#YWBC Profile: Josee Daoust

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.

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