Hometown: Montreal, Quebec
What was your diagnosis? Breast cancer
What school did you attend? Vanier College
What are your career goals?
To be happy in whatever I do. I can do anything I put my mind to. I like changing and learning new things, but I am not, in any way, career driven.
What is your occupation? Educator
Your cancer experience:
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis? Felt a lump
What was your age at the time? 37
In which hospitals were you treated? St Mary’s, Lakeshore and Notre Dame
At what level of education were you at diagnosis? I was already done with school
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed? Thoughts were: “Really? So soon?”
How did your family react?
They were quiet at first, then they wanted to know facts. After that, I think they cried quietly and away from me. They wanted to show me that they were able to be strong for me.
How did your friends react?
My very good friend held me when I was overwhelmed and listened when I was upset. Other friends that I thought would be there for me suddenly couldn’t. but on the other hand, friends who were out of the picture for years came out of the woodwork and just hung out with me. We had nice, peaceful get-togethers that were full of laughter. They got me out of my funk and stopped the cancer train for a bit.
What did your treatment consist of?
Surgery: I knew I was going for a total bi-lateral mastectomy, but they surprised me when they took my left nipple. I was upset about that.
My treatment was 12 weeks of AC chemo (lost my hair three weeks after first treatment). The second round of chemo, Taxol, was another 12 weeks, every single week, until Dec 31. Then I did five weeks of radiation, every single day.
Physically: AC was pretty rough. At one point I wanted to throw myself out the window, praying for a rock and a quick death when I landed on my head. That was chemo infusion #3; awful. I had terrible mouth sores and my skin was ultra sensitive. My hands were on fire.
The Taxol was better but I have a little nerve damage in my extremities. I don’t have feeling in the tips of my fingers and toes. I had lost my finger nails as well. They’re back now.
Radiation was yuck because I had to travel so far. One hour in and one hour out of downtown for a 15-minute blast. I was pretty exhausted but I still tried to do extra stuff at home unsuccessfully.
Emotionally: I felt alone. I felt like although I knew some people with cancer, I couldn’t connect with them because I was younger and because in my head, I thought I was the same person I always was. But I wasn’t full of energy, I couldn’t keep busy to forget and I felt guilty and selfish for putting my children through this stupidity. People weren’t there the way I wanted them to be there for me, so I pulled away from everyone. I figured this was a lone journey and I became a hermit. I stopped talking to people and shut myself away. For a little while I was in the darkest place I had ever been in my life. And there I was, alone. I didn’t want to be with my husband or my children because every time I would be with them, I would cry. I was depressed and I had failed as a mom. I couldn’t cook or clean and I certainly didn’t have reserves of energy to dip into, so I felt guilty for only being able to fold a load of laundry that whole day, or cut up some carrots for an after school snack.
I faked it when friends or family would call, said I was fine and that I had this in the bag. I lied.
What is your current medical status?
I think I’m in remission. I took preventative measures because the cancer is hormone driven, so I removed my ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix on September 29, 2014. I get a sweet boob job and reconstruction on December 17, and I am so looking forward to having a new, functional body. I can’t wait.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis?
Well, I’m kind of excited because I don’t ever have to wear a bra. So, WIN.
Cancer has helped and humbled me. I feel more real now. I don’t take things for granted as much and I love my days on earth. I make short term plans and I also live right here in this moment. I take my time and I cherish people more. I see them differently. One never knows where a person’s been and what they’ve gone through, so I’ve learned to be patient with those around me. To learn from them and listen more. To hush up and breathe.
What is the toughest part of your challenge? To have patience.
What was the best lesson you took away from your challenge? Knowing that “this too shall pass.”
What really motivates you to keep going? Trying to think of little goals I can make for myself.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? Have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I wasn’t as hopeful about life and I wouldn’t think too much about the future but now that my energy is coming back slowly, I’m planning more.
What are some preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
Baby steps. Take cancer in small sections instead of the entire demoralizing thing it most certainly is. Look at it like a job, a contract you will be rid of soon, because sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t really like doing. And count down, that helps. And be patient with yourself and your recovery. This too shall pass.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I did, but I found they were a bit fakey fake. And old. Too many old people complaining. Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance? My frame of mind wasn’t what it is now; maybe I’ll go back and give things another try.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
I’ve come a gigantic, long-ass way emotionally because of YACC. I really do owe a lot to them. I attended Retreat Yourself Ontario in April 2014 and came home a changed woman. I wasn’t alone after that and I could breathe again because I saw light. I didn’t feel useless because I also helped others that weekend. Strangers turned into friends, and powerful connections brought me a new sense of hope. I drew my energy from all these young people and I learned more about myself through them. The whole weekend helped me heal in more ways than I can count.
Are you interested in helping others facing cancer challenges?
ABSOLUTELY! I’m Daniela Lemmetti, you can contact me through YACC.