Off 20th Street
In Dogpatch
Monday afternoon


Three big things happened to me when I moved to San Francisco: I found myself; I met the love of my life; and I got breast cancer.

I find that my life is constantly changing since I moved to San Francisco. The story I’m writing today is completely different than the story I would have written six months ago, which is completely different than the story I would have written a year ago, which is completely different than the story I would have written two years ago when I first moved here.

Two years ago, I packed up my little wiener dog Homer and moved to San Francisco. I grew up exactly 35.2 miles away from San Francisco, and even though Concord is just on the other side of the Bay Bridge it can feel like the other side of the country.

Eventually, I adjusted.

I learned to handle the crazies. I got used to the noise. I took yoga classes. I learned to cook. I got social. I made new friends and got closer to the ones I already had. I learned to wear layers because one minute it’s warm and the next minute it’s damn cold in this town. I started walking everywhere. If I couldn’t walk there, I rode Muni (trust me, no one takes public transportation in the East Bay), and when I got to my destination, I would proudly proclaim to my friends, “I rode the bus here,” like it was a major accomplishment.

Like a lot of people who move here, I found myself in San Francisco.

One year ago, I went on my last first date.

When a friend told me she had someone she wanted to set me up with, I had no idea that I would be meeting Mr. Right. Since moving to San Francisco, I had gone out on a series of first dates with nice guys that I didn’t click with. David was different.

We Facebooked. We emailed. We IM’d. We LOL’d. Finally, we made a date to meet at Broken Record in the Excelsior district.

We went into the bar and sat down and next thing we knew it was last call! We had spent six hours trying to out nerd each other. (I won by admitting I had seen the One-Man Star Wars Trilogy … twice.)

When the bartender kicked us out, David walked me to my car.

David: “I want to see you again.”

Me: “OK, when?”

David: “Tomorrow.”

I met the love of my life in San Francisco.

Six months ago, I found a lump.

I had just moved into an apartment with David in Dogpatch when I found the lump in my left breast during a self exam. (Don’t listen to mysterious government task forces when it comes to breast cancer. Always check your boobs, ladies!)

Within a two-month period I saw multiple doctors who told me the same thing: “I’m sure it’s nothing. It’s probably just a cyst, but just to be safe you should [get a mammogram/get an ultrasound/get a MRI/get a biopsy].”

It wasn’t nothing. It wasn’t a cyst. It was cancer.

I was shocked. I am a healthy person (except for the whole cancer thing). I eat right. I go to yoga. I was so scared, but I tried to handle cancer the way I handle everything else: by making jokes about it. “I have DCIS, which is a good kind of cancer. It’s also a crime show on CBS,” I would tell people. David wasn’t too comfortable with the jokes at first, but I knew he was getting used to it when we walked past the Hooters on Fisherman’s Wharf a few days after the diagnosis:

Me: “Will you go in there and get me a T-shirt?”

David: “Sure, I will get you one that just says ‘Hooter.’”

Not long after the diagnosis I had a lumpectomy, and the doctors were confident that would be the end of that.

Yeah, not so much.

Turns out, the cancer was not “the good kind of cancer” and was more invasive than they thought. A mastectomy of the left breast was recommended along with a lymph node biopsy to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread.

Wait, spread?!? That’s when my brain crashed. I couldn’t process anything. I was so grateful that we caught it early. I was so thankful that it’s only one breast. But at the same time, I was so angry. I was so afraid. And when I finally wrapped my head around it, I kept thinking, “I’m going to be a freak show with one real boob and one fake boob. I’m damaged goods!” But then a friend gave me some helpful advice: “We are all damaged goods. Some of us know the damage, others have emotional baggage to the tune of a freight truck. Needy? Passive aggressive? Co-dependent? Crazy? Lazy? No job? No money? No ambition? Want to be rescued? So one boob will be firmer than the other – who cares – as long as the vag works …”

Well said, my friend.

A week before my mastectomy, David took me out to dinner for my birthday at Waterbar. After dinner, we walked along the Embarcadero, and eventually, we sat down, taking in the view of the Bay Bridge. It’s my favorite bridge. You can have the Golden Gate Bridge, folks; I love the Bay Bridge. It’s the bridge that brought me to San Francisco. And it was there, in front of my favorite bridge, that David pulled out a ring and asked me to be his wife. This man; this wonderful man. We had no idea what was going to happen a week later. Maybe the cancer had spread? Maybe I was in for a long fight; a long, ugly fight that a lot of women don’t win. He didn’t care. He wanted to marry me. He knew my answer before I said it. The tears were a giveaway.

The doctors wheeled me into surgery a week later. I would know when I woke up if the cancer had spread. I was scared, but I knew that no matter what happened, it was going to be OK because I had David, and we were going to fight this together.

