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Currently, Canadian breast cancer patients are presented with a standard of care that often includes treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy. We have even seen breakthrough targeted treatment drugs like trastuzumab (Herceptin) and CDK4 inhibitors, but breast cancer is still the second leading cause of death in females (under age 50) next to lung cancer. So what is the new frontier for breakthrough cancer treatment? A new type of treatment is currently in the works, known as Immuno-Oncology (immunotherapy), that causes less damage to surrounding healthy tissue and target tumors that modern technology is incapable of even recognizing. Here is what you need to know!

What is Immuno-Oncology?

Immuno-Oncology (I-O), sometimes known as cancer immunotherapy or just immunotherapy, is a method of treatment that activates your body’s natural immune system to fight cancer cells more efficiently and effectively. While naturally fighting off viral, bacterial and fungal infections, your immune system can be re-directed to target cancerous cell growth through intervention with synthetic, or natural materials.

How does it work?

In order for the immune system to provide an effective defense, it must first be able to identify these cancerous cells. Immunotherapy allows the body to recognize these cells, and stimulate a subsequent immune response. The immune system can be tricked by cancer cells. Cancer cells are mutated from normal cells and they develop ways to escape from being recognized by immune system detector cells. In addition, immune system fighter cells can be deactivated by cancer cells.

How does it differ from chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy works by targeting, and killing, cells that are in the process of cell division. While all cells go through this process, the rapid life cycle of cancer cells lends its self to a much higher frequency of division. Unfortunately, other cells such as hair follicles, and gastro-intestinal cells also grow at this fast pace, making them more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy drugs.

Unlike Chemotherapy, immunotherapy aims to increase the capabilities of the immune system, by promoting the body’s natural defense mechanisms, rather than killing the cancer directly. While its affects are not yet as conclusive as the former, immunotherapy has greater potential to be customized to individual cases. 

Are there promising immunotherapy trials for breast cancer?

 There are many ongoing clinical trials researching the application of immunotherapy as a breast cancer treatment option. In particular, there are two studies currently under way assessing the efficacy of a combination of immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. These trials are incredibly important, as they allow new treatment methods to enter the global market, and may positively impact those who have not responded to traditional treatment methods.

(More information on these trials is located here and here)

How does one become eligible for such trials?

 Each trial will have its own set of specification, and eligibility criteria for determining participants. These qualifications may include past treatment methods, the type of breast cancer they are looking to treat, as well as the stage the cancer has progressed to. There are a wide variety of trials available, so it’s important to do your research, and consult your health care team to be sure the trial is right for you.

 What is the future potential of immunotherapy?

While immunotherapy is relatively new in its application of treating breast cancer, we’ve seen great results with its other uses in treating other types of cancers including melanoma and lung cancer.  Clinical trials are an important part in determining immunotherapy’s potential as a breast cancer treatment method, and whether it could become the potential standard of care down the line.

What are the potential challenges or pitfalls?

Although it’s exciting to consider the benefits of this course of treatment, it’s also important to explore the downsides. Unfortunately, the efficacy of immunotherapy is difficult to predict, only rendering positive results in specific types of cancer, where success rates have still been low. Additional clinical trials will be required to determine other biomarkers, while resistance to these therapies, high treatment costs, and potential patient reactions, present further barriers to success.


To learn more about immunotherapy, consult the sources below:

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/immunotherapy/what

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5480967/

https://www.cancerresearch.org/immunotherapy/cancer-types/breast-cancer

http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/chemotherapy-and-other-drug-therapies/immunotherapy/?region=on

There is big news in breast cancer research. Results of the TAILORx study were released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that many women with the most common type of early breast cancer may not need to be treated with chemotherapy.

Huge news? Yes, for a lot of women. The possibility of avoiding the serious side-effects of chemotherapy is a big deal.

But with every new study, it’s critical look past the headlines to understand the specifics of the study and how it applies to the real world of treating breast cancer. So, let’s break it down.

What did the study find?

Women with early-stage breast cancer that is hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative and node-negative and have a mid-range Oncotype DX recurrence score (RS) do not need chemotherapy after surgery. According to the study’s authors, chemotherapy can be avoided in about 70% of women with this type of breast cancer.

It’s important to remember, this group of women should still treat their breast cancer hormone therapy.

What about young women with breast cancer?

The numbers are a little different for women under 50. For this group, the cut-off point to forgo chemo is an RS score of 15, (compared to an RS score of 25 for women over 50). This means about 40% of women under 50 with this type of breast cancer could be spared chemotherapy.

