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Name: Rose Anne Crisostomo

Age: 39

Occupation: Human Resources Manager

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 36

Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Breast cancer stage: Stage 2 (estrogen and progesterone positive), BRCA 2 POSITIVE.

Treatment: Six rounds of Chemo, 25 rounds of Radiation, Surgery ( which included a double mastectomy, fat grafting, expanders, and nipple tattoo)

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

When I was little most girls played teacher, I played lawyer. I asked my mom to buy me files, paper and pens and I would draft up divorce papers.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

Happy by Pharrell Williams

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time, and noticed a big hard lump on my right breast, as it was my first pregnancy I thought it was a clogged milk duct.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

I went numb. I did not cry until later that day, but I started to think, what’s going to happen to me?, what’s going to happen to my unborn child?, what about my family and friends?

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

If it was going to happen to anyone it would be you, your mentally stronger than I am. (my thoughts were….did she just really say that to me?????) Ignorance is bliss I guess.

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

I would not have made it without the help of my mom, who moved in with us for seven months (just after I was diagnosed with cancer) and took care of me, my husband and ultimately little Benjamin. At 72 years young, she stepped up to the plate and looked after us all. Through emotions, exhaustion, and never ending work of looking after a newborn, she was my rock, and my very best friend. Of course my husband as well, he was there for me at my lowest points, your know your marriage is strong when he has the strength to shave his wife’s head.

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

I think the unknown. You live your life day by day, but you really don’t know what the future has in store for you. You will always be nervous when you have to do routine blood work, and annual check ups. Neither my fight nor my journey is over, but I’m hopefully the worst is behind me.

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

I am stronger than I was before, and even though I’m not always confident, I know I am a fighter. I’m happy, and blessed to be alive.

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

Fight like crazy to get your life back because after all that’s what you’re fighting for: your life.

…………………………..

For more #YWBC profiles click here or to be featured contact Shawna@Rethinkbreastcancer.com

Tomorrow April 7th is World Health Day: A global health awareness day sponsored by The World Health Organization (WHO). This year’s focus is mental health. It is interesting to me that the World Health Organization has chosen this topic for their campaign this year. Surely there are other more important health crisis across the globe that trump (no pun intended) depression and mental health? Or are there?

According to a press release put out by WHO in March:

Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.

They go on to say that they have identified strong links between depression and “non-communicable disorders and diseases” meaning that people with, let’s say… CANCER have a higher risk of depression.

This is a huge acknowledgement in the psychosocial oncology world and one that people diagnosed with cancer need to be aware of. I have heard one too many times from women with earlier stage breast cancer that once treatment is over they felt like they were hit with a title wave of sadness and grief. These two questions linger once the dust settles:

What the F*%k just happened?

Followed by….

Why don’t I feel relieved and happy to be finished with that part of my life?

No cancer equals all better

There is a clear expectation that if you look good you feel better. There is even a program based on this assumption. Just because someone doesn’t look ill or the poster image of a cancer patient doesn’t mean that they are completely healed. There are often lingering physical and emotional side-effects (laundry list here), post-treatment or adjuvant therapies like Tamoxifen and the biggie – recovering from trauma.

Note: Those with metastatic or stage 4 cancer often experience some form of depression or anxiety that requires treatment. They are in perpetual fear and anxiety as they are scanned every 3-4 months.

Many people have heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when it comes to war or an act of violence, but often people don’t think of a cancer diagnosis as the cause of that kind of extreme stress. I am not sure if this belief comes from some sort of normalization of cancer in our society (the “everyone gets cancer” attitude) or maybe it is a belief that cancer is curable? A diagnosis can and does cause some people such extreme stress that 1/3 of people with cancer experience anxiety disorders or depression. That’s 32% of cancer patients according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2013.

Let me break down some examples of cancer related trauma:

Being diagnosed with the disease

THOUGHT: I may die.

Diagnosis of an advanced cancer

THOUGHT: This disease is incurable and I will die from it.

Painful tests and treatments

THOUGHT: People are poking and prodding me. My body is not my own.

Pain from the cancer itself or other physical issues

THOUGHT: I feel pain and my body is never going to feel the same.

Test results

THOUGHT: The cancer has progressed and attacked other parts of my body.

Long hospital stays or treatments

THOUGHT: I am in a place with sick people. I am a sick person. I am a cancer patient.

A cancer recurrence or the potential for recurrence

THOUGHT: I might get cancer again and there is nothing I can do to stop it or control it. I am at the mercy of this disease.