When I woke up from the surgery, I kept asking the nurses, “Did the cancer spread? Did the cancer spread?” And they kept telling me they didn’t know. I thought, “They’re lying. They just don’t want to be the one to tell me.” Eventually, they wheeled me into a hospital room where David and my family were waiting.

“Did the cancer spread?” I asked David immediately.

“No,” he said. “It didn’t spread.” Then he kissed me, and I started sobbing.

I’m sitting in my Dogpatch apartment writing this story. Homer is sleeping in front of a fireplace. My fiance is designing our save the date cards for our wedding. And I’ve got one fake knocker, and I’m cancer free. I’m happy and healthy and me, but I can’t help but wonder what my San Francisco story will be six months from now.


You can see the rest of Sonia’s photo shoot here.

You can check out Sonia’s website The Sonia Show (
Follow her on Twitter at @thesoniashow (



  1. Posted December 14, 2009 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    “We are all damaged goods….”

    How true that is. Thanks for sharing your story, and congrats on winning the battle. And on your engagement! 🙂

  2. Deborah
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Loved the story, pictures and the wiener dog (Homer?). It’s somehow uniquely San Francisco.

  3. Blake
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I’m stoked it didn’t spread and wish the best for her in the future. Cancer is suck a tricky mofo.

    There’s a typo: “They just just want to be the one to tell me.”

  4. Posted December 14, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Beautiful story and a beautiful spirit. Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂

  5. Posted December 14, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful story. I’m so glad that things worked out for the best. Best of luck to you and David…congratulations!

  6. Jennifer
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I am a frequent bus rider, too, and I always make a huge deal of it when I meet up with friends who struggle with parking and meters.

  7. Posted December 14, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments! Big thanks to Julie for giving me this amazing opportunity to share my story and accomplishing the damn-near impossible: taking a beautiful photo of me. HAAAA!

  8. Posted December 14, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    {eyes all misty, heart stuck in throat}

    Thank you.

  9. Posted December 14, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Sonia, that story was even more beautiful than your picture, WHICH IS FUCKING GORGEOUS!

  10. Posted December 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully written and amazing story, Sonia.

  11. Posted December 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful piece Julie! Congratulations and all the best to Sonia.

  12. Posted December 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Good things do happen in spite of horrible diagnoses – congratulations to you and your sweetheart!

  13. Posted December 14, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Great story, Sonia, and beautiful writing.

  14. Posted December 14, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for insisting we read this Julie…this story left me crying like a baby..someday I hope I can find love like this

  15. Posted December 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    This is really something, Sonia. Thank you for sharing so much of your experience over these last impossible-to-fathom months. I’m amazed that you can write about it at all, let alone with such a warm, deft touch… you are amazing.

  16. Posted December 14, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I think you are going to do just fine… All the best to you, Homer, and Mr. Right… Wonderful photo shoot… Julie must have had an extra set of balls in her purse to have had enough nerve to photograph you in front of the Hell’s Angels clubhouse…

  17. Patti Calkosz
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Beautiful and touching. You are truly blessed, and an inspiration.

  18. Posted December 15, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much, everyone, for all the comments. All the kind words and positive thoughts are truly appreciated, and they make me so happy that I shared my story. Again, thank you.

  19. Posted December 15, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Congrats, indeed, Sonia. Still such a great story.

  20. Posted December 15, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I love the advice your friend gave – very wise indeed! I wish you continued good health!

  21. Michael Andersen
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    very moving and uplifting.

  22. Posted December 15, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I love your story….the way you told it, the vulnerable words used and the passion behind it. Thank you. I know it will help someone out there in a similar position. Attitude is everything.
    Like you my I had cancer. (No eggs a swimming over here.)

  23. Sophia
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Sonia you are very very brave!!! Thank you for sharing your story. Best of health to you…

  24. Posted December 15, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your story with candor and humor. Good luck with everything!

  25. Paulina
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I’m so glad I read your story!! Thanks for you eloquence and honesty. I have a friend that had to have both breasts removed and then implants which she now refers to her “boobie prize”. Congratulations of life and love.

  26. Posted January 7, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    sonia julie is a magnificent photographer but truly you are beautiful and she only had to hold up her camera and capture all your bright light. a wonderful life story that already has so many more beginnings for great next chapters! so nice to meet you!

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] you’ll take a moment to read what she wrote, share it with your friends, tweet it, whatever. (You can read Sonia’s story here .) Then find the person you love most in your life and hug them, kiss them, tell them you love […]

  2. […] I Live Here: SF Jump to Comments Yeah, so, I live here. […]

  3. […] survivor and new friend named Sonia. So many many of you did. It was the single biggest day on my other blog , and the number of kind comments left there for Sonia was extraordinary. I may not be a […]

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