Time’s Up

May 30, 2024

For the last two years Adrienne’s life has been a very special place. Thanks to the results of the “Baby Study/Positive Trial” showing no worsening of breast cancer outcomes for young women who interrupt hormone therapy for hormone-receptor positive breast cancer to have a baby, my girl was able to gain the support of her treatment team to go off the ovarian suppression drugs and try to conceive. Much to everyone’s delight she was able to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby girl whom she has been nursing since the little one’s birth in February of 2023. While this is not always possible or some mothers choose a different option, Adrienne’s non-irradiated breast was able to do all that her daughter needed and she loves every bit of their breastfeeding relationship. Nevertheless, the agreed-upon two-year interruption of the ovarian suppression drugs is up and because they are not safe for breastfeeding babies, she has to stop.

I have watched her struggling with the process over the last three months and I wondered if it had something to do with the why and this week she confirmed my suspicions.

“Mom I don’t want to be a cancer patient again. I know I never actually stopped 

being one but for a while there it was just kind of passive. And I’m so scared because it 

means menopause AGAIN not to mention all the other fun side effects.”

Could you hear my heart breaking just then?

I have known her cancer patient identity was in the background while her life was full of so much anticipation and joy. However, although it may have been passive in her mind all this time, it was not in mine. I fully supported her decision and am thrilled with the outcome, but I have been anxiously watching the months tick by towards her getting back on the only thing the medical system can give her that may stand between her and a recurrence. I know it is not a guarantee, but it is something, and because she is my baby I’ll take it.

My mantra has always been that this is not my cancer diagnosis so it is not about me, yet I have to acknowledge how much I have struggled with keeping my thoughts to myself lately. I remember how it feels to soothe a little one who just bumped their head as they learn to stand by nursing the pain away and I don’t want Adrienne to have to give that up if the two of them aren’t ready. This is a situation, however, where two things can be true at the same time. I don’t want her to have to give it up, but the reason she has to may mean she’s with us a little longer…hopefully a LOT longer…so I want her to take the drugs. Right now Adrienne has to make a choice she doesn’t want to make but all I keep thinking is, “I’m so thankful you’re still here to make it.” I want her to be here to make all kinds of hard choices in the years to come. Like I said to her at the beginning of all this when she asked if I thought she was doing the right things… I just want her to live.

I want her to live long enough to watch her little girl grow up the way I have watched her. I want her to kiss booboos, hold hands on a walk to the park, and cry on the first day of school. I want her to be there for the first boyfriend and (inevitable) first heartbreak, to teach her daughter how to drive and help her fill in job and school applications. I want her to look in the mirror and notice the first grey hair on her head and (most likely) pluck it out because she’s doing the one thing that so many of us take for granted. 

She’s aging.

In this moment all I can do is bite my tongue and prepare to hold my girl’s hand as she once again becomes the cancer patient and steps fully back into living a life adjusted. I will kiss the booboo in her spirit and do my best to ease this heartbreak. I will try to remind her how to manage hot flashes and the emotional rollercoaster she’s embarking on as she is thrust into chemical menopause for the second time. And I will howl at the universe that this can’t be happening to my baby. My baby who is still here to choose to take the drugs that may help her live. Trust me when I say that I know how lucky we are that I get to say that. 

And to my girl who I am sure is reading this and finding out for the first time how much I have been struggling…I love you most the end I win.


chocolate

Mother…Grandmother…Librarian…Military Spouse…Caregiver…Family Life Educator…take your pick! Debbie Legault was born in British Columbia, Canada to a former RCAF airman father and a Scottish War Bride mother and has lived in other Canadian provinces, Germany and California.  She has been married for 36 years to a Canadian Air Force Veteran and credits him with filling her life with adventure.  When Debbie Legault’s children look at family photos they often comment on how many different hairstyles she has had and that pretty much is her story, that her life has taken as many turns and led her down as many paths as her hair has changed! Her latest role is as the author of Mom…It’s Cancer, the story of supporting her 27-year-old daughter, Adrienne, as they experienced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.


Read more from Debbie on her experience as a caregiver to her daughter, here.

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