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Age: 44

Occupation: Community Manager at Wisdo.com

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 40

Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Breast cancer stage: Stage 1

Treatment: lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer: I am undeniably sarcastic, it is almost impossible for me to not be. I crack jokes all the time because laughing is just the best. I love a good can of cheeze whiz and crackers on the beach cause let’s face it that is FUN!

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song? “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters. I just love it. I have respect for everyday people they are the true rock stars.

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How did you discover your breast cancer? I was in bed and rolled over and felt a lump. Having dense breasts I sort of rolled my eyes. Then I pressed it and black discharge came out. I felt sick to my stomach.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis? Sh#*! I was more scared for my children than anything else. How was I going to tell them? How were they going to react? And my dad and husband? I had many that relied on my and I was so worried about how they would get through this.

 

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer? “I have the cure for cancer. Come to my house I will give you 2 pills and you will be cured”. Now mind you this was a stranger who got my phone number. It was so insane to me that he thought I would actually come there and that he had the cure!

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer? My kids and husband would be the first answer. But truth is my support came from strangers online who I met. They understood on a level that only those with breast cancer could. I would have crumbled without them. Still I lean on them 4 years later.

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What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer? Having my breasts removed. It is life altering. Breasts do not define you but the are part of you. I felt such a loss from having them amputated one no one prepared me for. I had a very hard time looking at myself in the mirror.

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What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer? That helping others would be my therapy. I need to help others diagnosed, show them one side to this disease that may connect them. I need to feel not alone. I thought I was the type of person that could stand all by myself when the truth is it is scary. I need them just as much as they need me.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer? Do not look back you are not going that way.

For more #YWBC profiles click HERE.

Every year, 5000 young Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their reproductive years – and 70% of those women are recommended hormone therapy for up to 10 years following active treatment to prevent a possible recurrence. For that entire period of time, pregnancy is not an option. And from our fifteen years of working with young women with breast cancer, we know that fertility is one of the most important issues to them. So important, in fact, that many are risking their lives by pausing hormone therapy to have a baby, without data or doctor supervision.

Right now, many women are faced with the impossible decision between watching their child-bearing years pass them by, or stopping treatment to try for a baby but risking the return of their cancer. Can you imagine making this decision blindly, without any statistics or examples of those who have made similar attempts?

Last year, Rethink was delighted to learn of an opportunity to bring the ‘Baby Time’ (P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E.) study to Canada. This study will guide young women through the medically-supervised process of pausing endocrine therapy to get pregnant and assess whether this can be done without increasing risk of breast cancer relapse. Pregnancy after breast cancer appears to be safe in patients with ER+ disease, but more clinical data is needed.

Rethink offers age-appropriate support and resources for young women with breast cancer to make their journey a little bit easier, and often that means empowering them with the information they need to make their most difficult decisions. Statistics are a vital source of information – providing clear, objective data and creating space for confidence when dealing with uncertainty. We want to help our young women find the answers they need.

Trials take time to get up and running, and the generosity we have seen from our community thus far has provided the support needed to get through the rigorous regulatory phase. Within the next few days, the trial team will be meeting to ensure that all centres are ready to bring on the very first patients over the next couple weeks.

It’s happening now, and it’s happening fast! For every $3000 we raise, we can enroll another woman in the study – give another woman the opportunity to make new memories by moving on from her breast cancer journey…to motherhood. Please join us by giving what you can today. Donate now.

Would you or someone you know like to take part in the trial? Speak to your oncologist about getting a referral to the P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E. study.

Name: Lara

Age: 39

Occupation: Founder, Hope Scarves

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 30

Breast cancer type: ER/PR+ Her2-

Breast cancer stage: diagnosed stage II while pregnant in 2007, metastatic in 2015

Treatment: chemo & double mastectomy in 2007, radiation & oophorectomy, Endocrine therapy in 2015-present

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer: 

I love to sail

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

Geronimo by Sheppard

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I was 30 years old and 7 months pregnant when I had  persistent discomfort in my left breast.  I assumed it was pregnancy related because all kinds of crazy things happen to your body when you are pregnant.  I told my OB/GYN about it at my 7 month check up and luckily he was suspicious and sent me in for a biopsy that very day.  Two days later we learned it was cancer.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

 I was completely shocked.  I didn’t have any family history, I was super healthy.  I didn’t really know anyone who had faced breast cancer.  I was completely overwhelmed and in disbelief.  Of course, my biggest fear was for our unborn child.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer? 