Researcher have speculated that the chemotherapy suppression of the ovaries and their hormone production may explain the small benefit observed in younger women with RS 16 – 25.

What is Oncotype DX?

It’s a genomic test that looks at the tumour’s gene expression. It helps predict the likelihood of the cancer recurring and which patients are most likely to derive a large benefit from chemotherapy. Before this study, patients with a mid-range score (10 – 26) were given chemo as a precaution.

Rethink was very involved in advocating for government funding of Oncotype DX in a number of Canadian provinces. If you’re diagnosed with early-stage hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negatvie, node negative breast cancer, ask about your Oncotype DX test score when you talk to your oncologist about your treatment plan.

What does this mean for breast cancer patients now?

This research is another great leap towards more personalized cancer treatment – this continues to be the way of the future. But along with that, it’s important to remember that the findings don’t apply to every type of breast cancer or every patient. It’s simply not a one-size-fits-all approach. As always, if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s important to talk with your doctor about what treatment plan is right for your type of cancer.


Click here to read more about breast cancer research

 

Esthetics can be so much more than a visit to the spa for a facial. Meet oncology esthetics: treatments that are specially designed to meet the needs of those living with cancer. Think calming facials and massage with modified techniques. We asked Jennifer Brodeur, a Montreal-based skin strategist and celeb skin guru (she’s worked with Oprah and Michelle Obama) all about this specific category that she’s so passionate about.

How did you become interested in oncology esthetics?

My initial love for skincare was fueled by an extraordinary woman Gillian McStay, the mum of my childhood best friend.  Sadly, she passed away from cancer when we were teens. It deeply affected me. However, it took another loss before I made the decision to get involved. My godmother Ulla (who was a force to be reckoned with) also lost her fight with cancer. I was asked to do her eulogy and, as I spoke, I could feel the anger rising inside of me. I knew then that I wanted to do something to help. I remembered her talking about how itchy her scalp was, and all of the other undesirable side effects from the treatments she was undergoing. It was then that I started my search and was driven to get involved in Oncology Training International trainings. I wanted to focus on a number of these aspects to help people with cancer cope with disease-related changes that can affect their body image and physical appearance during treatment. Oncology esthetics is an integrative approach to cancer care, which takes into consideration the importance of the dimensions of feminity, a patient’s identity and helps them regain a positive relationship with their body.

What kind of certification is required to practice oncology esthethics?

An esthetics degree is required to enroll in the class. We also have nurses who take the course. Once the class is taken, there is a test to obtain the certificate. We also urge students to do refresher classes every couple of years as things change rapidly. It is also imperative that students do a certain amount of hours working with oncology esthetics patients in order to gain hands-on experience.

How does oncology esthetics differ from traditional esthetic treatments?

From product selections to treatment protocols, it’s vital that the appropriate steps are taken to ensure a safe treatment. Advanced trainings are also crucial as cancer fighters and survivors can benefit from most spa/beauty and wellness services, everything from acupuncture, massage, essentrics, yoga and facials. When you consider as many as four in 10 people will get cancer in their lifetimes, there is a demand based on this staggering reality. It is estimated that there could be 23.6 million new cases of cancer each year by 2030.

Why is this service an important part of your job and life?

Working with women, helping them see their true beauty from within even in the most difficult and vulnerable moments means the world to me. That all starts with empathy, touch and education. Aging is a privilege denied to so many and we take it for granted. This is why I refuse to use the “AA word” (anti-aging).

What are the biggest lessons your work has taught you?

We have a tendency to worry too much. When you work alongside women who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but still manage to wake up every morning with a smile, I think we can all learn from that. It takes unimaginable strength and perseverance. I have a much better perspective on what’s really important.

What kind of innovation is taking place in oncology esthetics that people would be excited about?

A lot of progress is happening in Europe. Hospitals are getting on board, thanks to the incredible work being done by Angela Noviello in Italy. Clinical studies are being conducted to show the benefits of self-care. We seem to be creating a change, which I am very excited about. We want these changes to come to Canada. I would love to work more in collaboration with oncologists, therapists etc. Together we can make a difference.

Can you talk about the importance of safety in the oncology esthetics space?

Safety is key. It’s important to address the challenges and constraints of treating patients with cancer in a spa setting. Wellness treatments must be modified to accommodate all of these challenges and constraints. Bedding and some linens need to be modified as well. Treatment protocols and products being used all need to be taken into consideration.

