#YWBC Profile: Lindsey Coshell

Name: Lindsey Coshell

Age: 29

City: Calgary

Occupation: Human Resources Coordinator

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 28

Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, triple negative

Breast cancer stage: Stage 1

Treatment: Bilateral Mastectomy and Chemo

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

I love museums! Every city I visit I enjoy going to a local museum. I am not fussy on the type of museum; what I really enjoy is learning about something new. Every time I visit a new museum I always bring home a new trinket from the gift shop. For example, I recently visited the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa where I learned about our planet and its growth through time, from dinosaurs to man. For my trinket, I bought a glow in the dark glass jellyfish to remind me of what I learned and the wonderful experience.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

My go-to-pick-me-up songs are ‘Brave’ by Sara Bareilles and ‘A Little Too Much’ by Shawn Mendes. When I was first diagnosed with cancer my sister sent me a video called ‘Brave’, and it was Sara Bareilles’ music video. This song gave me so much strength to take on surgery and chemo. After chemo was finished, I heard the song ‘A Little Too Much’ and the words instantly resonated with me. They reminded me of how I felt during all the hard times I had experienced in those 12 months.

How did you discover your breast cancer?

In February 2013 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I visited her in Halifax shortly afterwards and we were discussing her diagnosis and treatment. After my mother was diagnosed, she became a strong advocate for breast health. So, when I returned home to Calgary, I decided to book an appointment to see my family doctor to better understand my mother’s situation, my personal risks, as well as the proper way to perform a self examination. During the exam, my doctor noticed a lump in my right breast, at which point we both decided I would go for testing, ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy. Six months after my mom was diagnosed, I was diagnosed.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

I will never forget that day! The doctor asked my husband and I to come in for an appointment, closer to end of day. We sat in the doctor’s office together for what felt like forever, and then the next thing I knew a resident came in talking about my options. All I could think when she came into the room was, Is she in the wrong room? I don’t have cancer, why are we talking about options? That is when she looked at me and said, “No one has told you yet, have they?” clearly reading the look on my face. After that moment all I could think was ‘I can’t have cancer, I am only 28 years old, I just got married, I just bought a house, I just started my career, my husband and I were going to try to start a family! How is this happening? Why me?’

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

I was sitting waiting to meet with my plastic surgeon and a lady turned to me and said, “You have cancer!” It was never a question; it was almost like an announcement. She said it as if I was a question, and cancer was the answer. She made me reflect on myself, even though I thought I looked really good that day – I had done my makeup, I was feeling really good and I got this cute new hat that I thought hid my bald head. After hearing her cruel, but truthful, words I was shaken and upset. I know her words should not have bothered me, but they did. After all – she wasn’t wrong, was she? I thought “is it that obvious? Do I look sick?” But after that moment, I realized that people will have to take me as I am. This is me, and I am a strong woman.

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

My husband, mother and mother in-law have all played a significant role in supporting me through my diagnosis and recovery. Words cannot express how thankful I am to have them by my side, along with all my family and friends, throughout this experience. Without their love and support, I could not have gotten through it. They stood beside me and gave me so many encouraging words and the strength to keep moving forward. They lifted me up to help me fight harder and be stronger.

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

My first thought when reading this question was losing my hair; this was the most challenging result of being a young woman with breast cancer. I identified so strongly with my hair, I was always so proud of it and took such good care of it. It was hard to accept the fact that soon I would be bald. What made it even more difficult was when I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes. Up until that point I could almost pretend that I had chosen to shave my head, that it was voluntary instead of forced. However, when I started losing my eyelashes and eyebrows, it was harder to hide. It made me feel like I was sick, and something really was wrong. And then I realized that may hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes aren’t what make me who I am. They are all superficial things, my true self is what is inside and as long as I stay true to myself I will get through this experience.

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

As a result of my cancer, I truly learned what I was made of. I learned how strong I am, how much I can handle, and how loved I am by all those around me. I began to believe more in myself and what I am capable of overcoming. But most of all, I learned the importance of laughter, love, and hope during difficult times.

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

Don’t be scared to ask for help – it’s okay to need it, you can’t do everything alone.

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

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