A lot of people like to tell me about friends and family members they know who have died of breast cancer.  Although I understand they mean well, it always baffles me that they think this is helpful information for someone with stage iv breast cancer.

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

I am blessed with an amazing support system.  My husband has been by my side through all of the ups and downs and I know I couldn’t do this without him.  I also have really helpful parents and extended family.  I have never lived in the same state as my parents so friends are a big part of our day to day support system.  It really does take a village.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

The facts.  Metastatic breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women under 50.  Facing this reality as a MBC survivor can be very overwhelming.  I am doing every thing I can to make my body as healthy and strong as I can to beat the odds and raise money for metastatic breast cancer research. I am holding on for science!  I believe we can find ways to extend life expectancy if we focus research on ways to stop the spread of the disease.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

Cancer opened up a doorway to me with new purpose, possibility and connection.  Founding Hope Scarves has been an incredibly rewarding experience and united me with amazing people.  I turned a scary experience into something positive to help others. Every day I am honoured to share scarves and stories between survivors and share my message of hope with the world. But, I would give it all back in a heartbeat.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Live life over cancer- one day at a time.

Hope Scarves collects scarves and stories of encouragement from women who have faced all types of cancer.  The scarves are professionally dry-cleaned and then sent on to others facing cancer.  Survivors can share their story even if they don’t have a scarf.  Their story will be paired with a donated community scarf and begin its journey as a Hope Scarf.  Each scarf is tagged with a specific number to track where it travels.  It is their hope that if a woman wishes to she will add her story and send her scarf back to Hope Scarf to continue on its journey to someone else.  

For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.

Name:  SARA MODY
Age: 40
City:  MISSISSAUGA, ONT

What do you do when you are not changing the world with philanthropic gestures? I love visiting museums and art shows in the area, or checking out trendy restaurants. I enjoy hip hop dancing, yoga and golfing.  When I have alone time, I love reading, writing and attending conferences.
What is one thing you have re-thought in your life?  How did you approach it?
After my breast cancer experience I really made health my priority. I make daily choices about how to live a healthy and happy lifestyle. For me that means seeing my naturopath, watching my eating habits, going to the gym, attending health workshops and keeping myself informed. I especially believe in the health benefits of essential oils, meditation and laughter.
What is the most important thing to know when it comes to donating to a cause?
I think it is so important to understand why you are donating to a cause and how it makes you feel. I choose to volunteer for Rethink Breast Cancer because I have been personally affected. I now enjoy sharing my story and my experiences with people I encounter through the cause, and I want to show my appreciation by giving back for all the care provided to me through my healing journey.
A person who gives back that you aspire to:
I admire my mother more than anyone in my life. She is one of the most generous and kind-hearted women I know and volunteers for many different charities. She has always taught me the gift of being good to others and giving back when you have the time and the means, and is constantly going out of her way to help those in need.
How do you find a cause you are passionate about?
I think you have a find a cause that touches your heart and that you have a personal connection to. Volunteering with Rethink allowed me find my strength and learn new things about myself. While writing my book, I met great people attending events and focused on building a positive relationship with myself and with others.
What is innovative about the Rethink approach?
The dedication that Rethink exhibits is truly one to be admired. I loved being involved with my very first Rethink at the Races event. It is a high energy event and Rethink promotes such fun and interactive ways to raise money and awareness.
What inspires you daily?
My grade one students, the beauty of the earth, my family and friends, and travelling. I want to witness all that this planet has to offer. Every time I travel, I learn new things about the planet, animals and people.
Why should people support a cause they are passionate about?
Supporting a cause that you are passionate about allows you to give back to your community. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people and open new doors to create more possibilities. When I give back I feel grateful for life.

