I’ve had two surgeries now – a partial mastectomy and a lymph node dissection. I look different than I did before, but I don’t care. I still wear bathing suits and little strapless tops. If somebody sees a scar, well, whatever.
I’ve always tried hard to keep myself in shape and looking good. I have four boys, and quite often people would say, “Wow, you’ve had four kids? You’re lucky, you look great!” And I’d think, “This isn’t luck – I exercise and I eat well.” It was always important to me to try and look my best. With cancer, all of a sudden, no matter what I was doing, I’d be looking my best in the moment I was at, but it wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. I found that really tough. I still do.
I’ve become comfortable with my post-cancer appearance, though. Don’t get me wrong, the changes were hard. The most challenging was losing my hair, without a doubt. I still miss my long hair. And when it was coming out, it took me back to being a little girl, watching my mom lose her hair as she went through treatment for a brain tumour. I’d look in the mirror and think to myself, “I’m becoming my mom.” She’s not with us anymore, so that was scary.
“Scary” is the main word that comes to mind when I think of my cancer journey. Right from the very beginning, I felt fear. Two summers ago, on a beautiful sunny evening, I was sitting outside while my partner was inside making us dinner. I like to tuck my hand under my arm and rest it there, and when I did, I felt a lump. I called my doctor and from there, things moved quickly. I had a biopsy and that was scary. Over the next 10 months, I can’t even tell you how many tests and biopsies and X-rays and CT scans and MRIs I had. It was a blur. I felt like I needed a personal assistant to manage all those appointments.
My team was fantastic, though, so even though it was all very scary, I had faith in them.
Attending Look Good Feel Better’s workshops helped ease the fear, too. When I was feeling scared, the workshops allowed me to come together with other women so we could go through it together. They gave me a sense of community and helped me to feel less alone. Even if we weren’t at the same point in our treatments, I got an appreciation of where they were and what they’d been through and where I was headed.
The women conducting the workshops were kind and empathetic and supportive. And the information I learned was so valuable. I needed the reminder to take care of myself. And I realized that the littlest things – like putting concealer to the area under my eyes after a bad night’s sleep – could make me feel so much better. I also loved the workshop learning about wigs and hair alternatives. I’m grateful I was able to get a wig, but it didn’t feel right wearing it to the hospital for treatments. I was with a lot of other people going through the same thing, and to wear the wig didn’t feel unified. I hadn’t known about all the other options, like hats and scarves and things.
I’m on the other side of treatment now. I’m doing all the things I love again – going to indie alternative shows at different music venues in Toronto with my partner, kayaking and cycling, going to yoga classes, spending time with my adult kids, and working at a brokerage. I focus on staying mindful and positive. For every bad thing in life, there’s got to be a flip side – a positive. And for me, the positives are that I had an amazing team of physicians, that I live in this wonderful country, that I have access to health care, and that I have a great community – my fantastic partner and amazing kids and incredible network of friends. I fill my heart with the positives.