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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer


Our Voices Blog

Embracing a New Normal Through Strength and Hope

By Sherri Pierman

I want to share my cancer journey in hopes of helping someone going through it, to possibly help them not feel alone, and to help myself move forward along this journey by sharing it with others. I’ve had some dark moments –moments of feeling alone, moments of bottling my emotions, moments of refusing to talk about it, and moments of having to be strong even though I was crying inside. I had loving friends and family supporting me, but there was a lonely feeling that nobody understood what I was experiencing, and life continued on for everyone around me while mine came to a complete stop.

In September 2022, at the age of 45, I was diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. Before this, I lived a pretty well-rounded life as a mother, wife and an employee of 17 years at a steel mill. However, after my diagnosis, my life changed dramatically. I’m still getting used to my “new normal”. My life now consists of good days and bad days.

My cancer journey began when I noticed my right breast leaking. I honestly chalked it up to a hormone imbalance and thought nothing of it until six months later, when the leaking had not subsided, and my breast had become very itchy. During this time, I had also noticed how tired and fatigued I was every day. I found myself napping a lot and needing that nap to just make it through the day. I decided that I better make a doctor’s appointment to see what was going on with my body.

My doctor immediately scheduled me for a mammogram and bloodwork. During my mammogram appointment, I knew something was wrong because the radiologist wanted extra pictures of my right breast at different angles. Moments later, I was being moved to the ultrasound room to have a core biopsy done. At that moment, I knew something was definitely wrong, and it felt as though my heart stopped! I tried hard to keep thinking, “it could just be a cyst” but deep down I knew it was cancer. It’s that feeling of knowing your body and listening to what your body is telling you.

Waiting for the results of the biopsy and fearing the worst for the next week was torture! I couldn’t think of anything else, I couldn’t sleep, and found myself in a constant daze­— mix of depression, anxiety and the unknown. Finally, the results were in, and my fear came true.

I had invasive ductal carcinoma. At that moment, I didn’t cry. I couldn’t! I don’t know if it was shock or if it was me trying to be strong and not let my doctor see me break down. I had so many thoughts going through my mind at that moment: “Why me? What stage is it? Am I going to die? Am I going to lose my breasts? Did it spread?”

Life changed that day. I started to look at life from a different perspective—some positive aspects and some negative. During the next two weeks, everything moved so fast that my head was spinning. I had several tests, needles, procedures and appointments. I thought it would never end. I was so tired of being poked and examined. At the end of the two weeks, I had lumpectomy surgery to remove the tumour and four lymph nodes from my armpit. I was so relieved after surgery because I would finally have time alone in bed, resting and absorbing everything that was happening.

Two months after surgery, the numerous appointments started up again. My next procedure was to receive radiation tattoos—four little, permanent blue dots so that I could be lined up with the radiotherapy machine for each treatment. This ensures they treat exactly the same area each time. I received 21 rounds of radiation. My breast afterward was red and blistered, my body was exhausted! The cancer clinic was starting to feel like my second home.

I loved hearing others ring the bell to celebrate their completion of treatments. I looked at that bell every day and knew I would get my turn. When my day finally came to ring the bell, I smiled so big that my cheeks actually swallowed my eyes. I was grateful to be done with radiation and get on with my life.

Or so I thought. For the next 12 months I received Zoladex treatment in my stomach each month to stop my ovaries from producing estrogen and to stop feeding any cancer cells that might still be lingering. The first injection was the worst: instant menopause had slapped me in the face! Hot flashes, sore bones, sore muscles, and sore feet. I sat on the couch and cried because I didn’t feel like myself anymore and everything hurt so badly. After 12 months and 12 injections, I finally had surgery to remove my ovaries so that I could stop having these monthly treatments. That was the best decision I’ve made.

Another decision I made was not to take a prescribed medication for five years that would help reduce my risk of cancer recurrence. There are several personal and side-effect-related reasons behind my decision. At the end of the day, it is “your body, your life” and you have to be OK with the decisions you make.

A new normal but cancer free! It has been a year and a half now since my diagnosis. I am still getting used to my new normal. I have good days and bad days. I am trying to get on with my life and hopefully leave this chapter behind me. My body isn’t physically ready for a lot of the things I used to do, but I am getting there slowly. There are days I really have to push myself. One day I will be back to the old me, I just keep telling myself to have patience. Patience and strength are key ingredients to get through this cancer journey.

The views and experiences expressed through personal stories on Our Voices Blog are those of the authors and their lived experiences. They do not necessarily reflect the position of the Canadian Breast Cancer Network. The information provided has not been medically reviewed and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your healthcare team when considering your treatment plans and goals.