 

Name: Miranda

Age: 29

City: Lethbridge

Occupation: Provisional psychologist

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 28

Breast cancer type: Invasive ductal carcinoma

Breast cancer stage: 2

Treatment: 7 rounds of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, left breast lumpectomy, 30 radiation treatments, 10 years of hormone therap

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.

I’m a pretty big geek! One of my favourite pastimes is playing video games with my older brother. We’ve played everything from World of Warcraft to Terraria and we are currently attempting to stay alive in the survival game Don’t Starve Together – it’s a lot of fun and keeps us in touch, since we haven’t lived in the same city for about 6 years now.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

“Sweet Nothing” – Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I was in the shower, washing myself with a shower puff when I noticed the top of my left breast had a hard lump that was painful to touch. I asked my partner to check it for me too (to make sure I wasn’t making things up) and immediately made a doctor’s appointment when my partner confirmed there was definitely something there. My physician was wonderful when I met with him and, although he didn’t think it was cancer, he sent me for an emergency ultrasound and mammogram. Thank goodness he did!

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

That I was going to die, plain and simple. I kept thinking that it was just my luck that something like this would happen to me, considering I have a crippling fear of death and my life over the past year was already complicated with other, personal issues. I worried that it would have spread and I would be given a short amount of time to live and that would be that.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

“You’re so young!” How many times do young people diagnosed with cancer hear this? And what is this supposed to elicit in response? I think it’s a crazy thing to say, especially to someone you don’t know (which is where I’ve heard this from), like we don’t know that we are young and that having cancer at our age is unusual. I never know how to respond to this, so I just agree.

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

Easily, my partner and my mom. My partner was the one I could have serious, emotional conversations with, or I could just cry on his shoulder about how scared and overwhelmed I felt. He was, and continues to be, my invaluable emotional support, even though I know it can be hard for him to understand exactly where I am coming from sometimes.

My mom was the practical support throughout treatment. She came and stayed with us in Lethbridge for most of my chemotherapy treatments, surgery, and the end of radiation. She cooked all our meals, cleaned our house, and kept me company while my partner was at work.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

The way cancer interrupted my life, right when I needed things to be stable. I was in the middle of finishing my registration to become a psychologist, looking for work, and moving to Lethbridge to finally be with my partner after many years of long-distance, when I was diagnosed. Now, several months after treatment has ended, I still feel off balance; I’m still recovering, physically and mentally, from treatment, have yet to finish my registration process, and am still not working. I feel like I’ve lost 1.5 years of my life and I’m perpetually behind where I wanted to be, but also scared to move forward.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

That I have created connections with many more people than I expected throughout my life that came out of the woodwork to provide supportive words, time, finances, and love. For example, I received the most incredibly beautiful bouquet from someone I went to highschool with, completely out of the blue, just because she wanted to. I have been astounded at people’s generosity and the impact my story must have made on them, even if we haven’t kept in touch.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

It’s ok to be scared and overwhelmed, there is nothing easy about this experience.

For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.

Name: Beatrice

Age: 37

City: Calgary

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 36

Breast cancer type: Triple-positive invasive ductal carcinoma in left breast

Breast cancer stage: 3A

Treatment: Double mastectomy with reconstruction, six rounds of chemotherapy, 28 radiation treatments, tamoxifen, ongoing treatment for lymphedema

 

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.

I love classic British literature! My favourite authors are Jane Austen and Ann Radcliffe. I also love great sci-fi and fantasy. This past summer, my spouse and I introduced our six-year-old son to the original Star Wars trilogy, and for Halloween this year, I dressed up as Dr. Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

“Long Life (Where Did You Go)” by Great Big Sea always reminds me to be hopeful that I’ll make it out okay through this arduous journey.

How did you discover your breast cancer?

In October 2014, I was settling into bed one evening with a favourite book when my arm brushed across the top of my left breast. There was a huge new lump there. I went to the doctor as quickly as I could. She initially thought it was likely a fibroadenoma, but she sent me to get a mammogram and ultrasound. The results of those confirmed my lump was a clinical area of concern, and I had an ultrasound-guided core biopsy. On December 4, 2014, I sat numbly in my doctor’s office as she confirmed I had breast cancer. My breast surgeon told me later that if I hadn’t found the lump when I did, the cancer would have killed me.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

My spouse and our son were in the waiting room, and I just wanted them there with me. I didn’t want to be alone with this news. I wanted to hold them and be held. I asked the doctor if she could go get them, and they were with me within a minute.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

Everyone in my personal life has been fantastic, but I’ve had two experiences with doctors that made me raise my eyebrows.

