Learning Through My Second Cancer Diagnosis

“Your biopsy results came back positive for breast cancer, I’m sorry” were the words I remember hearing when my life got flipped upside down. My GP delivered the life changing news as my husband and I were dropping off our two young kids to daycare and preschool. We cried together as we drove home and I remember saying “I’m sorry” to my husband. I said this knowing what this diagnosis meant, as this is my second battle with cancer and I knew what this journey would entail. 

I felt broken, lost and I felt like my body betrayed me. And, some days, I still feel this way cause really, who gets diagnosed with primary cancer twice by the age of 35? I had childhood leukemia, went through years of chemotherapy, survived it, and became a pediatric nurse at the same hospital I was treated at. Besides annual check ups I had to do, I was deemed a healthy individual until this diagnosis. 

This breast cancer diagnosis came as a shock as I found the lump during a self exam the same week I returned to work post an 18 month maternity leave. My GP immediately sent me for an ultrasound, but the wait time was over six weeks so I decided to pay out of pocket for my ultrasound. By going this route, my ultrasound was done immediately with results read the same day. Once the ultrasound report came back, all the other diagnostic tests were expedited and I was diagnosed within three weeks with hormone positive breast cancer with lymph node involvement. 

It’s a club that nobody wants to be in, but somehow you have to accept it and be a part of. My kids are my biggest stressor during this very challenging time in my life, but they’re also the ones who keeps me going. Every treatment decision I make, I think of them and when I’m struggling during my bad days, I think of them. These kids are relentless, they don’t care if their mommy has cancer, is bald or is too weak from treatment, all they want is their mommy and for that I am grateful. Yes, it sucks when I can’t physically be there for my kids due to treatment, but I’m also thankful that they’re not old enough to truly understand what is going on cause it would hurt to have to see my young children worry about me. My five year old recently asked me if I was going to die from cancer. It caught me completely off guard, but I answered her truthfully and I told her, I really hope not. I also told her that’s why mommy is doing everything I can to make sure this cancer doesn’t come back. And, her response made me smile even though I was gutted she asked me this. She said, “Okay mommy, you know what’s important though, your hair is finally growing back”. It’s moment like these that sticks with me, where you can still find the light and joy in times of darkness. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m just trying to do everything I can so I can see my little ones grow up and in the meantime just enjoy the moment. 

I have been learning a lot during this journey; things about myself and my outlook on life. A cancer diagnosis is life changing not only for yourself, but for everyone around you. Your mind can really go into some of the darkest places especially when you’re having a bad day. I’ve learned how important it is to keep your mind healthy. I often tell myself I can be depressed, cry, and mope all day, but in the end I’m still going to have to go through the same damn journey, so I might as well do it with a positive mindset. 

Things I’ve learned so far: 

• You are stronger than you think

• Surround yourself with good people who genuinely care about you and help bring happiness to your life

• How important perspective is and how to train your mind to see the good

• To really not sweat the small stuff in life because life is short 

Lastly, I’ve also learned to give this damn disease a purpose and, for me, it’s by sharing my story and encouraging people to be familiar with and aware of their bodies. I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if I didn’t find the mass on my own. I had no symptoms besides finding the mass, and I also don’t have any family history of breast cancer in my family. 

Know your normal, and if you notice anything out of your norm, go see your GP. And, lastly, ALWAYS remember to advocate for yourself, you know yourself best and nobody is ever too young to be diagnosed with this horrible disease. — Victoria

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