Embracing Minimalism After A Breast Cancer Diagnosis

It took me a long time to accept that life would never go back to normal after my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. In the process, I decided to change my ways in order to live happy with the long-term side effects and limitations of the treatments. It went like this: Diagnosis in 2011 when I was 37 with two young children (7 and 11). I had two mastectomies (2011 & 2013), chemo (2011-2012), radiation (2012), complete hysterectomy (2012) and delayed DIEP reconstruction (2015 x 3). Chemo left me with a very weak immune system and I was in a wheelchair most of 2016 due to mold affecting my central nervous system.

For me, being minimalist and having the gift of TIME for myself and with my family has made my life more efficient.


First, I changed what would immediately help my family go through the treatments without losing our house so I went in our expenses and removed everything that was not necessary or that could be replaced. For example: We replaced after school physical activities with family ones (saving travel time and money), started looking for specials at the grocery store and doing batch recipes when I was in good shape, at the same time building a family recipe book with the kids.

After my treatments were over (end of 2012), I fought for four years to get back to normal. This took me so much energy, until I realized that NOW is my new normal and I needed to accept it. I started by changed my job at the end of 2014, which was 90 km from home. This gave me more me time (I was able to learn Spanish in the car while driving). Then I realized that my husband and kids were still expecting me to be like before and to do everything around the house so I started to do some tests and not do the grocery shopping, not prepare meals and let them figure it out. Same for the house maintenance. It was frustrating more than anything else, requiring even more energy.

After coming back from a six-weeks business trip in May-June, I finally gave up and chose ME in June 2017 and asked for a separation. I moved from a 4000 sq ft house to a 1400 sq ft condo two months after. This is when the biggest changes started. I left him, everything and started all over, marking the beginning of my new life. I only bought what I truly needed.


I plan everything to make my life simpler, starting with online grocery shopping, which takes me 15 minutes instead of two hours per week. I do my workouts inside my condo or by walking outside, saving at least one hour each workout, giving me more possibilities to do something else. In less than two months after the move, I was off my anti-depressant meds, I had double the energy level and I was able to concentrate again and read books. More than a year after this big change, divorced pronounced, I realize that I should have done it way sooner. I have a new boyfriend since this summer who loves me for who I am TODAY and not who I was before. I rarely lose my temper compared to everyday before.

I do not watch TV anymore (as the commercials trigger feelings of needing things I do not have and full of bad news). I also do not feel pressure to conform, all the holidays and other special occasions are so commercialized now that when I want to make or give a gift to someone I do it right away. I do not decorate anymore except little accents. I invite friends over when I want to, not because there is an occasion.

Some may think that I gave up on my family, but from my point of view, I was the only one trying and my first priority should be ME if I want to be healthy. My oldest daughter who is now 18 lives with me and my youngest now 14 decided to stay with her father. She comes visit when she wants to, but I don’t force her to.

I can honestly say I am the happiest I have been since my diagnosis. – Isabelle F

For more stories about life after a breast cancer diagnosis, click here.

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