I guess it never feels like “the right time” to get cancer, but I can’t help feeling like the timing just hasn’t been on my side. I was diagnosed during the pandemic, my husband’s father passed away while I was going through treatment, and my son Christopher was just four years old. It hasn’t been easy.
It all started back in December 2020, right around Christmas Eve. I found a lump and rushed to my family doctor, who sent me for a mammogram and X-ray. Everything is fine, I was told. The following spring, I found another lump, but my doctor still said not to worry. All the same, something wasn’t sitting right with me. When the lump grew that summer, I went back again and was told I needed a biopsy. Everything escalated quickly after that.
In September 2021, I found out that I had breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes and that it was aggressive. All my life, I’d been healthy – I ate well, exercised, and had never really had any health issues. So the diagnosis was hard to accept.
Suddenly, I was immersed in tests and appointments – and then thrust into the world of treatment, starting with a mastectomy and lymphadenectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation. It was tough. My husband, Chad, would drive me to the hospital for my chemo appointments but he couldn’t come in with me, due to the COVID protocols. And we couldn’t see family or get as much as support as we would’ve liked, also because of the pandemic. I’m an introvert but it was very hard. I felt so isolated. And although I struggled with nausea, bone pain, and exhaustion, I didn’t have the luxury of lying in bed all day. I had a young child who needed me.
Talking to a four-year-old about cancer is no easy task. I’ve always been careful about what I say and the words I choose. It has definitely affected Christopher – he’s clingy and doesn’t want to leave my side. But overall, he’s very resilient and has been a trooper. I’m very fortunate for that.
During chemo, Chad shaved my head for me. I thought it would be traumatic – I loved my long brown hair – but it ended up being a beautiful moment. Christopher held my hand the whole time and said, “You’re doing great, mama. You look beautiful.”
Before COVID, and before cancer, I’d had this grandiose vision of travelling the world with my husband and son. Cancer turned everything on its head – forget travelling, making dinner wasn’t even happening. At night, I would go to put Christopher down and fall asleep before he would. It was a rough ride, but we got through it.
Look Good Feel Better’s workshops were a great source of support. I wanted advice from professionals on everything from skincare to wearing a headscarf, and my social worker directed me to the workshops. I attended all of them and they addressed every question I had – and some that I hadn’t even thought of yet. I wanted to accept how I looked – after a mastectomy, after the hair loss – but that doesn’t mean that I wanted to look bad. I still wanted to look like myself and to feel good. The workshops helped immensely, and it also helped being surrounded by all these women at different stages of their cancer journey. It was the first time I felt that I wasn’t alone.
Cancer robbed me of a lot of things – from having to take a leave from work and quit volunteering to not being able to take my son to the playground. One of the biggest things it robbed me of was my confidence and self-esteem. Having someone guide me and hold my hand, and help me realize that I’m not alone, really helped to bring back my confidence. It was uplifting.
These days, I’m feeling good. I’m proud of my body and how far it has gotten me – through difficult surgeries, through chemo, through radiation. And seeing that I’m not alone has given me strength.