For Naomi Pickersgill, living with metastatic breast cancer and being confronted with her own mortality has been a “roller coaster of emotions.”
Adriana Capozzi of Bradford, Ontario, was diagnosed in October 2014 with HER2-positive, Stage III breast cancer. She received four months of chemotherapy and one year of Herceptin, along with a bilateral mastectomy and 25 rounds of radiation.
I have never been a fan of roller coasters, too much up and down, made me feel sick. Ironically, my life seems to have become a gigantic roller coaster ride!
For Shelley Scott of Winnipeg, a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis in November 2016 had a silver lining.
“It helped me appreciate the moments of my life rather than worrying about what might be, which is kind of a gift,” she says.
She tells the story of two coworkers she knew who planned a big trip for the time when they both were retired. They never made the trip because one of them died.
In August 2016, Erin Richard of Sydney, Nova Scotia was diagnosed with triple negative metastatic breast cancer. She was only 39 years old.
I learned about “timely and equitable access” to oncology drugs at the Canadian Breast Cancer Network's metastatic breast cancer advocacy training in 2013. I was the first in Canada prescribed Perjeta, days after Health Canada approved the drug. My oncologist shared exciting trial results about dual blockade (using two drugs simultaneously against breast cancer). The trastuzumab emtansine (TDM-1) trial had closed days earlier. Another combo was available but it was “back pocket.” The caveat was that it wasn’t funded but my extended health insurance benefits agreed to pay. On route to my first infusion, I penned a sign: BELIEVE. We did. I had dozens of liver and lymph mets and my liver was failing. After two rounds, I had normal liver enzymes and after three, normal tumour markers.
I was born and raised in Southern Alberta and moved to Calgary to attend university and eventually raise my family here. I am an active senior who enjoys singing with a Calgary performing group, travelling with my husband, watching sports and movies on TV, spending time with my two daughters, who both live in Calgary, keeping in touch with my granddaughter, who now lives in Victoria, and watching my grandson grow up and enjoy his activities.
On July 19, 2011, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With a 10-month-old son, I was still glowing with the joy of motherhood—but when a lump that I had been attributing to breastfeeding challenges refused to go away, I decided to see my doctor.
My life changed forever once I received the phone call no one wants to get early one morning in March 2015. My surgeon was on the other line with the results from my recent biopsy. The lump that was supposed to be only a pesky cyst was indeed cancerous. The surgeon further explained my diagnosis. But the only thing I heard was that I had cancer. My world felt like it was spinning out of control.
On November 3, 2011, I received a phone call while waiting in line to pick up my sons, 2 and 4, from school. On the other end of the line was my wife’s GP advising me that Kate had a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. The ensuing months brought bewilderment, fear and anger. I struggled to find a way to express what was happening to our family and to provide care.
When Kim Bulpitt was diagnosed in March 2016 at age 53 with breast cancer, it wasn’t her first experience with serious illness. The Kitchener, Ontario resident was previously diagnosed in 1979 with kidney disease, in 2008 with Parkinson’s disease, and in 2012 with osteoarthritis resulting in replacement of both knees in 2014.
In August 2015 when Tanya Figg of Coaldale, Alberta was six months pregnant with her second child, she was diagnosed with Stage III invasive mammary breast cancer. Her immediate thought was “what did this mean for me and my family?”
In 2014, Krista Dumas of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, was shocked to receive a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer at the age of 33. The cancer was in her liver and L5 vertebrae.
In 2013, I wrote a “My Life after Breast Cancer”, for CBCN’s Network News Spring 2014. It had been four years since being diagnosed with locally advanced, triple negative breast cancer, three years since the end of treatment. I was cancer-free and well, appreciating my bonus years.
When the nurse phoned me at 8:30 a.m. on December 15, 2015 to ask if I could make it to the hospital the same day, I knew it was serious. Receiving confirmation that same morning that I had breast cancer was devastating.
When I was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, I really did go into shock the first few weeks. I think it's wrong to say that the diagnosis is the start of your journey. It is by no way a journey. It's a bad trip as far as I'm concerned.
In 2003, I was a happily married, active, stay-at-home mom in Calgary, Alberta, where I was born and raised. I was 46 years old and filled my days going to the gym to work out, volunteering at the school and church, and running an active household. My son was 13 and my daughters were 11 and 8 at the time. I felt healthy and not overly stressed.
“Great to see you back to your normal self,” a friend said to me recently. I nodded, and smiled my best fake smile. It’s been three years since my original diagnosis of breast cancer, two years since the end of treatment, and 18 months since my bilateral mastectomy. I've been bald, radiated, sliced, diced and pieced back together. I am strong. I am happy. But I am nowhere near “back to my normal self.”
I found a lump in my left breast by accident in the summer of 2006, shortly after I had turned 40. After a mammogram and biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was multicentric DCIS and quite aggressive. In short, this led to a whirlwind treatment and surgery plan that involved chemo, a bilateral mastectomy, radiation, a hysterectomy and eventually reconstruction surgery.