How Netflix Saved My Life

Netflix saved my life. 

And I mean this literally, not in the way that we make general blanket statements about this or that, “saving your life” because you were minorly inconvenienced at one time or another.  In actuality, it was watching a simple program that led to the series of events in which my life was in fact, saved. I had lived in my characteristically cozy attic apartment in Guelph, Ontario for four years. I loved how all of the ceilings sloped in weird ways (after I stopped hitting my head on them), the charming neighbourhood around me, and also how it had a moderately sizeable walk in closet. The most shocking thing about my apartment was the fact that I DID NOT HAVE AN INTERNET CONNECTION. In June of 2016, Internet access was recognized as a basic human right, so people could not fathom the fact that I did not have Internet. Now don’t get me wrong, I had an iPhone with data (that I went over on every month) for all the essential internet musings like Instagram and podcasts. I had made a very intentional choice to refrain from Netflix, simply because I felt like I might be consumed with the endless and bountiful television options available. I felt that my life would be filled with watching hours and hours of shows and I just would not know when to, or be able to stop. I also have always been a huge bookworm, so the temptation would only take me further away from the written words that feed my soul. I was quite content borrowing DVDs from the local library (for free I might add) for occasional visual entertainment.

So how then, could Netflix have potentially saved my life?

A few steps occurred that brought this glorious service into my existence in the spring of 2017. First of all, the second hand clothing boutique that I worked for, finally got wifi that I could access. Then, Netflix made downloading their content an option. Finally my lovely sister gave me her Netflix password, so I could download episodes or movies using said high speed connection. I loved how my phone could only fit one or two episodes on it at a time, so I could enjoy but not give into my fear of binge watching and therefore having zero time for anything else.  The first show I watched was season one of “Stranger Things” and I immediately fell in love with it. Eventually I checked out a show called “Embarrassing Bodies,” which is weird because I am not typically a huge fan of medical television. The premise of this British Reality show is three doctors travel around in a van, encouraging those passing by to come to them with any medical problems they might be facing. Although this show could get a bit overly graphic, they kept reiterating one point: it’s important to consistently be checking your body, so that you know it well and will be aware of any changes within it. This point really resonated with me, and made me realize that at 30 years old, I had never done a breast exam. OK, so now was the time to start! Off I went, giving my perky breasts a feel, expecting to notice nothing out of the ordinary. Except I did feel something peculiar. My heart began to beat faster and faster as I felt back and forth between my left and right sides, did they both feel like that? No, the left side felt normal, soft and squishy. But embedded in the right side I could feel a large, hard mass. It felt like a rock that had gotten misplaced and somehow found its way into my body. A few more comparative feels, then I got up and pushed all the feelings of dread and fear immediately out of my mind. It was probably nothing, maybe it will just go away…

I knew something was wrong.

The very core of me felt that something was not right. But did I deal with this instinctual knowledge swiftly and promptly? Of course not. I did what we all do when faced with a reality that could most likely change the entire course of your life as you know it. I ignored it. For a month I pretended like I had found nothing at all. In the back of my mind though, the fear of what the lump might be, lurked. When I woke up every morning, the first thing I did amongst my cozy sheets, was inspect my right breast. Was it still there? Had it disappeared yet? Not only had it not vanished into thin air, it was getting bigger.

So now I knew I couldn’t ignore this problem anymore. If it was growing, it would probably continue to grow. I had to face this lump. Although I tried to convince myself that this was probably nothing serious, that I was too young and too healthy, I knew all along that it was cancer. I would google the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, over and over again trying to assure myself that it couldn’t be cancer because I did not possess any of these symptoms asides from the lump. I tried to imagine what it would be like to have cancer, I Googled photos of women whom have had mastectomies, I thought about the fact that I was not immortal and could quite possibly die. All of these actions resulted in an onslaught of tears and weeping, how could I EVER face any of that and be strong enough to live through it?

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer on Oct 3rd, 2017. 

I underwent chemotherapy, a mastectomy with an axillary lymph node dissection, and radiation treatment.  I am currently on hormone therapy for the next five years and am planning to have my remaining breast removed, followed by reconstructive surgery.  I am currently working on writing about my experiences as a young, single woman facing breast cancer. I hope to help raise awareness for women of all ages to be proactive about the health of their bodies, and to seek medical advice immediately, should they have any pressing concerns. – Renee Kristina Wells


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