A baby and a cancer; Brooke Taylor got both of those—on the same day.
It’s been more than a year since she became a first-time mom and a cancer patient. In the time since Brooke has found a way to inspire, build others up, make folks laugh (and sometimes cry), and she has a gift at reminding that sometimes the overlooked moments in life are the most meaningful.
With a cell phone in hand, Brooke Taylor recorded her 1-year-old daughter giggling and playing in a kiddie pool with their chocolate lab.
“Be careful,” Brooke said as Elsie splashed into the water.
Brooke calls moments like that ‘the good stuff.’
“It's sitting on the back deck with a kid who's covered in mud because she's discovered mud puddles. Hanging with your husband grilling burgers, like that's the good stuff,” she said. “You don't have to wait until you're 65 and retired to think, 'OK, I need to enjoy life now.' No. I literally need to enjoy life now because what if I can't.”
Brooke's perspective on life has changed a lot since she had Elsie a little over a year ago—a baby will do that, but so will breast cancer.
“How can your best day be your worst day. It's tears and happiness,” said Brooke.
She was 32 when she was diagnosed with cancer, which was the same day she delivered Elsie.
“I remember holding her and just thinking, 'Will I be here on her first birthday?' Like that's it. I didn't know. I didn't know what kind of cancer I had. I didn't know if it had spread. I didn't know anything. All I could think about was her first birthday,” she said.
Brooke made it to that first birthday, but it was a journey getting there, being a first-time mom while battling triple-negative breast cancer.
“If you google it, don't. It's a very, very aggressive type of cancer,” Brooke said.
She felt something wasn't right early on in her pregnancy, but said her doctor at the time wrote it off.
“My doctor felt something before I was even pregnant with Elsie and I know that because it was in my medical records that he felt something, but he thought it was no big deal because I was too young for it to be breast cancer,” Brooke said. “There's no such thing as too young.”
So, at 38 weeks pregnant Brooke demanded a second look.
“What is really scary is had I not stood up for myself, had I not taken off my shirt in that appointment and said, 'I'm not leaving until you feel this,' I don't know if I'd be sitting here today,” she said.
She’s now been through seven surgeries, including a double mastectomy, reconstruction and having her ovaries removed, along with chemo and radiation. And she's shared almost every moment on her Rural Gone Urban social media accounts and blog.
“No one was talking about the hard stuff and I thought, 'why not?' I'll show a bald picture with no eyelashes and no eyebrows,” Brooke said.
She, along with her husband’s help from time-to-time, gives raw, honest look at life with cancer as a new mom.
“It's the unpretty side of cancer and as a woman there's so many times you put your stock in what you see as your reflection and when you go through chemo, you have to dig deep because it doesn't matter,” Brooke said. “It doesn't matter what you look like because I can tell you that baby, who I was rocking at 2 a.m., she did not care what I looked like, she just cared that I was there and that was the whole point.”
The goal, of course, is to continue to be there for Elsie. Brooke will tell you, she's not out of the woods yet, but her most recent scans showed no evidence of disease.
“When the doctor called, he said, 'Kiddo, pathology was all clear.' That is only time I've seen my husband cry,” Brooke said. “Every day that passes that there are no symptoms, we're closer to being cancer free.”
And also closer to many more tomorrows with Elsie, even though Brooke’s living for today… because that’s where she finds those sweet, simple moments that truly mean the most.
“This is what I prayed for. This is an answered prayer to have hard days,” she said as Elsie tried to wiggle out of Brooke’s arms. “Yeah. This is the good stuff.”
Not long after our interview Brooke went in for a routine dermatologist appointment where she was given a second cancer diagnosis: basal-cell carcinoma.
She'll have the spot cut out and said it should be fine. And now she's not only using her social media to help educate about breast cancer, but also to remind folks to wear sunscreen.