How did you find out you had breast cancer?
I noticed a change in the look of my breast and set up a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. My family doctor set me up for a mammogram and we did an ultrasound at the same appointment. The following week, I had a biopsy on three breast tumors and was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, a cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands and has the potential to spread to other areas of the body. I was scheduled for a bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts) in six weeks. Three weeks later, I had my first PET scan and was diagnosed with metastatic (Stage 4) breast cancer about 10 weeks after my original appointment.
What has treatment looked like for you?
It was eventually determined that I have multiple locations of metastases (locations where cancer has spread) to my bones. My oncology team decided on using endocrine (hormone) therapy, which includes monthly injections, oral medicine, and intravenous medicine to strengthen my bones. I’ve been on this treatment for four months and my first scan during treatment showed that I had no progression and was stable.
What has helped you the most during your cancer journey?
The support from my family and friends have certainly helped the most. My husband took time off work, unpaid, for four months to help me after my mastectomy. That time means everything to me. My family and friends check in frequently and give me space to talk about my feelings and keep me filled with hope and strength. I’ve found other people online and in my community who are also on their cancer journey and their wisdom is so valuable.
Do you have any advice for those supporting a loved one with breast cancer?
I think the best thing you can do for your loved one is to just be there. It is so hard to know the right thing to say, but know that you don’t have to say anything at all. Just being there and listening is such a gift. I know it is important to stay positive and hopeful, but we need the space to feel the lows as well as the highs.
Being a caregiver is sometimes a thankless and difficult job, so be sure to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually as well. It is okay for all of us to ask for help.
What encouragement or advice would you give to those fighting breast cancer?
Cancer can be a gift that helps you identify what you truly value in your life and helps you prioritize your time and attention. It is also important to advocate for yourself and trust your gut. Lastly, you are not alone on this cancer healing journey.