Just before I had the radioactive dye injected into my lymph nodes the day prior to my mastectomy, the doctor doing the injection walked into the room reading my chart out loud. He got to the part with my age and began, “And you…” He looked up from the chart at me and said rather awkwardly, “…are not old at all.” Um, thanks? “And you are not old at all” has become a bit of a running joke during my cancer treatment.

Another doctor, shortly after meeting me, asked, “Did you smoke for most of your life?” Surely I had done something to cause this was the message his tone held. I have never smoked. I’m vegetarian. I’m of normal weight and physically fit. While I ended up getting along well with this doctor afterward, I didn’t appreciate him trying to imply I had somehow done this to myself when I hadn’t.

What these experiences confirmed for me is that I’m definitely not what people expect when they meet a patient with stage 3a invasive ductal carcinoma. I often see a look of surprise on medical professionals’ faces when they meet me for the first time. I’m often the youngest cancer patient in the waiting room whenever I go for treatments or other appointments.

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

I call the people in my personal life who support me Team Awesome because every single one of them is an awesome human being. I have so many family and friends on Team Awesome who support me, and I’ll highlight some of them here.

My spouse, Brett Bergie, has been my constant source of strength. She has held me when I cry and taken care of our son and me after surgery and when chemo made me ill. She loves me and finds me beautiful with or without hair and with or without breasts. I can talk to her about anything; she provides a safe space in which I can be vulnerable.

My and Brett’s son, Sam Bergie Aucoin, has been the most chipper support I could ask for. When my hair started falling out from chemo and I went to get my head shaved, he was there. I asked him what he thought after my hair was shaved off. He broke out into a huge smile and said, “You look really cool!” That is the best compliment on my physical appearance I have ever received.

Alexis, my best friend, came down from Edmonton to Calgary several times during all of this. She sat in a tiny change room with me before my core biopsy because I was scared of what was happening. She was there before and after my double mastectomy to help us out. She’s only just a text away if I need her.

Tiffany and Naomi are two really great friends here in Calgary who have been there for me at appointments, helped me take my son to and from school, and just been there for some good fun too.

Rick and Alma are my parents-in-law; they came out from Ontario to visit us and helped us out during my roughest chemo week, which was after my first docetaxel treatment. My son had a great time with his grandparents while his mama needed to rest.

My cousin Daylene Penney is a nurse, though I call her my superhero, and she lives back home in Nova Scotia. I was having some problems with my chemo port incision not closing properly, and she asked me to send her a picture of it. Daylene told me I needed to go to my cancer centre urgently to have my port examined, and she was right. She saved me from getting an infection from thousands of kilometres away.

Nick Piers, one of my oldest friends, shaved his head in solidarity with me when I found out chemo was going to make my hair fall out. He also sent me an advance copy of his latest book.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

I don’t want to leave my son without his mama. I don’t want Brett to be widowed. I want to be there for my people for as long as I can. I have a hard time accepting that I might not get to have a long life with my loved ones.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. I have this awful disease and needed to go through equally awful treatment, and I can still be myself and do most of the things I love doing and take care of my family.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Know that even though you are scared out of your wits right now, you are amazing and can do all of the really hard stuff you’ll need to do.

For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.

Name: Josée Daoust

Age: 23

City: Toronto

Occupation: Soon-to-be teacher

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 22

Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER+, PR+, HER2+

Breast cancer stage: Stage 1

Treatment: Lumpectomy, Chemotherapy, Radiation, Herceptin, Tamoxifen

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.

My life has revolved around hockey since I was a little girl. I have been playing and watching hockey for as long as I can remember. My favourite place to be is most definitely in a hockey arena!

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

My latest favourite is ‘Confident’ by Demi Lovato.