Often people don’t know they are experiencing any type of cancer related mental health issue until they are there, and they can sometimes feel quite shocked and ashamed. There can be feelings of guilt – you should be feeling grateful or “lucky” that you made it through and your body is showing no evidence of disease. Or you may feel pressure to be happy and to move on from the experience but you can’t.

Being Prepared

I know I say it a lot but I am going to say it again…wait for it…Knowledge is power! Especially when you are blind-sided by feelings that seem antithetical to what you think you are supposed to feel. We hear this with post-partum depression a lot. Here you are – you just had a baby. The joy and happiness you are supposed to be feeling is clouded by anxiety, fear and sadness. No one prepared you for this. You always wanted to be a mother and you always heard this is supposed to be the happiest moment of your life. And then it’s not.

I had post-partum depression and I remember desperately wishing someone had told me or warned me this might happen. Wishing I had the heads up and was prepared so that it was less scary and frightening when it came so that I could be pro-active and put supports and measures in place just in case…and I did with my second child.

It is important that those diagnosed with cancer are prepared in a similar way. While referrals are often made to psychosocial oncology resources DURING treatment, patients are left holding the proverbial bag after treatment. Many are not aware these support services are accessible once their hospital treatment is over, and most initially feel like maybe they don’t need them. This can leave you scrambling in your darkest hour when you are most vulnerable.

As mental health continues to get more and more attention as a health epidemic, it is important that we start with educating our most vulnerable populations. Healthcare providers need to acknowledge risk factors pre-emptively before it becomes a crisis so that those who are at risk can feel empowered to speak up if and when the time comes. They can also arm patients with tools and resources to determine whether they need help and where to go to get it.

The Check-List

The following is a great list from Cancer.net.

If you are experiencing the following, it’s time to follow up!

Mood-related symptoms

  • Feeling down
  • Feeling sad
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling numb
  • Feeling worthless

Behavioral symptoms

  • Loss of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends or family
  • Loss of motivation to do daily activities

Cognitive symptoms

  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Memory problems
  • Negative thoughts. In extreme situations, these may include thoughts that life is not worth living or thoughts of hurting yourself.

Physical symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Insomnia, which is the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep
  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
  • Sexual problems, such as decreased sexual desire

Note: The cognitive and physical symptoms listed above may be side effects of the cancer or cancer treatment. As a result, doctors place more emphasis on mood-related and behavior symptoms when diagnosing depression in a person with cancer.

Psychosocial-banner

For more on the Psychosocial click HERE!

Name: Catherine Jordan

Age: 36 (just celebrated my birthday)

Occupation: Accountant

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 35

Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma ER/PR+ HER2-

Breast cancer stage: Stage 3   T3N2a

Treatment: Surgery (mastectomy with reconstruction), hormonal therapy, and cannabis oil to manage side-effects.

I refused radiation for several reasons. One being the surgeons and the oncologist have conflicting opinions on this, the number of lymph nodes that were involved were not at a high enough percentage for me, considering radiation would only reduce my risk of re-occurrence by 10%.  The side effects and the general assumption from my first oncologist that I was going to do exactly what she told me, then when she went to set the appointment up they kept cancelling and she just assumed I was going to do it, so the last time the radiation doctor’s office called they wanted to confirm my start date.  I also did my own research by asking those who had been through it before and their experience both pros and cons.*

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

I am always up for an adventure, whether it be a road trip with my boys, friends or just myself embracing every moment and seeing the positive side to life.

cat-j2

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song? 

Further On – Bronze Radio Return

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I was showering when I dried off I asked my husband to check it out, we both were trying to figure out what I did.  We live on a farm so a lot of manual labor so I thought I just bumped something hard and was bruised.   Honestly I never thought it would be cancer

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

It was a blow to the stomach.  The first question out of my mouth was “What is my next step?”, my doctor told me a Nurse Navigator would be in contact with me and she was later that day.  I knew as soon as I was done talking with the doctor that I was having a mastectomy with reconstruction when I told the nurse navigator this she immediately scheduled an appointment with a surgeon and plastic surgeon.

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

There was lots!  One that sticks out is “Don’t worry it is just a tumor, once you have surgery there will be nothing to worry about.” Well after all said and done a 12cm tumor along with 4 out of 20 lymph nodes was something to worry about.

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

My boys (husband and two sons 8&5) they have been with me through it all and are so positive and always there to help or read me stories.  They were the reason I got up in the morning and made the most of every moment with them and still do.  My boys were always there to assist me or cheer me on, I am truly thankful for them.

