Friendships forged through disease with Andrea Sieminski

100 Inspiring Voices | Episode 19 | Andrea Sieminski | Friendships forged through disease


At age 37, Andrea Sieminski was completely burnt out from work and years of infertility treatment. In a weird sense, she was relieved when she found out that she had breast cancer.

During this conversation, I talk to Andrea about her year of cancer and how the Bay Area Young Survivors (BAYS) group changed her life.

We also talk about the bizarre thoughts that people have under stress, cancer booty calls, and what it takes to build a tight-knit community.


4:00 – “[When I was diagnosed with cancer] the world just stopped a little bit, slowed down. In a way, it was a relief. I feel like I was granted permission to just take care of myself, and this diagnosis allowed me to shut everything else down and turn inward, and have to take care of myself. It was a little bit of a reset in some ways… life sort of became very clear to me.”

9:00 – “I knew that I would be going with the most aggressive route of a bilateral mastectomy because I was 37 years and I didn’t want to be always looking over my shoulder wondering what’s going to happen if I keep any breast tissue.”

11:15 – “It’s almost like adrenaline mixed in with a little bit of heroism.”

12:45 – “At some point we all know it’s too much, we’re doing too much, there’s gotta be some balance. So in the diagnosis came that permission that I gave myself. I don’t know why I didn’t feel strong enough to do it without being diagnosed with cancer but there was just that wave of relief.”

13:50 – “I’m 8 years out from diagnosis and the old me is back a little bit. It creeps back in, so it’s kind of nice to be able to dip my toe into the cancer world, as needed, to re-gauge and give myself perspective again, especially as I get further out.”

17:30 – “Even though chemo sucks, you feel like you’re doing something to make yourself better.”

17:30 – “You’re expected to just go back into the real world, and it was a very stark: ‘Okay you’re done, you’re better, you’re fine.’ For me, that was jarring, so I leaned on my support group.”

19:00 – “I have never experienced before in my life being 100% fully accepted and supported, and there’s no strings attached… in this group, it’s just not complicated. It’s amazing, and it saved my life.”

19:15 – “These women are like my family.”

22:20 – “In those early days, it was really nice to hear from somebody and to know that there is life – as messy as it may be – after treatment.”

22:30 – “That feeling in my body, I knew I had to recreate for other people as they were diagnosed.”

23:15 – “This is a borderline weird thing to say, I wouldn’t change being diagnosed with cancer. I would not change that experience because it cracked open something in me that I like it, I like this new path.”

24:15 – “Having met many women with metastatic disease who no longer roam the earth, and just being able to be in their lives and learn from them and have their friendship, I would have missed out on that.”

27:00 – “There’s this pre-cancer post-cancer dichotomy that you enter as a person. And to have have the community there as I evolved and continued to evolved many years out is really nice.”

28:30 – “It this group of crazy women who don’t give a shit. We can ask questions of each other, there’s no topic that’s off limits. It’s just really nice. I wish that every sort of cancer had this kind of group.”

32:00 – “It didn’t matter. It was like this is it, this is real, this is stripped down. You’re going to have to deal with this stuff, so here it is.”

36:00 – “It really does come down to the handful of in-person events that BAYS does.”

37:00 – “When we have somebody that’s potentially getting to the end of their life, we all come together and celebrate that person.”

39:00 – “Honestly, haven’t we all struggled during Covid?”

39:20 – “Your friendship is forged through disease. Your friendship has come through this crazy time. And I often find in life and whenever I’ve hit roadblocks, my BAYS people are the people that I can be 100% honest with… I feel no shame or fear in being completely honest with these people. And that’s super crazy liberating to have that. I don’t think everybody has that or feels comfortable doing that for themselves.”

42:45 – “Early on after diagnosis it will become clear to you who in your existing friendship network and family is there for you and who is not.”

43:00 – “I had people pull away… people see themselves in you and they don’t want that. They’re scared. If that could happen to you, it could happen to me.”

48:30 – “To ask someone ‘Can I do something for you?’ is not helpful.”

49:15 – “Every human being has something going on that’s big that they want to talk about.”


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