Paula Mccoy

Paula_Mccoy - profileAge at Diagnosis: 37

Current Age (at time of profile): 38

Hometown

Born in Halifax, but now lives in St. Laurent, QC.

How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?

I had pain and redness on my right breast and I went to my gynecologist for a check up. At first she thought it was mastitis and she sent me for an urgent mammogram. There was a suspicious lesion on the mammogram so I ended up having a biopsy and they found a tumor deep inside my breast.

What year was it? What was your age at the time?

It was 2006 and I was 37 years old.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

I had already graduated college.

Do you work? Not currently, but I was a freelance writer for a small community newspaper

What was your diagnosis?

Breast cancer.

What are your career goals?

I would like to work in the writing field again or perhaps for the post office and write in my spare time.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

I was shocked and completely blown away. It was always one of my biggest fears, but I never thought that I would end up having it.

How did your family react?

They were shocked and saddened by the news; they found it hard to believe.

How did your friends react?I lost many friends when I told them that I had cancer. It was almost like they thought it was contagious or something. But I had a couple of good friends that stuck by me through the whole thing.What did your treatment consist of?Medical Side: First, I had a lumpectomy on my breast. I ended up with complications two weeks later, I had bleeding from the incision in the breast and it took a couple months before it stopped.I started my first round of chemotherapy on Sept 11, 2006. I had it once every week, four times. The first round of chemo made me feel sick and tired, it made me lose my appetite and it caused me to have a metallic taste in my mouth.The second round of chemo was once a week for about three months. That was hard to take. I started feeling better just when I had to go back and have chemo again. The second round of chemo was hard on me as I had a reaction to it each and every time. One time I broke out in a cold sweat and my blood pressure went very low.I was an outpatient through the chemo but I was glad when it finished. I had to wait three weeks after chemo before I started radiation. I found the radiation long and tiring as it was every day, it also burnt me and caused my skin to tear.Physically the treatments wore me out; emotionally I felt drained and wondered whether I would get through all of the treatments.In which hospital(s) were you treated?Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital.What is your current medical status? I have finished my treatment and have to have some tests in the fall. I am hoping that I will have a clean bill of health after these tests are completed.How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?Right now, physically, I find that I don’t have the same kind of energy that I had before the treatment. I was told that it would take a good 6 months or more to get my energy back.Emotionally, I feel like I have grown and changed in many ways. I think I am a better person than I was before. Spiritually, I feel that this journey with cancer has made my faith a lot stronger than it was. I struggled with it when I was first diagnosed but now I know it was by the grace of God that I got through the whole thing.What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?The toughest part was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Seeing the end of treatments. It seemed like I would be in treatment forever when I first started. I also worry sometimes about the cancer recurring.What is/was the best part of your challenge?I believe that it helped me to enjoy each day as it comes and never take things for granted because things can change so quickly.What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick? I had my friends and family that were there to encourage me. I was lucky enough to have good doctors and I also joined an organization called Chemo Angels that helps to encourage people while they are undergoing treatment.What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience? Live each day to its fullest and when you have a devastating illness, such as cancer, you really learn who your true friends are.What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis? To be honest, sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I had cancer and I found this journey through treatment very difficult to go through. I hope not to have to go through it again.What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours? The only thing I can say is be careful of what you eat and learn to do self breast exams so you can get to know your body and know when something is not right.Did you attend any support groups during your challenge? No, I didn’t but I did have the chance to talk to someone on the phone that had breast cancer and ask her any questions that I needed to.I felt much better being able to talk to someone on the phone, one on one. I found it much easier than being in a group situation.I found that it helped me very much.If you did not attend a support group, why? There was one [support group] available but I didn’t feel comfortable going to a group. I prefer more one-on-one than a group setting.I don’t think it would have helped me.How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer? I saw an ad for the retreat [Retreat Yourself] at the hospital where I have my follow up care and decided to check out the website. I think it’s a good site and it talks about some of the issues that I face right now.I think it’s a great site and very informative.