An example would be the NADIR count (the blood cell count, particularly white blood cell count and platelet count, which is a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation therapy). If the count is too low, it’s best to reschedule.

What kind of beauty products do you recommend for those undergoing treatment (or even post-cancer treatment)?

What’s left out of the product is as important as what’s in the product. I recommend the same for both men and women who are undergoing treatment and even post treatment. My philosophy is always less is more. I recommend staying away from any ingredients that can be a potential risk to the acid mantle (skin) as they cause sensitivity, inflammation etc. For example: silicones, chemical screens, sensitizing colorants/perfumes, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, essential oils and drying alcohols. Also, it’s not the time to exfoliate excessively.

When I created my skincare line, peoni, I had oncology esthetics in mind. I wanted all health challenged skins (from Cancer, Lupus, celiac, MS, etc.) to have safe skincare and it influenced the ingredients that I included in the products.

 


 Jennifer Brodeur, founder of JB Skin Guru, is a female entrepreneur, teacher, and skin strategist with over 20 years of experience in the beauty industry. She is also the French director and educator at Oncology Training International. For more info. on oncology esthetic services or the Peoni skincare line, visit jbskinguru.com

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Take-home cancer treatments, or in simpler terms a pill that can be taken outside of the hospital setting, are the future of treating many types of breast cancer (and many types of cancer for that matter). Read on to learn the five most important things to know about these innovative medicines.

Treatment is Treatment.

The only difference between a cancer treatment taken by IV in the hospital and a cancer treatment taken at home in pill form, is the way the treatment is taken. Both are effective, and most often patients don’t have a choice – their oncologist prescribes what’s best for their cancer and it may only come in a pill.

Pipeline of Promise.

For breast cancer alone, most of the newest treatments are in pill form and taken at home, with more than 10 others expected in the pipeline.

Mind the Age Gap.

In Ontario, patients who are between the ages of 25 – 64 face two different cancer systems. One for IV treatments taken in the hospital that is fully funded. And another for treatments taken in pill form at home that includes delays, administrative challenges and out-of-pocket costs for the patient.  If the best treatment for your cancer only comes in a pill, get ready for added stress and a significant hit to your bank account.

Go West, Young Woman.

BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba treat cancer drugs equally, regardless if they are taken at home or in the hospital. Patients get their approved treatment without delay or any out-of-pocket cost.

Home Sweet Home.  

Not only do cancer treatments taken at home offer patients less travel and more time with loved ones, they also can save money to the health care system, keeping patients out of the hospital.

Rethink is a member of the CanCertainty Coalition, the united voice of 35 Canadian patient groups, cancer health charities, and caregiver organizations, which have joined together with oncologists and cancer care professionals to significantly improve the affordability and accessibility of cancer treatment. Learn more at www.CanCertainty.ca.

SIGN OUR PETITION TO DEMAND EQUAL FUNDING FOR CANCER DRUGS

This is CANSWER HIVE. Tips and insights shared directly from Rethink’s Young Women’s Network (RYWN).

We asked the CANSWER HIVE which products have been the most helpful during treatment and post-treatment. From mouthwashes, to pillows, toques, lotions and more- find out why these products made the list of favourites. 
Laura says:

Under arm pillows and zero gravity chair post surgery made for comfortable sleep.

Shelley says:

Unscented lotions. Warm socks. Awesome toques. Blankets. Headphones for during treatment or waiting rooms or late nights.

Dee says:

My friend loaned me her kindle which was helpful because I would fall asleep or forget where in the story I was. Some books were too heavy to hold up and I couldn’t rest them on my belly post surgery.  Comfortable, easy to get into clothing.  I agree with the anti gravity chair/recliner.  I napped in one that was easy to get up from. People that made me meals saved my sanity.  Good hats, toques, scarves.  Glaxol base lotions for radiation burns. Headphones to listen to podcasts and music when the insomnia would become brutal.

Joy says:

Glaxol base lotion was the best thing during and after radiation! My skin was extremely dry and sore. It was the only thing that worked and provided relief. Nothing else came close and I literally tried everything.

Rachel says:

My cooling gel pillow that kept me cool at night during my hot flashes. That thing was a life saver.

Stephanie says:

Heart pillow for support and elevating the arm away from the lumpectomy and lymph node surgical site.

Miranda says:

Biotene mouthwash and toothpaste for dry mouth!  Parkhurst hats and toques (from the Bay or MEC) that are extremely soft fleece and wool combo that didn’t irritate my sensitive bald head.  I agree with the Glaxol base lotion for radiation burns and after-care.