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

The most difficult part was not having another young woman who was/is or had gone through this.  I live in a rural community and even our cities support wasn’t geared towards young women.  I will say though I am very lucky to have doctors and nurses that are taking my tough questions and finding answers or referring me to those who would be better able to answer my questions.

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

I reconnected with nature, I grew up on a farm and venturing through valleys, hiking in the mountains and just being outdoors.  I have been able to find myself, my true inner self again and life is a lot better.

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

Accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be.

cat-j3

*The profiles published on www.rethinkbreastcancer.com are from young women with breast cancer and are unaltered by Rethink Breast Cancer. The decisions and treatment plans discussed are not endorsed by Rethink Breast Cancer.

For more #YWBC profiles click here or to be featured contact Shawna@Rethinkbreastcancer.com

The big black mass on the screen was staring me right in the face, as I lay there topless in the ultrasound room.  Minutes ago the ultrasound technician ask me if I had an implant, that’s how large the tumour was. This big black mass occupied the entire upper part of my DD breast, you can’t blame the technician for thinking it was an implant. How did I get here? How did I let this happen? 10 months earlier I noticed the lump in my breast, I went straight to the doctor.  At that time they said it was just dense breast tissue. They said I was fine. That this “dense tissue” would “go away” when I had kids. It didn’t go away, it turned into stage 3 lobular breast cancer.

How does this happen to me?  I’m 31.

I’m young and healthy. I’m a vegetarian, I run, I don’t smoke. I thought breast cancer only happened to women over 50. Is that why my doctor never sent me for a mammogram? Because I was too young? Should I have asked for one? All these questions raced through my head, but this was just the beginning.

Being 31 I could hear the sadness in people’s voices when I told them I had breast cancer. “I’m so sorry” they would say.

The most difficult thing being so young was finding my voice. I realized from the beginning, since I was so young, I was over- looked.

My doctor had assumed I was fine. After my first ultrasound no follow up visit was scheduled, no plan was put into to place to monitor this lump in my breast.  Not only this, but my doctor gave me no guidance on what to look for, and what changes I should contact her with. I assumed everything was fine because my doctor told me I was. This lead to a 10 month delay in my cancer diagnosis. The only reason we finally did catch it was my persistent question “are you sure this lump is normal?”. When I walk into doctor appointments now I’m always told “you’re so organized”. I have to be now, I had to learn from this mistake. Before every appointment now I write down my questions, assume nothing and ask every question I damn well feel like asking.

The hardest thing being so young with breast cancer was connecting with women my age.

I remember walking into a breast cancer support group in Windsor and being the youngest person by 20 years!

When I met my friend Lisa in a chemo education class I exchanged numbers with her immediately. She was the one that made me finally feel  that I wasn’t alone, and that everything I was emotionally going through was normal. She too had breast cancer and whether we texted about what we were doing that weekend or that bitch of a chemo red devil, it was so great to talk to someone who could truly empathize.

If I could pass on any advice to someone just beginning their journey, is that you’re not alone.

Please find someone to connect with. No matter how strong you think you are, you need a cancer journey buddy. Someone who truly understands what you’re going through, and will know exactly what and what not to say. And finally, find your voice. You know your body better than anyone. If something doesn’t feel right, then ask questions and don’t stop asking till you get an answer.  Being my own advocate was what literally saved my life.

……………………………………………………………………………..

Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines for Young Women with Breast Cancer exist because young women like Mercedes get breast cancer. This holiday support a young woman in need and show you give a care by making a donation to our Give-A-Care line here.

Name: Valérie

Age: 31years old

Occupation:  Academic Assistant – University of Ottawa

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 30 years old

Breast cancer type: Diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In situ (DCIS) High Grade
After my surgery, another tumor was found and this one was Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
4 positive lymph-nodes
ER +
PR +
HER2 –

Breast cancer stage: 3A

Treatment: I had 3 surgeries:
1) Lumpectomy with removal of sentinel nodes.
2) Axillary lymph node dissection and removal of the positive margins of my tumor
3) Mastectomy
8 rounds of chemo every second week 4 AC and 4 Taxol.
25 sessions of radiation
Currently taking Tamoxifen and Zoladex

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer:  I love running and I plan on doing a race in each province to earn a meal from each province.

What’s your go-to pick-me- up song? To name a few:  Lost Boy by Ruth B, My House by Flo Rida, Let it go by James Bay and Messing Around by Pit Bull and Enrique.

