Meet the Models: Meghan Sullivan

Meghan visited the Runway office in Newburyport on April 20th. Here’s what she had to say about her experience with breast cancer.

I was diagnosed the day before my 36th birthday. My life at that point was coming together. I was newly single, and I remember so vividly a few weeks before my diagnosis having an ‘aha’ moment: I’m ready to date again, and I’m excited for the next chapter of my life. 

I was showering prior to a family wedding when I found the lump. I knew right away it was something. I didn’t jump to cancer right away, but I just knew it shouldn’t be there. So I was at that family wedding, nobody knew, and I’m really thankful that I enjoyed that day and that moment because it was a whirlwind after that. 

I went in and did it all: mammogram, MRI, biopsy. I have no family history of breast cancer. I come from a long line of healthy women. My grandmother is 93 and you would think she was 80; she’s just unbelievable. The diagnosis came out of left field. I personally have always been very healthy. I laugh now because I had never been a runner, but after my break-up I had joined the Kale bandwagon and started running – so I was like, “are you freaking kidding me?”. 

I was HER2-positive. I did chemo, radiation, surgery, double mastectomy. For me, I didn’t even have to think about it. Take them off, give me new ones. I did the surgery and reconstruction on the same day. I’m both happy and unhappy I did it at the same time. It wasn’t so much the surgery piece of it, but it’s more the after part of it that has been difficult.

You look in the mirror and people joke, “Oh you have fake boobs, they’ll always be nice and perky.” Yeah this might be true, but when I lie down and I’m in a bathing suit they go concave on me. So I have some issues with the fact that I wish I had a little bit more information about the after stuff – how it all settles in and the self-consciousness that follows. I don’t think anyone else notices it, but I do. 

I loved my doctors. I am very fortunate to have had an uncle who worked in the cancer department at Mass General Hospital (MGH) who was able to get me into treatment there. Seriously, MGH feels like a second home to me. I love going to my appointments. There is an MGH satellite office near me but it’s comforting to go into Boston. Even if it’s a five minute appointment, I still go into Boston. I felt like everyone I worked with was invested in me. For me, it was very important to have the feeling of being heard. Being treated like an actual person, not just another statistic, made a huge difference in my experience.

My support system was first and foremost my mom, my parents and my girls. Telling my mom was very difficult, but she was amazing. The things my mom has struggled with and fought through are remarkable. She’s always been someone I can go to in order to talk through things. She’s got my positivity. 

I’m comfortable with the word survivor. I finished radiation the end of April 2015. The biggest impact this experience has had on my life is I went into this positivity mode that I didn’t even realize I had. I believed in myself and my team. 

Staying positive and maintaining a happy mental space is really hard to do in a situation like this. Everyone was so focused on the possibility of it coming back or getting worse. I would always say, “But what if I don’t die and it doesn’t spread. What if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.” Trying to stay positive is what got me through the hardest days. I can’t change the fact that I have cancer, so acknowledging and accepting it in order to move onto the next thing is important. During treatment I focused on seeing myself on the other side of it. 

I want to be a person who can encourage others to get to the one-year, five-year, ten-year point. It doesn’t always have to be horrible and death-ridden. I don’t think people focus enough on the upside and being on the other side of it. There is light at the end of the tunnel.