Christine says:

Glaxol base lotion for radiation and natural baby wash for during chemo. I used it as soap and makeup remover and to help clean sore crusty eyes.

Heidi says:

Coconut oil for EVERYTHING! and a cream conditioning shampoo such as Renpure for conditioning bare scalp instead of drying shampoo.

Emma says:

Lint brush was my everything when my hair was falling out!

Sarah says:

Heating pad for bone pain during chemo was a life saver.

Melanie says:

Green beaver toothpaste in apple or orange. It was the only thing that didn’t irritate my mouth sores.

Emily says:

Pur mints for chemo and Herceptin infusions – they tasted awful!

Erica says:

Thermometer. During my chemo there were many nights when I got the chills and my temperature went up. I kept my thermometer (the one you put in your ear) right beside my pillow. It came in always super handy.

Kelly says:

True and Co. makes a super soft front clasp bra that was a life saver for surgery and radiation. Also, the high fashion radiation gowns by ‘radiant wraps’ were cozier than the nasty hospital gowns

Contrary to popular belief, breast cancer isn’t one-size-fits all. There are many different types of breast cancer out there.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer is often overlooked because it’s rare and it doesn’t produce the “typical” lump that we search for during a breast exam with your doc or when you are examining your own breasts. But it’s important to add Inflammatory Breast Cancer back into the conversation. Here’s what you need to know about it.


1. DEFINITION:

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer that tends to affect younger women the most.

It occurs when cancerous cells in the breast block the skin’s lymph vessels – causing the breast to become swollen, or inflamed. Inflammatory breast cancer progresses fast and is usually either Stage III or Stage IV by the time it is diagnosed.  While it is a more rare form of breast cancer than the other types out there, it is most prevalent in women of African ancestry and women in developing countries.


2. SYMPTOMS:

Unlike other types of breast cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer doesn’t typically appear as a breast lump.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer’s symptoms are created from the build up of fluid in the skin as a result of cancer cells creating a blockage in the lymph vessels. Most often this looks like a swollen breast, red or purple-ish skin, bruising, or dimpled skin (similar to an orange peel). However other signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer include an increase in breast size, inverted nipple, itching or burning sensation, thickened skin, and tenderness or pain.


3. DIAGNOSIS:

Inflammatory Breast Cancer is tricky to diagnose since there are not necessarily breast lumps that appear on a scan or to the touch.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer is also more often found in women with dense breast tissue, which is known to make mammogram screening more difficult. Since Inflammatory Breast Cancer is so aggressive, it can sometimes develop in between regular screenings and progress quickly. Because of the unique nature of this kind of breast cancer, diagnoses usually occurs in two steps.

SYMPTOM CHECK:

  • Whether the symptoms mentioned above have been present for less than six months.
  • Whether the swelling and inflammation (called an erythema) takes up more than 1/3 of the breast.

SCREENING METHODS:

  • Mammogram AND ultrasound of the breast and surrounding lymph nodes.
  • Biopsy samples to check for benign or cancerous cells.
  • PET, CT, and/or bone scans to see if the cancer has spread .

4. TREATMENT:

Inflammatory Breast Cancer tumours are often Hormone Receptor Negative, meaning they cannot be treated with hormonal therapy (HT), which is a common treatment option for other types of breast cancer.

There are a variety of treatment options for those diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, some are as follows:

CHEMOTHERAPY.
This is usually the first kind of treatment given to after diagnosis. The goal is to kill all the cancerous cells in the breast and anywhere else in the body.

SURGERY.
There is a high likelihood of recurrence for Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Because of this, breast-conserving surgeries are not offered. Surgery options include: a modified radical mastectomy or an axillary lymph node dissection.

RADIATION THERAPY.
Often given after chemotherapy in order to reduce the risk of recurrence.

HORMONAL THERAPY.
If the Inflammatory Breast Cancer is hormone receptor positive, hormonal therapy drugs can be used (often Tamoxifen for women who have not reached menopause yet).


5. PROGNOSIS:

Prognoses differ from person to person. It’s best to consult a doctor who’s familiar with your personal and family medical history in order to get an accurate prognosis.

In general, because of its aggressive nature, the five-year relative survival rating for women with Inflammatory Breast Cancer is lower than women diagnosed with other forms of the disease. However, it is really important to know that there are a number of personal factors (including medical and family history) that will affect specific cases.

