The uncertainty, the waiting and the fear of how aggressive the tumour is was the most challenging part of my diagnosis. I didn’t feel sick so it didn’t feel real but I was beyond scared of the unknown, of the tests and of the visits to the cancer centre - it all happened in such a rapid pace.
It was weird experiencing how painless this disease is. I never ever felt sick but even if I got my mammograms every year I was unaware that I had a tumour growing in my left breast. Why did I not know I had cancer? How did I not know I had a 3.7 cm tumour growing in me for possibly years?
I was going through a divorce at the time and it was very stressful and difficult coming to terms with having cancer. I experienced a lot of anxiety facing my mortality head-on when I was diagnosed with Stage 2b breast cancer.
My illness has helped me appreciate my life and the people in it so much more but I’m still scared of reoccurrence. Some friends were definitely brought closer through it all but some people drifted away and couldn’t handle it. It’s difficult to deal with other people’s reactions, they tend to be afraid it will happen to them. Some people drifted away because they couldn’t handle it and some got closer. Since being diagnosed, I find myself worrying that my daughter will get breast cancer.
My company put unnecessary pressure on me one week after I returned to work so I quit my high-pressure job after being on short term disability for 4 months. Instead, I started my own business to help educate women on what a tumour could feel like since most people have no idea. I’m trying to spread awareness where I can and I’ve made sure that my daughter is much more aware of what a tumour feels like.
My health before and after
Before the diagnosis, I always ate well but now I focus on it even more. My social life and exercise routine wasn’t impacted by cancer but it has affected the way I feel about my appearance. I didn’t have breast reconstruction done so it’s been hard to deal with the changes after the double mastectomy, especially when I take a shower and spot my new body in the mirror. The cancer treatment itself wasn’t that bad but my skin has been tight for a year and I developed allergies that I have never had before. I now have bad allergies and have to find new ways to dress due to the mastectomy.
My advice to others
If I could offer any advice it would be to take one day at a time and to be educated. Make sure you know what resources are available to you, learn about your cancer and think about what practical assistance you need. I needed mental support and knowledge about what it would all mean to me.
“The emotional support and bridge of information is critical. It needs to be streamlined and mentors are critical”
The key thing I learned about myself during treatment was that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. Despite finding it hard to access support, I managed to go through with every radiation treatment alone.
My personal story is truly focused on: how did I not know I had a 3.7cm tumour growing in me for possibly years? There are so many obstacles to truly diagnose breast cancer! I want women to know what a tumour could feel like because if I had truly known I might have caught it earlier. There is a big disconnect on knowing what we are looking for and women not doing self breast exams or getting mammograms.