Name: Kara Peseski-Morel
City: Toronto, ON
What was/is your diagnosis? Breast cancer
What year was it? What was your age at the time? 2009 and 2011. 29 and 35.
What is something you’ve done that you’re really proud of? Learning Sign Language.
What is a top item on your life to do list? Checking things off my bucket list!
What are your hobbies? Cooking, cross stitching, hiking, biking, dragon boating, travelling, and reading.
What was your life like before your diagnosis?
Before my first diagnosis, life was pretty normal. I had a great job and I was happy.
Life before my second diagnosis consisted of many doctor appointments, scans, tests, results, but I also lived my life as well. I didn’t let cancer take over. Recurrence was always in the back of my mind and I did have a go-to plan IF I did get diagnosed again. I was in a groove, I had found someone who loved me and had just gotten engaged.
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
The first time I was diagnosed I found the lump myself. I did not believe the doctors’ “Oh, it’s just a cyst” diagnosis and pushed for more. Once it was taken out and biopsied, I was given the diagnosis.
The second time, I had no symptoms, it was caught on one of my MRI scans!
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
The first time I was diagnosed, I was in shock and that’s how I think I managed everything as well. It wasn’t until after all treatment was done that I thought, “Wow, what just happened?”
The second time, I was ready. Like I said, I had a go-to plan and it was put into place! I just wanted to be finished with everything.
In which hospitals were you treated?
Princess Margaret, Mount Sinai, Toronto Western, and Women’s College.
What did your treatment consist of?
Diagnosis #1: Five rounds of chemo and 35 rounds of radiation. Physically I was sick, had thrush, everything tasted gross, felt like throwing up all the time. I didn’t know what to expect. Even though I had spoken to a few people, everyone’s experience is different.
Diagnosis #2: Six months of horrible chemo again, no radiation. I was not as sick this time, but I was so tired. The six months was also a killer. It was in the dead of winter, so it was always gloomy out and that didn’t help matters either. Physically, I don’t think I was as bad and I was more stable emotionally this time around. It was also helpful that I had my fiance this time, who was a great strength. I did get a blood clot in my lung this time as a side effect from chemo, which I did not know could happen! It’s amazing what doctors forget to tell you.
What is your current medical status?
Life after cancer:
How is life different for you now post diagnoses?
My life is much different now. 2016 marks 10 years since my first diagnosis; it seems like ages ago!
Physically I am definitely not where I would like to be, but because of the hormone drug I am on, they say it is impossible to lose weight. I only have one more year of that drug though, so I am looking forward to that date!
Emotionally I am actually at a really good stage. I have learned throughout these years (especially with the help of YACC) how to deal with issues that may arise.
Socially, you really get to know who your friends are. With all the YACC events I have attended, I feel that the people I meet there are more like family, there is such a strong connection and bond. Some of my non-cancer friends either get what I’ve gone through and have helped a great deal, or don’t get it at all.
What is the toughest part about having cancer as a young adult?
I think one of the toughest parts of having cancer as a young adult is seeing your other friends grow more (relationships, jobs, moving out, etc.) while you are stuck in a hospital or in bed.
What really helped you to keep going while you were sick?
The first time, I stayed positive, knowing I could kick cancer’s ass and just focusing on that! I had the same mindset the second time, and also having my fiance around to support me helped a great deal!
What kept you busy during treatment?
I don’t really remember much about the first time during treatment. The second time, my wait time was much longer than my actual chemo time, so in the waiting room my mom and I would do word searches to pass the time.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? How did it happen?
I attended a Retreat in 2006, a couple of Survivor Conferences, Retreat Yourself Adventure 2015 (broke my ankle there 🙁 ) [EDITOR’S NOTE: Kara’s broken ankle was not a result of the planned activities! Don’t be afraid to come; it’s really fun!]
Did you feel isolated from your peers since your diagnosis?
No, I don’t think I could say that I felt isolated on either diagnosis from my peers.
Did anyone talk to you about fertility options before treatment?
Yes someone did talk to me, but I wasn’t planning on having children anyway.
How has your cancer experience affected your body image and your relationship to your body?
Oh yes, I had to get to know my body much better. I had to accept all the scars and what they stood for! I have a whole new body — that I did not like — but once I understood the reasons and learned that I will be able to do something about it in the future, I have come to accept the way I am!
What are some lifestyle changes you’ve made since your diagnosis?
You only live once. If you want to do something, do it! LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE!
Stay in touch:
What would you like to say to other young adults dealing with cancer who are reading this profile?
Cancer f&*!ing sucks! But here at YACC, we get it!
Are you interested in helping others facing cancer challenges? If so please let us know how you can be contacted.
Yes, please get in touch via email.
If you are interested in emailing Kara, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to forward it on to her!