By Mary Chaisson, diagnosed at age 33  

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Wig shopping with Elina Goblin (left) and Jennifer Finkelstein (right) from 5 Under 40 Foundation

I remember March of 2015. With summer just around the corner, I was planning our family vacation, getting ready to start my diet and looking forward to the warm weather.

On April 1st, all of that changed. I was sitting at my desk when I got the call from my doctor. As soon as I heard those four words, “You have breast cancer” I started to cry. All I could think about were my 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. After the initial shock wore off, I sprang into action. I started making doctors appointments and calling my family and close friends to tell them about my situation. One of my friends suggested that I call her friend Adele Rivas from the 5 Under 40 Foundation. She thought it would help me to talk to a woman who shared my diagnosis. She could not have been more right! Speaking with Adele and the women of 5 Under 40 put me at ease and made me feel like I wouldn’t be alone in this journey.

I continued to work until a week before my surgery. I still don’t know how I did it because those weeks were the hardest. On May 12th, I underwent a 13-hour surgery: I had a double mastectomy, lymph nodes dissection with DIEP flap reconstruction. Thankfully, all went well with my surgery, but I was told I would need eight rounds of chemotherapy — starting right at the beginning of summer. One of my friends from 5 under 40 recommended that I schedule my treatments on Mondays. That way, she said, I would feel more like myself by the end of the week and be able to enjoy the weekend with my family.

Mary and son

The halo helped me make it to my son’s baseball games during the height of the summer.

I had my first chemo treatment on June 22nd. I remember it being an especially hot and humid day. I sat for a few hours while a nurse gave me a red infusion through my vein. When I got home that evening, I was thankful that my mom had come to stay with us. I was also thankful that we had central air conditioning! Even so, I changed my pajamas three times that night since I had sweat right through them. I stayed home the following days to rest and, by the weekend, I was fine — just as my friend from 5 Under 40 had said.

I knew it was only a matter of time before my hair started falling out. To make sure I was prepared, Jen and Elina from 5 under 40 took me to Bitz-n-Pieces and bought me a beautiful human hair wig. I also got a halo, which is a hairpiece that’s open at the top and worn beneath a hat. I remember walking into my appointment feeling scared and sad, but Jen, Elina and the wig stylist, Edward, immediately put me at ease. By the time I left, I was smiling, laughing and actually having fun! Before my second chemo treatment, I decided  to take control of the situation and shave my head — much to the dismay of my son who didn’t want me to do it. I explained to him that I needed to shave it, but that I would wear a wig. (My daughter was fine with the situation and even offered to cut my hair for me!) My husband took me to shave my head, and I put the wig on right away. The wig looked so much like my real hair that my son hardly noticed the difference.

mary and family

Feeling blessed with my family during the summer of 2016 — one year since treatment.


My husband, Jeff, was by my side every step of the way.

Before starting chemo I was very upset, thinking I’d miss my kids’ baseball and softball games. God and my faith helped me stay strong and on my feet. I also made sure to keep myself hydrated and to follow my doctor’s advice. On one of the hottest days of the summer, my son had a baseball playoff game. It was hot and I felt dizzy but, as his biggest fan, I couldn’t miss it. I wore the halo under a baseball cap and made it through the game while barely breaking a sweat!

On my son’s 11th birthday, my family and I decided to go to the water park. As the day went on, the temperature continued to climb. It finally got so hot that I took my hat and halo off and walked around completely bald — in my bathing suit! At first my son was freaked out, but when he saw me walk around confidently, he quickly got over it.

The summer of 2015 definitely wasn’t an easy one, but I managed to get through it. I was fortunate to have a great support system in my husband, my mom and my friends. I will always be grateful to 5 Under 40 for helping me navigate this journey. I feel blessed to have met such an amazing and inspirational group of women. Women who will be my friends forever.