A little more than three years ago Mitchelle Pierre found a lump while breastfeeding her newborn baby girl. She was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer and made a rather bold decision.
The then 34-year-old wife and mother of two, with a high pressure job as a lawyer, agreed to have her breast cancer journey taped for a Star-Ledger documentary.
“My life has been about cancer these last couple of months – trying to learn about my disease, trying to figure out what I can do to prevent a recurrence.” Pierre said – her neck stiff from a port her doctors inserted earlier that day to help administer her chemotherapy. “When I look at my kids now I look at them differently. I mean, I think about me possibly not being there for them.”
Over the next year Pierre faced decision after decision — from whether or not to purchase a wig to deciding between a lumpectomy or undergoing a mastectomy with reconstruction.
Her story was woven together with the stories of three survivors to create a 45-minute documentary called, “The Choice: How Reconstruction Revolutionized the Treatment of Breast Cancer.”
The film focused on how women tackle the difficult decisions they must make in regards to treatment and reconstruction – all while having to cope with the emotions and confusion that accompany a life-threatening diagnosis.
Pierre, who recently reached her first major milestone of three years cancer free, is happily starting a new chapter in her life with a change of jobs.
“For me changing jobs is a big deal,” says Pierre, who was surprised by the emotional impact of the move. The job change has meant more to her after treatment, than reaching the three year mark. “I had been there for seven years. I got married there. I had two kids there. I dealt with cancer there and I lost my dad while I was there. It’s interesting that a change of jobs is what’s making me feel like a new chapter.”
Looking back, Pierre admits her life post treatment hasn’t been easy but with the ups and down she has gained a new perspective on her cancer experience. What she used to see as a race to get back to her old life and the way things were pre-cancer, is now a journey to finding a new normal. And that, she says, will take time.
“I feel like I will never be free of cancer,” Pierre says, “But I’m finding happiness in what I have today and being grateful for that and building off of that and I think that’s what I’m moving toward.”