Award-winning broadcast journalist, Judy Muller, and celebrated author and director of the Critical Media Project, Alison Trope, have turned their shared breast cancer diagnoses into a teaching moment, the world over, by launching a blog about their journeys.
"[This is] the kind of coincidence that might make you think God has a very sick sense of humor," Muller wrote. "I prefer to think of it the way a dear friend once described a major setback: 'It's an AFGO! Another F***ing Growth Opportunity!'"
Muller and Trope co-teach a class on news and new media at USC's Annenberg School. When Muller was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in November, Trope was quick to offer to pick up any slack in the course.
Three months later, in February, Trope went in for a routine mammogram that revealed "something suspicious."
While Muller started chemotherapy, Trope's test results eventually revealed Stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes and liver.
The two hardly missed a beat before making the decision to take what little control of the situation they could by starting a blog centered around their journeys, sometimes shared and sometimes very different.
"This is our reality," Muller says. "And we are trying to have the illusion of control over it by writing about it."
Muller often takes a comedic approach to her recovery, finding humor wherever she can. Trope, on the other hand, has taken a stand against putting on a happy face, merely for the comfort of others. Trope says she thinks her support system appreciates her "keeping it real." She isn't anti-positivity, but reserves the right to feel horrible sometimes.
"I wore a T-shirt on the first day of chemo that says, 'Don't tell me to smile,'" Trope says. "I just felt like I need to wear something on my body that sort of says how I feel."
Muller's daughter went through breast cancer and recovery at age 30, making it a bit easier to break the news to her family because it was a familiar topic.
In Trope's case, she has small children so what she chooses to share with her family is slightly less candid than what she posts on her shared blog. She says her son, the oldest child, found the blog and reacted positively to her working through this with writing.
"I don't want him to necessarily read it," Trope says. "I'm communicating a lot of these things with him, but not every detail, and not every detail of how I feel."
Muller completed 21 days of radiation on Monday, ringing the celebratory gong at her breast cancer clinic and sharing a video of the experience with her friends on social media, but not on the blog. Trope has just completed her first treatment of six total, each of which lasts seven hours at a time. Trope's next scheduled treatment will be a few weeks from now.
Readers can follow along with Muller and Trope's treatments, trials and testimonies on their joint blog, "@HER2," on medium.