changing, you tend to be more in tune with your Higher Self. It was time to get in the driver's seat and start listening to my intuition.. which led me to a doctor in Brooklyn, in order to get a second opinion. I only told a couple of people that I was seeking another opinion because I knew most people would think I was crazy going against the advice of “the top cancer center in the world.” But I chose to trust and be guided my instincts, and thank God I did.
The first thing this new doctor asked me was, "Why hasn't this new mass been biopsied?" I didn't even know how to answer his question… I'm not an oncologist. I just trusted that my oncologist knew what she was doing. He explained to me that the fact that I wasn't responding to all of the new treatment I had been on, was a clear indication that I possibly had a different type of breast cancer. To make a long story short, I ended up putting my trust and faith into this man. I was put through extensive testing which revealed more shocking news... I was misdiagnosed over four years ago, as having the wrong type of breast cancer, and was therefore on all the wrong treatments! I was also told that at this point in time I am "incurable’” and that I will have to be on treatment for the rest of my life.
This info was a tremendous blow and a lot to wrap my head around to say the least, and as a result, I have since moved back home to Los Angeles. This news was and still is disheartening, but I absolutely refuse to accept any of it as my truth, and it only empowers me more to do anything and everything possible to defy my given prognosis and prove the people who have labeled me as “incurable” wrong. Although exceptionally challenging, I believe that I can and will beat this disease, no matter what anyone says. My faith is greater than my fears and I believe through perseverance and faith ALL things are possible.
I also believe that adversities are opportunities for personal growth. Over the years, I have experienced so much, which has forced me to grow in ways that I otherwise might not have. I am a constant work in progress but have come a long way through a ton of self-work and faith. I believe it is my God-given duty to share my journey in hopes of inspiring other young women who follow in my footsteps. I created a website, www.stephanieseban.com, as a platform to share my story, create awareness and to build a community of support. We all have our individual crosses to bear. The good news is, we get to choose how to live no matter what we are up against. As soon as I open my eyes every morning I give thanks for another day to live, another opportunity to be great. Thank you to my amazing friends at Prove People Wrong for allowing me to be vulnerable, and for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
To learn more about my story and to follow my journey, I invite you to check out my site.