How did you discover your breast cancer? August 2015 I was in the shower and noticed a lump on the top my left breast. I thought it was a cyst related to my cycle so I kept an eye on it and it never went away. In October I had an annual check-up with my gynecologist and told her about it. After a breast exam she said not to worry about it, that it was Fibrocystic Breast. I asked if I could go for a mammogram anyway because I knew something wasn’t right. She told me I was still young for a mammogram but that I could go for an ultrasound if I wanted. I said YES, obviously!!! The next week I had my ultrasound during which the technician told me I would need a mammogram right after. After both tests, I was brought into a back room and told I needed a biopsy. I lost it. I didn’t know what to think. To me it was like I heard “You have cancer!” One week later I had a biopsy and two weeks after that, on November 26th,  I received the official results that I had DCIS.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?  Since I had found my lump, I had the time to adjust to the idea of having breast cancer. I wasn’t as shocked as I was when I was told I needed to go for the biopsy.

I was still sad, upset and angry as I didn’t really understand what was happening. Why me? It was hard for me to tell my family and friends.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer? Will you lose your hair? But you don’t look sick. Will you get to smoke medicinal marijuana?

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?  I’ve met a few women with Rethink in Ottawa and also with a group of young adults with cancer in Gatineau. I don’t know what I would do without them. Most women with breast cancer are in their 60s or older and I find it hard to relate to them.  It is great to be able to talk to other women around my own age who understand what I am going through.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer? Feeling alone. As I mentioned earlier most women who go through breast cancer are older and already have kids and even grandkids. For me, knowing that chemo can affect my fertility is hard as I always wanted kids.  I had the chance to go to a fertility clinic and speak with a doctor before starting my treatments. In order to retrieve eggs for freezing, a patient undergoes a hormone-injection process.  Since my cancer is hormonal positive, I decided not to go ahead with this treatment.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer? I saw this quote online and I think it’s appropriate for this: “You don’t know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” I’d like to add: You need to be strong for not only yourself, but for your friends and family!

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?  Write a blog!  It will be a great way for your friends and family to stay in the loop with your journey. Smile and stay positive, as difficult as this seems, it will get better. You will have a new anniversary to celebrate each year and probably the best one – being cancer free!!

For more #YWBC profiles click here or to be featured please contact Shawna@Rethinkbreastcancer.com

 

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.

am4

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.

am3

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.

am2

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.

I always dread walking through the doors of the BC Cancer Centre. I first entered this building in 2010, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. I’ve been back more times than I can count, but never accompanied by my son Declan.

He doesn’t understand why we’re here, but is fascinated when we get inside the elevator. Having just turned one, he knows how to push buttons – both literally and figuratively – so I let him light up each floor from one to six. On the slow ride up, the doors open and difficult memories flood inside. From the elevator I see the waiting rooms where I used to sit nervously before my chemotherapy, herceptin and radiation treatments. We pass the floor where I attended a young women’s support group every month.

I remember discussing my fears about the possibility of not having children with women who were in the same position as me. None of us knew if we would be able to conceive after treatment, or if chemotherapy would push us into menopause.

We stop on the floor where I received painful Zoladex shots to essentially shut down my ovaries, in the hopes I could preserve my odds of fertility. At each floor Declan tries to dart out of the doors, but I kneel down and hold him in a tight hug. He doesn’t notice my face is wet with tears as I remind myself how lucky I am to be his mom.

We get out of the elevator on the sixth floor, where I dig through the diaper bag to find my prescription. I am at the pharmacy to pick up more Tamoxifen, the hormone therapy that reduces the chance of breast cancer recurrence. I’m halfway through my ten year treatment plan, although I did elect to stop taking these pills in order to get pregnant. My oncologist supported the decision to temporarily pause, despite not having the data to reassure me that it’s safe to do so. I’m back on the drugs now, contemplating if I want to join the Baby Time study and possibly try for another child.

My greatest joy is being a mother, yet I agonize that a recurrence could mean my family could be without one.

The pharmacist tells me the wait is thirty minutes. This feels like an eternity to a toddler, so we wander the halls. Everywhere we go patients chuckle while watching him take proud, wobbly steps. Nurses poke their heads out to see why there’s giggling noises in the quiet halls. He is not shy, and happily lifts his shirt to show every passerby his belly button. Declan approaches a young bald woman who is reclined under a blanket. She asks him for a high five, and he extends his chubby hand to meet hers. I wonder if she will face the same uncertainty I did about future fertility options.

When the prescription is ready we head down, again stopping on each floor. The elevator fills with people who are surprised to see a toddler reaching for the buttons and waving hello. I’ve never seen so many smiling faces at BC Cancer. A woman pinches his cheek and says “Well, aren’t you a star around here?” I grab his hand and say, “he’s definitely a star to me”. As we exit the elevator doors, I realize he’s the star I wished upon every night since I first walked into this building.