Additionally, more and more clinical trials (the opportunity to test out new treatments and medical advancements) are becoming available to women diagnosed with various types of breast cancer. Check out our YouTube video to find out how you can access these kinds of trials!

What is precision medicine and why does it matter when treating Stage IV breast cancer?

If you’ve already heard of precision medicine, what you’ve read likely fell into one of two camps. One point of view: it’s our ticket to sci fi-style healthcare. On the flipside, it’s an interesting tool, but certainly not the healthcare revolution we’ve been hoping for.

It’s a complicated topic, and we’re just at the very beginning of understanding how precision medicine will change healthcare, and breast cancer treatment in particular. But we do know that the truth isn’t as black and white as Wired’s perspective vs. The Atlantic’s. So, here are four things you need to know about precision medicine, and why it’s especially relevant for metastatic patients.

It’s really about targeted treatments.

The key to precision medicine is data—when doctors can identify exactly what tumour markers are specifically causing someone’s cancer, it’s easier to develop a targeted treatment.

Under our current system, each disease has a “standard of care,” or treatment protocol that is determined by scientific studies and survival stats. (In oncology, each type, stage and grade of the tumor has a standard of care.) There’s a reason medicine works this way—it’s an evidence-based approach where treatments have been studied and proven to work for most people, most of the time. If that first-line treatment doesn’t work for you, there are second- and third-line options that are also based on stats and outcomes.

Precision treatments help make therapy more customized. Doctors can now analyze the genes found in a tumour to look for the mutations that can cause cancer and often prescribe drugs that target cells with that mutation, destroying them and leaving healthy cells alone. Women with stage IV HER2-positive breast cancer, for example, may be prescribed trastuzumab (Herceptin), which binds itself to the HER2 receptors in a tumor cell and blocks them from receiving growth signals, which then slows or even stops the tumor from growing.

When it comes to precision medicine research, breast cancer is one area of healthcare with lots of potential—but it’s still early days.

In the breast cancer world, genetic testing is familiar territory. We already know that women with BRCA1, BRCA2 or PALB2 mutations have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. And targeted treatments, like Herceptin, already exist. But while we’re already pretty far along compared to some other diseases, there’s still far to go. Researchers are currently trying to identify other mutations and, more importantly, the drugs that target them.

Instead, doctors may just need a blood test to determine exactly what medication a person’s cancer will respond to—and what it won’t. This doesn’t mean just fancy new targeted treatments, by the way. A genetic test might reveal that your cancer will respond best to chemotherapy, or a combination of chemo and a targeted drug.

Either way, time is one of a metastatic patient’s most valuable resources, and this approach has the potential to save a lot of time.

Some of the benefits (like progression-free survival and better quality of life) are particularly important for women with metastatic breast cancer.

Precision medicine won’t just improve survival rates for women with metastatic disease. In fact, in the short term, the benefits are likely to be incremental. But those small improvements include an important impact on quality of life, since patients won’t have to try treatments their cancer may or may not respond to—and similarly, won’t have to suffer through side effects for medication that may not.

This might seem like a small victory, but quality of life is particularly important for metastatic patients. They don’t have time to waste—they’re living with a disease that will shorten their lifespans and eventually kill them. But the hope is that targeted therapies can keep their health stable so their focus can stay where it belongs: on spending time with loved ones and their own emotional well-being.

But there’s a serious economic downside to precision medicine, and we have to address it before some women are excluded from the benefits.

Precision drugs are only part of the story, but they’re an important one. Some combination treatments, which combine targeted drugs and chemo, have shown really promising results — one study found pertuzumab (Perjeta), chemotherapy and trastuzumab can extend life by 16 months, a massive amount of time for women with metastatic breast cancer. It’s true: these drugs are expensive. Developing them costs a lot of money, as do the clinical trials that are necessary to get them approved for use in Canada. But to the women with metastatic breast cancer, to whom more time is so valuable, they are also worth the cost.

Up next: we delve into exactly why cancer drugs, from targeted therapies to traditional chemo, are so expensive.

 

On June 21st, 2017, Rethink partnered with Aphria to host our second annual Medical Cannabis and Cancer Care forum. If you weren’t able to join us, here’s what you missed. And, if you were there, here’s a recap! 


On June 21st it was all about medical cannabis and cancer care. There was a great turnout as people were eager to hear about the latest in medical cannabis information, research, and advocacy.

THE QUESTIONS:

How can medical cannabis help someone who is undergoing cancer treatment?

