Cancer Freaking Sucks — Taylor Carr Battles Breast Cancer at 21

Cancer. It’s a daunting word that’s a distant fear for most people our age. 

Taylor Carr, a 21-year-old from Atlanta, GA, is much too familiar and much too young. 

While shopping with her mom last December, Carr got a call that would change her life.

“My initial thought was that my life was over. I didn’t know if I would survive, I kept asking myself, ‘Why me?’” she said.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 20 would shake anyone this way. You’re supposed to worry about what you’re going to wear on New Year’s Eve, whether or not you’ll find an internship this summer or how long you can put off studying for an exam.

You’re not supposed to wonder whether you’ll live or die. 

This is why she initially shrugged off a noticeable lump in her left breast. ‘It will probably go away – maybe it’s a hormone thing,’ she thought. The “hormone thing” became painful, though, and she couldn’t shrug it off any longer. 

The pain eventually brought her to the gynecologist, and she was put on antibiotics. Surprisingly, even to a medical professional, it seemed like nothing. 

Unfortunately, antibiotics proved to be no match for her tumor – it grew significantly within two weeks. After an ultrasound and a mammogram, it was clear: This “hormone thing” was definitely something. 

It turned out to be Stage 3a HER2+ breast cancer.

Courtesy of Taylor Carr

It’s tricky when life hands you one of those stomach-dropping realizations. How does one process a cancer diagnosis at 20 years old? People handle trauma differently. It’s okay to curl up in a ball and scream, to shut people out and explode. The world will forgive you for falling apart, because it’s all about the bounce-back.

Carr was all about that. 

Her initial “why me?” quickly turned to “how will my loved ones go on?” 

They responded: “Right behind you the whole way.” And she could breathe again. 

Each day since that day becomes easier than the last. Her iPhone became accustomed to her newfound routine, suggesting the fastest route to her doctor each day. This is her life right now, and it’s scary. But it’s going to be okay.

No amount of optimism and support can hide the fact that cancer freaking sucks. 

The week following her first chemotherapy treatment was one of the worst. She arrived at the hospital at 8:00 a.m. with tired eyes and shaky nerves. Below her right collarbone lay a plastic port where she was fixed with needles and pumped with fluids for the next seven hours. Two types of chemo and two HER2+ medicines filled her veins. One down, six to go. 

It doesn’t start to drain you until the car ride home. You can feel the chemo working. You can feel it killing the cancer inside you. And your body starts to sink, until you’re too weak to pick up a glass of water. Mentally, physically, you’re drained to a level only few can understand.

Shaving her head was a tough decision.  

In the movies, the main character pulls out a chunk of her own hair and succumbs to the electric razor. It’s always a pivotal moment in the story. 

A woman’s hair doesn’t define her or decide her beauty, but it sure as hell can feel that way. Carr felt a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes as Jayden Chin, her boyfriend, slowly buzzed away on her head. 

“It was funny at first. But as soon as I looked at myself with no hair, that’s when I just lost it,” she said in her YouTube video about her journey. 

This was her pivotal moment, in her story.

She posted a video that went viral on Twitter overnight. Three hundred thousand people saw her break down as her boyfriend kissed her forehead and said, “You are so pretty.” 

They watched her dirty blond hair fall off her back onto the floor. They watched her heart sink as she saw herself in the mirror for the first time. Three hundred thousand strangers watched the most vulnerable experience of her life. Suddenly, they were along for the ride. 

Courtesy of Taylor Carr

The Tweet has been viewed almost 17 million times now. Her direct message inbox is flooded with words of affirmation and hope from people she has never met. People with similar stories remind her she’s not alone, and that things will get better. Carr has nearly 40,000 followers on both Twitter and Instagram, and her digital support system is only growing from here.

She is in awe of how the world came together to support her. 

Her utterly raw vulnerability gives people new hope and inspiration. They are in awe of her, as well.

Her Twitter threads and Instagram comments flood with stories like her own. She receives messages from young people who thought they were alone in this experience, grateful for her openness and transparency. 

She said she posted the video primarily to show that although she’s going through something unimaginable, things will be okay. She wanted to show young women battling cancer that they aren’t alone.

“I’m glad I was able to inspire people,” she said, “It makes my heart feel so good.”

Carr says she doesn’t know why God chose her to fill this role. She believes things happen for a reason – a difficult thing to tell yourself when your body is failing at such a young age. 

I can’t tell you why terrible things happen to good people. Perhaps, it is because her spirit is unmatched. Perhaps, it is because her optimism doesn’t waver. I don’t know the reasons why our lives play out the way they do.

Taylor Carr has affected the world. She touched the hearts of 17 million strangers, and that number can only grow from here.

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