Joanna1Joanna May 2016

For more information the BabyTime Study contact Support@Rethinkbreastcancer.com or check for updates HERE.

The Call

Date: March 26

I’m Feeling: Winded

Doctor: “Hello, is this Sylvia Soo?”
Me: “Yes it is.”
Doctor: “I have the results from the biopsy. Are you driving?” (I’m in the car with my dad.) Me: “Um…no, I’m not. Is it bad news?”
Doctor: “We found something.”

I feel like I’ve just been slammed into a brick wall. I can’t talk to the doctor. I ask her to call me back. My heart beats faster but I appear to be calm. I say nothing to my dad and we continue the drive to my brother’s house. A thousand thoughts race through my mind.

When the doctor calls me back a couple hours later, her words whiz past me. I feel like this isn’t happening to me. Finally, I break when the doctor mentions chemo. The tears flow down my face and all I want is a hug.

For more of the Cancer Fabulous Diaries click HERE.

Name: Paige

Occupation: Stay at Home Mom

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 41

Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma T2 N1 MO Breast cancer stage: 2B Treatment: FEC/D Chemotherapy, double mastectomy, radiation

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

I used to have a major obsession with unicorns when I was a kid and I still secretly love them.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake

How did you discover your breast cancer?

Routine MRI screening due to my BRCA1 positive status

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

Because I am BRCA1 positive I knew I was very high risk so I wasn’t shocked, but I was disappointed because I hadn’t gotten to the preventive surgery in time. I immediately thought about my kids and how I was going to tell them and how they would take it. I was upset that they would have to deal with this at such a young age. What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer? I have been sent some crazy “cancer cures” including one that says if I eat whole frozen lemons, it will cure my cancer.

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

My husband has been amazing. He truly has been my rock. I think in some ways this has made our relationship stronger even.

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

The physical changes and worrying about being attractive to my husband after a double mastectomy and hair loss.

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

I have been more brave than I thought in some aspects and less brave in others, which surprised me.

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

It is a difficult process both emotionally and physically but your body is an amazing thing and even when it doesn’t seem like you’ll ever feel better, you will. Patience is your friend.

For more on what it means to be young and have breast cancer click here.

Name: Melissa

Age: 30

Occupation: Early childhood educator

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 30

Breast cancer type: triple negative

Breast cancer stage: stage 2

Treatment: chemo, surgery and radiation

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer: I enjoy spending time with my two beautiful boys who definitely keep me busy and distracted. I love to work out and stay fit. I’m very crafty and enjoy anything related to event planning, decorating and painting.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song? Right now I just listen to a lot of old school music from my favourite singer, Madonna. I also love listening to house music from Hardwell. I don’t have a particular pick me up song. Any song that has a good beat just makes me move.

How did you discover your breast cancer? I found the lump myself. I noticed it 2 months before being diagnosed but thought it could be a cysts. So I waited and monitored it and it wasn’t going away. It just didn’t feel right, not like my other cysts.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis? “Why me?” Was the first thing that came to my mind. I was only 29, and I finally felt I had my life all together and now I was faced with another challenge. I thought I’m so young and I want to be around to watch my babies grow.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer? I was told by a friend who had a different type of cancer not to do chemo. She referred me to a lady who treats her clients with natural remedies (Even though chemo is what helped her cancer).

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer? My Family and Friends!!! They have all been there since day one. Coming to my appointments, bringing me food and gifts, watching my boys, etc.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer? Feeling like your whole life is now stressful forever. Constantly worrying that it will come back since I’m so young. Watching my friends as they build their lives with their loved ones without stressing about their health and enjoying their young years. No one truly understands what I’m going through. Having young children too and being diagnosed is so hard. You stay strong for them but at the same time you wish someone was always around to help out with the housework, homework, etc.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer? I see life in a different way. Each day for me is a blessing. I’ve learned that my mind is such a powerful tool, and anything I put into my mind I do. I’m stronger than I thought which has been great during my treatments

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer? It sounds so scary when you first hear those words come out of the doctors mouth. It definitely gets better with time and you learn to accept it. The best advice I have is always be positive and live your life like you normally would whenever you can. Dwelling on negativity doesn’t help during the process, only makes the situation worse. It’s tough but we are strong and determined. Celebrate each milestone during your treatment. Celebrate your last chemo, goodbye to your tatas, when you are done radiation and finally cancer free. All those are celebrations so enjoy it with those you love.

Melissa2
For more on what it means to be young and have breast cancer click here.