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I was removing my bra and happened to feel a lump on my right side. I figured it was probably nothing, but my University housemates encouraged me to have it checked out just in case. One of the University doctors had to tell me the diagnosis – She took much longer than usual to enter the room, and I could hear them whispering outside the room, so I had a pretty good idea of what was coming. I actually felt bad for the doctor because they are probably not put in that situation very often with such young patients.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

I honestly don’t really remember. I went to the doctor alone because I figured I was going to be fine, so the doctor called my mom and put her on speakerphone. She said “your daughter is being very stoic”, because I was just sitting there. Since I didn’t feel sick at all, I don’t think it really hit me right away. She kept asking me if I understood what she was telling me. Oh I understood, loud and clear! Actually, she never said the words you have cancer – she said, “Your results were not inconsistent with carcinoma.” Despite the double negative, I got the message. I asked to leave and they refused to let me go until a friend came to get me. I was away for school so my parents were not in town. Once my friend arrived, we (naturally) went to get McFlurries. I remember my thoughts more at my post-lumpectomy appointment with my surgeon, because that’s when I found out that they recommend that I do chemotherapy. That’s when I was most upset, because the thought of chemo scared me.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

For the most part, people were pretty good with what they said to me, and when they said crazy things, I kept in mind that I would probably say the same things if I hadn’t gone through it. My favourite was probably when my best friend said, “I am so jealous of how easy it must be to maintain your hair.” I told her to go out and shave her head then! She realized it was probably not the best thing to say, but we laughed about it. Another friend asked me if I had a hair elastic on my wrist that she could use… I just looked at her until she clued in that I would have no reason to have a hair elastic handy. She continued on to say, “Well this just became awkward…” and we laughed.

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

My parents were easily my biggest source of support. My dad was at the majority of my appointments, and my mom was very helpful in keeping me positive and helping me get through the worst of treatments. She was always making me healthy foods or smoothies, reading up on symptom management, offering massages when my lower legs were in a lot of pain, etc. She ensured that I was very proactive in avoiding symptoms (being on top of my pills, doing anything the doctor suggested for prevention). My mom’s baseball league came together to provide us with meals on a weekly basis, which was an enormous amount of help to my family. My best friend was also a big source of support – she is currently living in Vancouver but made sure to call me everyday to keep my mood up.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

Superficially, during treatments, the most difficult part was losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. However, as treatments are nearing their end, I am realizing other difficulties. Since my friends and I all just graduated from University this year, they all started their full time careers. It’s hard to watch people get on with their lives, when your own life is on hold. As soon as you are done treatments, you think “Finally, I can get on with my life”, but it’s easier said than done. Everyone, including yourself, expects you to start big things, and it all becomes so real and scary at the same time. A year ago, I was prepared and willing to start my career, and now it’s intimidating, as a result of having done so little over the last year because of treatments. Going from school to a job is a natural progression where you stay busy – going from cancer treatments to a full time job is daunting!

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

I think most people would expect me to say that I learned how strong I was, but I’ve always thought everyone is strong; you just need to be put in a situation where you have no choice but to use your strength. Therefore, I wouldn’t say I necessarily learned anything unexpected about myself, but more so about others. It amazed me to see the generosity of others and the way that people will come together in order to make your journey a little bit easier. It reminded me that being there for someone, no matter how small the act is, can really make someone’s day.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

The thought of cancer treatments is scary, but on your worst days, know that there are good days ahead because the symptoms will not last!

For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.

Name: Cathy Kloppenburg

Age: 36

City: Wainright, Alberta

Occupation: Remote Sensing Analyst

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 36

Breast cancer type: HER2+ metastatic cancer

Breast cancer stage: 4

Treatment: I’ve previously had 10 cycles of weekly Taxol (chemotherapy) and Herceptin & Perjeta every 3 weeks as well as radiation to both hips, both shoulders, and spine to help control the pain from the bone metastases. I’m currently on Herceptin & Perjeta now to help stop the cancer from spreading more.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.

I have a Master of Science in Geography with a specialization in Remote Sensing. I analyze aerial and satellite images for fun. I also enjoy beading and make bracelets, necklaces, and earrings with my time now.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

‘Here Comes the Sun’ by The Beatles.

