April Stearns | WILDFIRE Magazine

Patient Leader

The same week I celebrated my 35th birthday, I found out I was sicker than I'd ever been in my life. A lump in my breast led to a Stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis. I had a 3-year-old daughter; how could I have breast cancer?! I was the only person I knew among my friends, coworkers, cousins and siblings to have cancer. I spent 13 months in treatment. It was an incredibly scary and isolating time for me and my family. I felt like no one in my life knew what I was going through, and because of that I had no examples to follow into survivorship. Three years after my diagnosis I met my first young breast cancer survivor at a writing group. It was a chance meeting and we latched on to one another. It was the most incredible feeling to know I wasn't alone! That someone else could relate to not only the cancer treatments but also the lingering side effects of infertility, anxiety, body image issues, relationship woes, etc. From there I began to seek out and find other young survivors and fighters of breast cancer on social media but I found that I still hungered to hear more of their story than social media could afford. I really felt that if I could hear their stories in-depth (as well as see their photos) I'd better understand my own experience. At the same time, I was realizing the power of writing my own story as a tool for healing and processing. Four years after my diagnosis, I launched WILDFIRE Magazine as a way to create community through personal storytelling as it pertains to young women diagnosed with breast cancer. I had no magazine publishing experience but as a writer and editor, I felt called to create a roadmap of sorts, a beautiful resource for others that also served as a break from the noise of the Internet and the medical pamphlets on breast cancer. I felt a strong need to help others heal through the reading and writing of stories. For this reason, WILDFIRE is a gorgeous ad-free print and digital magazine. Within each issue, it tells the stories of 30+ women diagnosed under 45 years old from all over the world. To date, I've published the stories of more than 300 breast cancer survivors and fighters! Each issue is on a theme related to survivorship (such as "mental health," "parenting with cancer," "genetics," "body") and each issue contains all 5 stages of breast cancer, from Stage 0 to Stage IV. In a time when social media continues to restrict the showing of post-mastectomy images, WILDFIRE is more critical than ever -- I proudly print uncensored pictures and stories so that others facing breast surgery may have an idea of what to expect. WILDFIRE is a true labor of love. It is my full time, all the time job. I publish a new issue every other month and in between issues I help young survivors find their voices through writing workshops. I never asked to have breast cancer but without it, I wouldn't have discovered this work that I love -- and without the magazine, I wouldn't have discovered an amazing community of other young survivors and fighters.

Location

Santa Cruz, CA

Nominations

Patient Leader Hero Best Kept Secret

April is a courageous breath of fresh air with her willingness to give cancer survivors, their loved ones and those living with the diagnosis of the breast cancer gene (BRCA1 + 2) a sane place to share their stories, a place to feel centered and a place to feel fearless. I have seen no other website or publication like hers. So inspiring!  — Carolyn

I first came upon Wildfire Magazine on Instagram, and thought, a magazine for YOUNG survivors like me? I NEED THAT. Ever since, I’ve been devouring the content. It is so comforting reading the stories of other young survivors, and April got us all together. Because of Wildfire, I knew I was NOT ALONE.  — Diana

I am nominating April for her continued work in the cancer community. April provides young cancer patients and survivors with diverse content through Wildfire Magazine.  — Noemi

April Stearns | WILDFIRE Magazine

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