Survivor Spotlight: Cara Sapida

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when most of the state was completely closed down. Not even churches were open. I had found a lump and just knew instantly that it would be cancer and I’d have a long road ahead of me. My initial pathology said I was stage 0, but that turned out to be incorrect. Eventually I’d learn I had stage II triple-negative breast cancer and the BRCA1 gene and would need chemo and a double mastectomy. I found all of this information out as I was also newly separated from my husband with two toddlers at home. It was slightly overwhelming!

Finding strength
I’d just joined a boxing gym a couple weeks before finding my lump, and I’d read in one of the many books sent to my house that in order to undergo chemo you needed to be “fighting ready.” I had no clue what that meant, but I was pretty desperate to feel some control while my world was in a downward spiral, so I started boxing every morning. I discovered that taking your anger out on a punching bag was very helpful. One day someone casually said a common phrase in the breast cancer community, “fight like a girl,” and it wasn’t resonating at all. All I could think about was my children, and my fears. I ended up at the boxing gym and while punching I thought to myself, “I’m going to fight like a MOTHER.” Tears were streaming down my face, punches were landing on the bag and this single phrase gave me unexpected strength.

“Not the Breast Year of My Life” (Cara’s book!)
I shared my story on Instagram week by week, in hopes of reaching other women going through this lonely experience during the pandemic, and writing has always been therapeutic for me. After I finished active treatment I discovered there was still a lot of healing for me, and I realized there’s a preconceived notion that we will get our hair back and just bounce back. And that was far from reality. I was still in a very dark place, and felt like a deer on ice just trying to get on my feet. So, I started writing again and this time wrote in chapters, thinking it would help me through the healing process. I’m not sure I ever really expected to publish it! The support and reach the book has seen is something I never expected in my wildest dreams. It reaffirms the fact that there are so damn many of us out there – fighters, thrivers and survivors – across this country and the world, and our experience, our fight, fears and incredible resilience is similar.

Sharing On-air at WPXI-TV
It’s been difficult for me to share my story so publicly, even while knowing this is how I’ve reached so many people. I often say breast cancer is not pink ribbons, it is an ugly disease. I’ve done two stories with my station, one after chemo ended when I was bald and at my weakest. I hoped to share the reality of what this awful disease does to our bodies. A few months later, after I was back on-air, I decided to take off my wig and report with just an inch of hair on my head. I fought like hell and showing off my scars and being authentic for women watching is important to me.

Warrior wisdom
You are stronger than you know. You will have good days and bad days; fight to get through the difficult days knowing you’ll be able to build back your strength again. It can feel incredibly lonely, but there is a network of the most incredible women who have crawled through it. If you can find the courage to reach out, do it – because you are not alone.