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I was having pain in my body to the point where it was becoming painful to walk. When I went to the doctor, it was diagnosed as fibromyalgia. When I was visiting my brother after Christmas last year, I couldn’t go up the 3 steps to get into his house. He had to haul me up the stairs while I screamed in pain. I knew I had to go to the hospital. After doing blood work, the doctor sent me to Edmonton by ambulance because my kidneys were shutting down from the prescription anti-inflammatory meds I was on.

In Edmonton, the doctors noticed that the calcium levels were elevated in my daily blood tests so they suspected it was either cancer or an issue with my endocrine system. They did about a million tests on me to determine what the cause was. Because it was a holiday, they’d sent a resident to give me the news. He didn’t want me to go through the weekend not knowing what was going on. I knew it was bad because the doctor had tears in his eyes when he was telling me exactly what was wrong. He told me that I had stage 4 breast cancer with metastases in my bones.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

I’d had a dream 2 weeks before I was diagnosed that I had cancer in my left shoulder and needed to have my arm amputated. When the doctor told me I had cancer, I knew it was the only thing that could explain the amount of pain that I was in. It made perfect sense to me after that.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

I have neuropathy in my feet and keep smashing my toes with my walker wheels. As a result of this, I ended up in the ER early one morning to get one of my toenails removed. After having to explain to the nurse and the doctor that I have stage 4 breast cancer and am getting chemo as a course of treatment, the doctor turns to me and says, “What are they hoping to accomplish by giving you chemo?”

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

My mom stayed with me in the hospital after I was first diagnosed. When I started treatment, she would stay with me in the hospital from 8 or 9 in the morning until 8 or 9 at night. She takes me to most of my treatments in Lloydminster and my tests and Dr’s appointments in Edmonton. She spent most of the summer with me while she was off work.

My best friend Morgan has been there for me since I was diagnosed. She would drive to Edmonton from Calgary to visit with me in the hospital. Most of the time I would sleep through the visit but she would sit there with me so that I knew I wasn’t alone. She also drives to Wainwright to take me to some of my treatments and appointments.

Online Facebook communities are a good source of support for me. It’s been 10 months since I was diagnosed and some days it’s still hard to wrap my brain around this diagnosis. I’ve found help and support from other young women that have or had breast cancer. It’s encouraging for me to be able to talk to people that understand my situation and the challenges I face every day and going forward.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

I can’t have kids. Before it was always my decision to have kids or not. If I chose not to have them it was because I was invested in getting an education and then working to further my career. Now the choice has been taken away from me.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

I can stay positive when faced with stage 4 breast cancer and its challenges. I’ve been told that there is no cure. That at some point I will eventually die from cancer. That is fine because someday we all die; I just know what I’m most likely going to die from. Facing breast cancer doesn’t mean that I have to give up on living my life to the fullest just because I’ve been presented with a new set of unique challenges. It just means that I have to rethink how I approach things and change my perspective of the world. My goals in life have changed. I want a simple life and anything I do in the future has to be reasonable and realistic.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

As tough as this fight might seem, you are never alone because there is always someone that will be there to support you, even if that someone is miles away.

For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.

Name: Nicole Hood

Age: 33

City: Ottawa

Occupation: Student & Researcher

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 31

Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (ER/PR Positive & HER-2 Negative)

Breast cancer stage: Stage 2

Treatment: Mastectomy (right side), auxiliary dissection (right side), 5 rounds of FEC-D chemotherapy, 23 rounds of  radiation, left prophylactic mastectomy + expanders

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.

I love all things Boston Terrier. I have two of my own. They are the two pups in the photo with me; Gus is on front right and Gizmo is on the left. The photo was taken during a hike in Gatineau Park on the Mackenzie King Estate in Oct 2015.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

Marvin Gaye’s “When I Feel The Need”. It has this beat that, no matter how sad I am, makes me move from side to side and smile.

How did you discover your breast cancer?