How can someone access medical cannabis in Canada?

Why is there so much stigma around medical cannabis use?

What needs to be done in terms of medical cannabis education for health care professionals and government agencies in Canada?

THE CONCLUSIONS:

Ultimately, it was concluded that there is still a lot to be done for medical cannabis research and education in Canada. Our panelists argued that without proper education as to what medical cannabis is and how it is beneficial, the stigma about its use cannot and will not be reduced.

But, in the mean time, we must continue to advocate and educate – focusing on the breakthroughs in research around medical cannabis and cancer care, as opposed to vilifying the plant because recreational use is not yet legal in Canada. Patients have the right to ask for a second opinion if their doctor refuses to suggest medical cannabis as part of their treatment plan. And, ultimately, as Canadian citizens, we “vote with our wallets” (Erin Prosk) by choosing to support trustworthy cannabis clinics/centres and raising the standard of care that they offer.

If you weren’t able to make it to the forum and you want to know more about medical cannabis and cancer care:

Check out the full recording of the forum on our Facebook page!

A BIG THANK YOU

Thank you to our amazing panelists, Dr. Vincent Maida, Lynda Balneaves, Erin Prosk, Beth Harris, and Julie Vickaryous. And thank you to Aphria for partnering with us in making this forum possible.

November 5 2009, 1:23 PM

I have a high tolerance for pain.  Anyone who knows me well – family members, doctors, estheticians – will confirm this.  My husband and I agree: I am tough. Not French Foreign Legion tough, but maybe Canadian Special Forces tough.

However, for the last 12 hours and, to a lesser extent, for 48 hours before that, I’ve been enduring wave after wave of intense abdominal pain. I emit weird primal noises and make fists and kick one foot around like a dog dreaming of chasing rabbits… And then the pain passes and, like a crazy person, I type some more.

It’s the drugs – my hitherto mild-mannered capecitabine and lapatinib are now mercilessly kicking my butt.  Causing stomach cramps, intestinal cramps, nasty, painful, crampity-cramps and no small measure of the trotskys…

If it were possible to be punched in the solar plexus and kneed in the nuts while in labour, that’s how I feel.

I have a hot water bottle pressed against my stomach at all times. My husband makes them so hot they have to be wrapped in gigantic towels for the first couple of hours. I may have poached my innards. Don’t care – the relief is glorious.

My mom is now here, taking over where my husband left off when he went to work this morning.  She has fed me mashed bananas and electrolytes and soda crackers. She is busy in the kitchen now – I can hear her over my own weird primal noises; the comforting sound of her clattering around down there.

Another wave is coming.  I really need to stop with the typing. Viva Imodium! Charge!

Name: Karen

Age: 27

Occupation: Recruitment Advisor

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 27

Breast cancer type: Breast Cancer, Hormone Positive/HER-2 positive

Breast cancer stage: IV, metastasized to bone

Treatment: Currently undergoing 9 months of chemo/adjuvant chemotherapy – then TBD

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

I love painting! I don’t consider myself a Picasso by any means, but I have several of my paintings hanging in my apartment

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

There are quite a few – I have a specific “chemo vibes” playlist that I have on repeat the day before and the morning of chemo rounds. My favourite song on there is Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”

Currently really digging Bruno Mars “What I Like” as well

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I felt the lump myself, and made an appointment right away. It was initially dismissed as an infection, but when antibiotics didn’t do anything and the lump continued to grow rapidly I went back and went through the ultrasound/mammogram/biopsy process.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

I immediately thought about my family and friends – how was I going to tell them? What did this mean for me? How much of my life was I going to miss out on?

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

“At least it’s breast cancer and not something worse” and also “Well, you’re going to get a new pair of boobs!”

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

My family and friends. I have been absolutely blessed with an amazing group of people in my life who have really rallied around me, especially in times of need.

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

Dating/relationships. It’s hard enough to navigate the dating scene anyway, let alone when you have a diagnoses like cancer, how do you let someone know? Is it fair to bring them into this situation?

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

That I’m capable of pushing through what seems like the darkest days and continue to be positive and happy – I’ve learned to appreciate what’s important in life and to be grateful for what I do have.

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

The diagnosis makes it feel like the world is crashing down all around you, and you don’t know how you’ll ever make it out of the rubble – but fight, fight hard one day at a time. Pull your army in close, educate, and advocate for yourself. Sometimes it can feel like the diagnosis has taken over, and you’re just a shadow of your old self, but don’t let that happen – you’re still YOU!


 

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