I am a 43-year-old mother of two amazing children, I have been in love with my wonderful Martin for 20 years now and I am a research professional in the health sector. Until August 2018, I was considered a breast cancer survivor. My cancer had been treated in the best way possible. My son was not yet one year old at the time (in 2012). I went through chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, a mastectomy and, finally, a breast reconstruction.
In October 2013, Allegra Kawa of Edmonton had surgery to remove both her breasts. She’s also considering surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus.
I remember the shock I experienced when I learned about lymphedema, a chronic condition with no cure that I would be dealing with the rest of my life. I was at a high risk for it as I had stage III Inflammatory Breast Cancer and I had all lymph nodes removed from my left arm pit. Twenty-five rounds of radiation to my chest and upper back also put me at a greater risk.
Living in a remote community like Labrador City, NL comes with its own challenges. We have one grocery store with very high prices, gas is $1.34/L, and we lack normal everyday amenities such as movie theatres and night clubs. Traveling out of Labrador means a very expensive plane ticket or driving 7-14 hours (depending on which direction you choose) on a partially paved highway that has often been called a cow path in some sections. The most critical challenge, however, is access to adequate healthcare. I experienced this firsthand when I was diagnosed with cancer.
So, we could begin like all meeting group sessions do:
— Hi, hello. My name is Rebecca, I'm 37 and I have breast cancer.
— Hello Rebecca.
We could. Yeah.
According to breast cancer survivor Cathy Hemeon of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, “Breast cancer patients offer up the best lived experiences and advice in terms of what the priorities should be for research.” Cathy, a CBCN board member, was therefore very pleased to participate in a national meeting that brought together Canadian patients, caregivers, and clinicians to set the top 10 priorities for research on post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.
We asked Tricia, a member of our patient advisory committee, to share her thoughts on our newest digital tool, the FinancialNavigator, designed to help connect patients with financial resources in their community. Here’s what she had to say.
I remember sitting in the small room waiting for the doctor to come in. I was nervous but didn’t think anything was wrong. The doctor came in and asked how I was. I gave my usual cheery response that everything was good but added that “it depended on what he was going to tell me…ha ha ha”. I laughed but my jovial manner quickly subsided when my doctor sat down and the words “it’s not good” came out. My heart dropped. He then said, “It’s cancer”. My heart dropped again.
In June 2015, I moved to London, Ontario and was recovering from a rather emotional and difficult time, having divorced in June 2014. I had moved from Sault Ste. Marie to be closer to my daughter with her husband and very young children. I would be seeing the rest of my family less often now – my parents, my two sisters, my daughter and her husband, and another granddaughter. and two step grandchildren.
My name is Alison Thompson and I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. To give you some background, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about 15 years ago. Her cancer was an aggressive form. It spread to her spine and brain, and she passed away about three years after the initial diagnosis.