Eden Grimaldi is the leader of our kick ass communications team at MediaCraft. When she had the idea for us to spend October supporting Breast Cancer Awareness, we thought she was really kind and smart. Then we realized that she didn’t just care about the issue, she LIVED the issue.
When you meet Eden, you would have no idea that she is a breast cancer survivor. That’s the thing about survivors, they don’t wear their struggles on a t-shirt. They hang out and act like the rest of us. But they’ve been through way more than many of us. It’s so awe-inspiring and humbling. Adina made Eden get on the phone and talk about the experience, because it sounds so terrifying and mysterious.
Thanks, Eden, for opening up to the S.W. audience. You’re right when you say you are helping women feel less alone.
ADINA: I can’t believe I had no idea! What is it like to talk about, or knowing that people know or don’t know?
EDEN: I was super private about it when I first found out, I wasn’t too keen on revealing what I was going through. Then I discovered that a stigma about it existed– about disease in general (had no idea), so decided that if I didn’t start sharing and talking about it openly then I would be perpetuating the secrecy. I support everyone’s personal choice to disclose or not to, but I thought if I could make just one woman not feel alone, that a lot of us are dealing with this, then it would be worth it.
A: Were you terrified when you got diagnosed?
E: It was the autumn of 2010. I was in the middle of a hellacious divorce and already trying to keep everything together…I just thought, “Ok, you know you’re a fighter, but this is going to be your greatest fight yet.” I just put my head down and went through it. I wasn’t angry, I didn’t grieve, I just did what had to be done. When I broke down on a street corner in the Meatpacking district a full year later, unprovoked, just out of the blue, I knew I had only delayed my healing (emotional). That came at the end, it was the final step.
A: Were you lonely? Did you have people to talk to about it?
E: I had a ton of great information and resources and advice, I didn’t feel alone in that sense. I had many friends who had traveled down the same path before I did. I had great doctors. On the other side, I had my ex threatening to take my son from me because I was “ill” (even though I was working and doing my muay thai and running a company and household everyday with the exception of days I was recovering from surgery). That kind of worry and stress was devastating…but I didn’t buckle. It only increased my resolve.
A: What was it like with your son? Did you tell him? How did you do it?
E: I was on the fence because I didn’t want him to be afraid and worry. But he saw my mother die and he saw my father die. I couldn’t really hide it because I’m a single mother. He had to see the bandages and the recovery. He didn’t know what the word cancer meant. I told him, “I’m gonna be okay honey, I just need some operations.” I stayed with a friend for some of the recovery so he wouldn’t see all of it. But he saw me on morphine. He saw a lot. He never saw all of the pain. I left the room if I had to cry from the pain. His psychologist later told me I did a great job managing the experience with him, that we was emotionally intact from it which was a big relief to me (yes, I hired a psychologist when I was going through my divorce because I had heard from so many friends how messed up their lives became during their childhoods when their parents got divorced – it was a preventative measure).
A: How do you feel about the whole thing today?
E: I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation, thankfully. But I had seven operations total. My first was November 2010, and the last was August 2013. Two and a half years of surgery. I had never even been hospitalized up until that point. It became my new normal.
No one tells you that you’re going to die, but you think that, you have to face your mortality. I grew up in the generation where you whispered the word cancer, avoided it. Oncology scared the living shit out of most people. The first month, when I was going for so many tests and interviewing so many doctors was the worst. You don’t have the full picture about your treatment or your prognosis, I didn’t really know what the fuck was going on. But after that, I was so fortunate that every doctor I saw said: “It’s not life-threatening it’s breast-threatening.” Not everyone gets to hear that. I couldn’t sleep, I thought about it all the time. I wrote my will. Got my life in order. I was so healthy. I used natural products my whole life, I ate organic. So I thought: What the hell am I doing wrong? I started doing research about the water we drink (I got a Tensuai water filtration system). I went vegan. I had always used clean beauty products, so that wasn’t an issue. But I changed my whole life. I never thought “Why me?” I never felt like a victim. But I know a lot of people do. I knew there was a reason I was going through it.
You live with cancer until the day you die. Even though my oncologist says it’s not coming back, I’m like, “How do you know?? You’re just saying that!” I go every six months for blood work. Basically if it comes back, you’re effed. The chances of recurrence for me are very low, but there are no guarantees. Some people don’t give a shit, but I do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t come back. After you hit your five year mark the chances drop, but I’m not there yet.