#YWBC Profile: Nicole Hood
Name: Nicole Hood
Occupation: Student & Researcher
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 31
Breast cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (ER/PR Positive & HER-2 Negative)
Breast cancer stage: Stage 2
Treatment: Mastectomy (right side), auxiliary dissection (right side), 5 rounds of FEC-D chemotherapy, 23 rounds of radiation, left prophylactic mastectomy + expanders
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.
I love all things Boston Terrier. I have two of my own. They are the two pups in the photo with me; Gus is on front right and Gizmo is on the left. The photo was taken during a hike in Gatineau Park on the Mackenzie King Estate in Oct 2015.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
Marvin Gaye’s “When I Feel The Need”. It has this beat that, no matter how sad I am, makes me move from side to side and smile.
How did you discover your breast cancer?
My Boston (Gus) was jumping up and down on the right side of my chest (in Oct-Nov 2013) and I felt a bit of pain, and noticed dimpling. But I thought that it was just because I had gained a bit of weight. However, by late Dec 2013 I noticed that my breast was caving in from the middle where the breasts meet to the nipple, and the nipple was also starting to cave in on itself. By January I was worried because the dimpling turned into the whole one side of my breast caving in and the nipple 90% gone, but I still figured it was probably cysts or a lumpy breast. I was only 31 and didn’t think I could be affected by breast cancer that young; especially since I had no family history of it.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
I pretty much already knew because when they sent me home with the information about the biopsies they were going to do, they gave me a ‘chart’ that said how likely I was for having cancer – a really confusing chart. So, when I happened to see my GP on campus I asked her ‘ok, if it isn’t cancer, what is it?’ She said to me that I had about a 98% likelihood. So, long story short, I wasn’t too surprised when I was given the full diagnosis. I went straight into ‘fight mode’ where I had tunnel vision – which pretty much lasted until the end of radiation.
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
I have had a few people say something along the lines of ‘Gee, don’t you feel lucky that it is only breast cancer?’ and some would expand to explain that breast cancer is ‘curable’ and won’t kill you like other cancers.
Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?
My family was so incredibly supportive. My mom and dad were behind me no matter what. But my husband was there for me when I wouldn’t let anyone near, even though he hates hospitals and could not stand going anywhere near them. He was also the one who helped me with my drains after surgery, gave me my needles, and shaved my head when my hair fell out (though he kind of had fun with shaving my head and seeing me be bald like him for a few months).
What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
Identity. I found that once my breast was removed and I lost my hair, I had a hard time attempting to figure out who I was as a woman. I am hoping that reconstruction will help me to adjust to a new ‘normal’ and figuring out my identity as a young woman who does not have her own breasts and has lower-than-normal chances of conceiving. It is also difficult to experience the mock-menopause from Tamoxifen and Zoladex treatments, especially the hot flashes because it isn’t as accepted among young women.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?
I think that looking back on everything that has happened since diagnosis, I am blown away by how strong I have been. Some days I cannot believe I was able to get through everything I have had to deal with.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Take in as much information as you think you can handle, and above all, only you know what is truly best for you.
For more wisdom on being young with breast cancer check out Rethink Breast Cancer’s Care Guidelines here.