My Boston (Gus) was jumping up and down on the right side of my chest (in Oct-Nov 2013) and I felt a bit of pain, and noticed dimpling. But I thought that it was just because I had gained a bit of weight. However, by late Dec 2013 I noticed that my breast was caving in from the middle where the breasts meet to the nipple, and the nipple was also starting to cave in on itself.  By January I was worried because the dimpling turned into the whole one side of my breast caving in and the nipple 90% gone, but I still figured it was probably cysts or a lumpy breast. I was only 31 and didn’t think I could be affected by breast cancer that young; especially since I had no family history of it.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

I pretty much already knew because when they sent me home with the information about the biopsies they were going to do, they gave me a ‘chart’ that said how likely I was for having cancer – a really confusing chart. So, when I happened to see my GP on campus I asked her ‘ok, if it isn’t cancer, what is it?’ She said to me that I had about a 98% likelihood. So, long story short, I wasn’t too surprised when I was given the full diagnosis. I went straight into ‘fight mode’ where I had tunnel vision – which pretty much lasted until the end of radiation.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

I have had a few people say something along the lines of ‘Gee, don’t you feel lucky that it is only breast cancer?’ and some would expand to explain that breast cancer is ‘curable’ and won’t kill you like other cancers.

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

My family was so incredibly supportive. My mom and dad were behind me no matter what. But my husband was there for me when I wouldn’t let anyone near, even though he hates hospitals and could not stand going anywhere near them. He was also the one who helped me with my drains after surgery, gave me my needles, and shaved my head when my hair fell out (though he kind of had fun with shaving my head and seeing me be bald like him for a few months).

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

Identity. I found that once my breast was removed and I lost my hair, I had a hard time attempting to figure out who I was as a woman. I am hoping that reconstruction will help me to adjust to a new ‘normal’ and figuring out my identity as a young woman who does not have her own breasts and has lower-than-normal chances of conceiving. It is also difficult to experience the mock-menopause from Tamoxifen and Zoladex treatments, especially the hot flashes because it isn’t as accepted among young women.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

I think that looking back on everything that has happened since diagnosis, I am blown away by how strong I have been. Some days I cannot believe I was able to get through everything I have had to deal with.

What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Take in as much information as you think you can handle, and above all, only you know what is truly best for you.

For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.

I was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive breast cancer in July 2015. Although I was devastated with this diagnosis, I was pleased to find out that I was a candidate for the Oncotype DX test due to the characteristics of my tumour.

The Oncotype DX test determines the likelihood of cancer recurrence and whether or not the risks of chemotherapy would outweigh the benefits for a particular individual. I was shocked and very disappointed to find out that Nova Scotia’s MSI program does not currently cover the Oncotype DX test, despite the fact that research has shown it to be a very effective test and many other Canadian provinces do cover the cost of this important test.

I believe that Nova Scotians deserve to have the Oncotype DX test done if their oncologist feels that they could benefit from it. I did end up having the Oncotype DX test done and it definitely changed the course of my treatment for the better. I received a low score on the test which meant that I would NOT benefit from having chemotherapy. As you could imagine, this was a huge relief for both myself and my family.

I am a mother of 2 young children and if I were to have unnecessarily undergone chemotherapy it would have negatively impacted both my family and society as a whole as I would have been unable to work for the last 6 months. As it turned out, I was only off work for 3-4 weeks.

I believe the cost of the Oncotype DX test would pay for itself several times over in savings from unnecessary medical expenses, as well as increased tax revenues from patients being able to quickly return to work, as I did. Chemotherapy is toxic and has many side effects that often lead to future health problems which would put financial strains on the Nova Scotia health care system in the years to come.

In addition, I saw my oncologist in November and he discharged me from his care since I did not end up needing chemotherapy. Thus, freeing up the healthcare system for people that need it and saving MSI money, as I no longer need oncology followup appointments since I did not have chemotherapy.

I think that the Nova Scotia government needs to realize that the Oncotype DX test can save the province significant amounts of money in the long run not to mention the mental and physical anguish it can save breast cancer patients. I am very thankful that I had the Oncotype DX test and feel that other Nova Scotians deserve the opportunity to be spared the toxic effects of chemotherapy which in turn will also save the province money rather than being a penny wise and a pound foolish.

Sincerely,

Sarah (a breast cancer survivor)

Want to help our campaign to fund Oncotype Dx in Nova Scotia? Share this post, send a tweet, send a letter and let’s make this happen!