#YWBC Profile: Valerie
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!!
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