Hometown: Amherstburg, Ontario
What was your diagnosis?
Invasive ductal carcinoma and carcinoma in situ in the left breast. Estrogen positive.
What schools did you attend?
McGill University – BCom
Université de Montreal – MBA
What are your career goals?
Currently working as a fundraiser and hoping to attend nursing school in the next couple of years.
Your cancer experience:
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
I felt a lump in my breast and went to a clinic the next day to check it out. They told me it was probably just a cyst but sent me for an ultrasound just in case. During the ultrasound they took a sample (which should have tipped me off something was wrong) and the next workday, I was called in as my doctor received a fax that it looked to be cancer. The official results came in two days later.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
2007; I was 30-years-old.
In which hospitals were you treated?
Lachine Hospital for surgery and Montreal General Hospital for chemo and radiation
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
I had already achieved my MBA and was working in fundraising for McGill University.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
Am I going to die?
How did your family react?
They were devastated but very supportive. My mom was really strong right from the start. It took my dad a few days before he could even speak to me because he was so emotional. I think he just felt so helpless.
How did your friends react? Were you treated differently, or did things remain the same?
My friends were incredibly supportive and some even flew in from out of town to stay with me during chemo. I loved the fact that they did not treat me differently and if fact would make silly joke about things like my hair falling out to make me laugh. They helped me find the humour in all of this, which I am very appreciative of.
What did your treatment consist of?
I had surgery less than two weeks after I was diagnosed—lumpectomy and auxiliary node dissection. I arranged for day surgery and was out that evening. Before starting chemo I underwent a fertility procedure to remove my immature eggs and mature them in a lab followed by freezing them so that I could use them when I want to have kids just in case the chemo rendered me infertile. I then had four rounds of A/C chemo followed by six weeks of radiation. I also began taking tamoxifen after chemo and just recently stopped after having taken it for four years. At all times, I was an outpatient.
As for the non-medical side, it was up and down. Emotionally I stayed pretty positive but physically, the chemo took its toll and the anti-nausea drugs caused weight gain and water retention. I felt so unattractive. I kept exercising and lost some weight but the tamoxifen ruined that for me as it also caused weight gain. I used to work out five or six days a week, ate very healthy, and could not lose a pound. But now I am off the tamoxifen and am starting to see the difference. I just need to keep exercising and eating right!
On the plus side I found out that I look great with a shaved head!
What is your current medical status?
Fit as a fiddle. The only lingering question is my fertility but it is looking positive as I got my period back during tamoxifen and now that I’ve stopped the medication it is fully back to normal.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis?
I really live life to the fullest. Once I was better I found a job in Dubai and packed up and moved there exactly one year after I was diagnosed. I have travelled all over the world and have no plans to stop. Being outside my comfort zone has now become comfortable.
What was the toughest part of your challenge?
Seeing what my cancer did to my parents. It was really hard on them. My dad can’t stand to see me in pain so he had a really hard time. I always tried to have a smile on my face but there were tough times so seeing me in pain caused them pain.
What was the best lesson you took away from your challenge?
To live each day to the fullest and to always pay it forward.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
Knowing that one day I could help people going through the same thing I went through.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I know now that cancer is not a death sentence and that life can go on as usual. It has definitely changed my life but only for the better.
What are some preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
Know your breasts and stay away from things that we know cause cancer like smoking.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I join one for women who were much older than me but couldn’t relate to a lot of what they were talking about. The age difference made a huge difference.
I didn’t feel like I fit it so I stopped going. It was not a good experience so I didn’t know of anything for people my age but I would have loved to have found one.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
I was referred by someone I met at Willow.