It’s been 4 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer (triple negative, BRCA1) and around this time every year I find myself reflecting back on my life pre cancer, the traumatic times during my cancer treatment, and where I am at this exact moment in time.  This year was the first year that I realized how far I’ve come since my world fell apart with a cancer diagnosis.  This reflection had me focus on one specific day.  That day was when I attended a Live, Laugh, Learn event with Rethink.  If it wasn’t for that event I attended on March 17, 2013, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  That event changed my life.

karen - treatment

After my treatment was completed, I was struggling with what I wanted to do with my life post cancer.  At that time, I was only a year into starting my own travel business when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after this whole ordeal I wanted to give back, do something that had a positive effect on people and possibly help out other people in the cancer community.  I was at a loss and stressing myself out about what I wanted to do.  I finally just let it go with the hopes that my next calling would present itself somehow, someway.  I then went to the Live, Laugh, Learn event focusing on Massage Therapy and Breast Cancer.  Leading the talk was a teacher from Sutherland-Chan.  She spoke about breast massage, scar work and lymph drainage and it was like a light bulb went off in my head.  This is what I can do!  This is how I can help and give back!  The next thing I knew I was signed up and registered for the 2 year massage therapy program at Sutherland-Chan starting September 2013.

It was a tough couple of years and I had to figure out a whole new way of learning as I was still experiencing issues with brain fog from chemo.  Things had always come quite easily before, but after chemo I had to read things at least 10 times before it sinking in.  My classmates always joked about all my flashcards that I would make but what they didn’t realize was that if I didn’t obsessively make and study those flashcards, information just wouldn’t stick.  I worked my butt off and probably drove myself slightly crazy but I did it!

I’m now a fully licensed Registered Massage Therapist working at a couple of different clinics in Toronto and Aurora.  I couldn’t be happier and I love my new career!  My goal now is to spread awareness about the benefits of massage treatment for breast cancer patients.  I didn’t know anything about breast massage before that event and I’ve been trying to spread the word on how much breast massage can help post mastectomy/lumpectomy/reconstruction.  I’ve seen some amazing results from breast and scar work and every time I work on a patient, they always say “I wish I knew about this earlier”.  It can also be of comfort to my patients that I know exactly what they are going through, scars and all.  Been there, done that and unfortunately, I have the freaking t-shirt!

So a big Thank You to Rethink!  You gave me the inspiration for a whole new career and life post cancer and I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for that Live, Laugh, Learn event.  I am forever grateful!