We’ve been hearing a lot of discussion in the news lately about textured implants and their link to a rare form of lymphoma; a cancer now known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Recently, Health Canada moved to suspend these implants from being used in Canada.
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.
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.
I was forty years old, running a successful business, comfortable in my finances, and feeling ready to settle down and start a family. Suddenly, a breast cancer diagnosis upended my sense of contentment and sent me on a journey of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, a preventative double mastectomy, and, ultimately, reconstructive surgery.
For Andrea Sveinbjornson of Regina, the Canadian Breast Cancer Network’s new SurgeryGuide is an invaluable tool, one that she wishes she had when she had to make decisions about breast surgery in 2016.
We all know how integral surgery is for the treatment of breast cancer. It’s usually the first step in treating early stages of the disease which means it can come quickly after diagnosis. The time when you’re still processing your diagnosis is also the time when you’re making some of the most important decisions about your treatment. Trying to make these decisions while learning this new, complicated language called cancer doesn’t make those decisions any easier.
It was just another typical morning in our house, trying to get my son fed and dressed before I take him to daycare. As I am multitasking, getting myself dressed and making sure my son is actually brushing his teeth, I notice he’s watching me. He’s still trying to process those two large scars across my chest. The incisions are still fresh and slowly healing and turning to scars. Scars that represent where my breasts once were but now is just an empty space. He finally pipes up. “When are your boobies going to grow back, Mommy?” He asks so innocently.
People have known about breast cancer since ancient times. For most of that time, there were no effective treatments. However, in the last 120 years, advances in surgical and medical treatments have meant that today, 98 percent of patients with localized breast cancer survive at least five years after diagnosis. The following timeline shows the development of breast cancer treatments.
For Jenn Abbott, finishing treatment for breast cancer is like a flying trapeze. Having received her “NED” (no evidence of disease), she is in mid-air, no longer holding on to the bar that represents the medical team that saved her life, while at the same time, not yet catching the second bar that represents the rest of her life after cancer. She is in limbo, facing post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by her cancer treatment which included five surgeries and a severe adverse reaction to chemotherapy that meant she had to stay in the hospital for two weeks. She feels PTSD after cancer treatment is real.
Struggling with body image is an age-old tradition for women. We can be so critical in how we see ourselves. Too fat, too skinny, bad skin, bad hair…every woman has one aspect of their bodies that they do not like or wish they could change. Add getting breast cancer to the mix and all those insecurities get amplified.
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.