Patient Stories

First Love Yourself: Picking Up the Pieces

When 24-year-old Mia Brister was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, it was as if her whole world had shattered. She had to learn to be kind with herself to put her life together again.
February 2020 Vol 6 No 1
Mia Brister
Palm Beach, Florida

It all shattered into a million diminutive pieces, at least that’s what my world felt like after I heard the emergency room doctor telling me I was ­being admitted to the hospital, because my CT scan showed possible tumors. I was devastated and heartbroken. There was no way I had cancer, I thought.

I was working at my brand-new job, just celebrated my 1-year anniversary with my boyfriend, working out every day, and taking care of myself; I was living life like any normal 24-year-old person would. But I knew that the night sweats, constant itching, fevers, and fatigue weren’t normal, and there was something seriously wrong.

It All Happened So Fast

On July 27, 2018, I was diagnosed with stage IIIB Hodgkin lymphoma. There were tumors in my neck and chest, and the cancer spread to my liver. I was terrified, and all I could think about was what happens next, and if this was it for me. Treatment had started almost immediately; I had no time to stop and think, everything just started happening so fast.

The week of my diagnosis, I had to withdraw from school, and my boyfriend and I were just moving into our new apartment together. Life was hectic and very much unbalanced at this point, to say the least.

As time was swiftly moving by, with doctor’s appointments and fertility treatments, I was also trying to pick up all the pieces of my life to mend them back together. Life felt like it was ripped away from me overnight, and I couldn’t come to grips with it. Depression and anxiety became my new friends, and I struggled to cope with life in general.

A New Identity

As treatment progressed, my hair began to fall out. I cried for days trying to figure out how I would look without my hair, how people would see me without it, and I wondered, would my melon head really look good bald? It crushed me the day I decided to cut and shave it all off.

People would reassure me that it’s just hair, and that it would grow back, but part of my identity was gone. My femininity and sexuality aren’t the same without my long blonde hair. I still struggle to get ready for the day and to look in the mirror, not because I am unhappy with the way that I look, but because I don’t recognize this girl anymore. She’s different and so much more beautiful now; she’s glowing.

I Am Worthy

With this cancer diagnosis, I had to find my purpose, and knew I would become stronger from this. After all, this was happening to me for a reason, right? I received so much love from friends and family, it was intoxicating. The only thing that was missing was the love from my best friend, my boyfriend.

He treated my diagnosis as if it were nothing, like I was nothing, which resulted in me feeling even more down about my situation.

How could this person, who says he loves me, turn his back on me during a time in my life when I needed him the most? I thank him and anyone that has left me during this journey, because it has shown me what love really is. I remind myself that cancer does not make me any less worthy of love, and neither does losing my hair.

I am still worthy, and having been diagnosed with cancer has made me see the world differently, much softer and more delicate.


Continuing to pick up the shattered pieces, there is more intention and actual meaning in doing so. Cancer has taught me to let go of all things that no longer serve me in a positive and supportive way. Instead of chasing a person who abandoned me, I began the journey of falling in love with myself. I live life and do things because they make me happy, and I couldn’t be happier.

I reassure myself that this is just part of my story that I get to share with others, so that I can help others. That is truly my purpose in life, to help others and show them to love themselves, because after all, we are our biggest commitments. Taking care of my body and slowing down have been some of my biggest priorities.

Life will never be the same for me, and I am okay with that. Cancer will not knock me down, and I will show up stronger and better than before all of this. In the end, it’s important to give yourself the love that you so desperately want to give to others. Loving yourself is the best thing you could ever do, just remember to be gentle, you are doing the best you can.

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Last modified: March 3, 2020

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