Giving Voice to Canadians Concerned About Breast Cancer

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The innocence of a toddler and the reality of cancer

By Billie Fordham

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.

On February 20, 2018, the air felt extra cold as I walked out of the hospital with a diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer. I started looking up places to hold a birthday party for my son on short notice as he was turning four in a few weeks. I didn’t know what was going to happen next and I wanted to make sure he got his special day before treatment started.

Within the next few days, I met with my medical team and surgeon. It was decided that we would start with chemo and it was scheduled just before I turned 34.

After chemo started, my hair started to fall out and I decided to take control and shave my head. Without hesitation, my son was right there with me, getting his head shaved as well.  This was hard for me, watching his beautiful blonde curls fall to the ground, but I was so honored that he decided to do this.

Chemo was such an adjustment for us. Our once very busy weekends full of errands, activities, and playdates pretty much came to a stop. We spent more time at home, finding games we could play and movies to watch as I held down the couch. I had so much guilt during chemo because I was battling for my life and trying to be the mother my son needed at the same time. My family was beyond amazing and really did an excellent job at filling the gap when I physically couldn’t.

Almost six weeks after I had finished chemo, I was rolled into the operating room for my bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. The week before the surgery I started prepping my son for it. This included his 45-minute temper tantrum, screaming, “I want you to keep your boobies.” The drains freaked him out: it’s hard to understand why there is blood in a bottle hanging from your mom’s body.

Currently I’m just over two weeks post-op. He is very slowly starting to accept that I cannot carry him around right now. His hair has grown back with those beautiful curls and he has a very long list of activities he wants to do once I’m feeling better.

One day I hope our lives become busy again and he realizes how his infectious laugh and big smile made those dark days that much brighter. My fight is for him.