How Would I Tell You?

November 14, 2022

Since I started writing about Adrienne being diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 in 2019, I have been welcomed into the young breast cancer community in a way that makes my heart happy and gives me solace when the walls start crashing in. I am an outsider and could have been left on the other side of the window with my face pressed up against the glass, but instead these young women have not only allowed, but also encouraged me to share my family’s collective experience with Adrienne’s diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.

A significant part of that welcoming committee is several individuals on social media channels who have gained large followings and who often share my comments or thoughts with their audiences. A few, like Adrienne, are currently NED, but regardless they have the respect and gratitude of the metastatic breast cancer community and will interact on a regular basis. Others are living with metastatic breast cancer, sometimes many years out, and they have taken on the advocacy role with a passion that cannot be underestimated. Like many, I hang on to the ones that are celebrating five, ten or more years of survivorship because they are my beacons of hope and I keep my fingers crossed that they will continue to shine for me.

Rethink posts about my blogs on Instagram and I see comments that thank me for putting into words what some of the readers are feeling but didn’t know quite how to express, or if I address one of those taboo subjects gratitude that I chose to step through the discomfort and write about it anyway. And that got me reflecting on my audience here at Rethink and I thought…

How would I tell you if she has a recurrence?

Adrienne was very private about her breast cancer diagnosis. Our relationship is founded in mutual respect and it was only with her permission that I wrote about the experience during treatment as a way to manage my own trauma and shared it with a select audience of family and friends. It was only after treatment was over and she was in survivorship that once again with her okay I started sharing with a wider audience because we both wanted to let others like me out there know they weren’t alone. And other mothers DID reach out to me asking many questions, and I think that our story was and continues to be a beacon of hope for them, that their children’s cancer story will be like Adrienne’s.

So how would I tell them if the cancer comes back?

That’s the thing about the cancer community.  Every member is part of a club that no one wants to join and so many of them are balancing on the brink waiting for the next scan to nudge them just a little bit closer to the edge. It’s glorious to find a place to fit, a place where you can express yourself and instead of listening to correct or respond, the people you are with meet your gaze and say I see you, I hear you, I get it like no one outside can. But that sense of belonging can come at a price, and for the members of this particular club it’s a pretty steep one. It can mean not only the loss of a peer, but it can also be a stark reminder of what might be that must be acknowledged and managed over and over again.

When a hand lets go and the circle is broken, deep breaths must be taken and the steps made to close it. It is yet another display of the type of fundamental courage shown by cancer patients that is mind-boggling to me. This is one particular time when, regardless of being invited to participate, I go stand outside the window and wait until the moment when a gentle tip of the head lets me know it’s okay for me to come back in.

In my current reality, I wake up every day and am glad my girl is here and work endlessly to let that be enough, but there is a flaw in mothers that never lets us flick off the worry switch and cancer feeds that beast exceptionally well. I have always been honest in my writing about what Adrienne has been through, speaking to both the highs and the lows of the experience. I know that I have the expectation of myself that with Adrienne’s permission if I ever hear the words again I will find a way to put it out there.  

I just don’t for the life of me know how.


Mother…Grandmother…Librarian…Military Spouse…Caregiver…Family Life Educator…take your pick! Debbie Legault was born in British Columbia, Canada to a former RCAF airman father and a Scottish War Bride mother and has lived in other Canadian provinces, Germany and California.  She has been married for 36 years to a Canadian Air Force Veteran and credits him with filling her life with adventure.  When Debbie Legault’s children look at family photos they often comment on how many different hairstyles she has had and that pretty much is her story, that her life has taken as many turns and led her down as many paths as her hair has changed!  Her latest role is as the author of Mom…It’s Cancer, the story of supporting her 27-year-old daughter, Adrienne, as they experienced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Read more from Debbie on her experience as a caregiver to her daughter, here.

Header photo by McKenna Phillips on Unsplash

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