At the age of 46, I was diagnosed with stage two/grade three multifocal, invasive lobular and ductal breast cancer. I had found the lump myself after a year of constant infected cysts in my breast. I had been told I had very dense breasts, which is part of the reason the cancer was not visible on a mammogram. I had it confirmed by biopsy and had a right mastectomy followed by four rounds of chemotherapy. Six months later, I chose to have my left breast removed and began reconstruction.
It’s good to set challenging goals.
I ran my first marathon the year I turned 50, and completed another two years later. I loved establishing training goals that would force me to push myself physically, and feeling healthy and strong as the result of running regularly. In November 2015, I decided on a new goal: to run another marathon in the fall of 2016, and complete it with a time fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
When I started getting sick in the late summer of 2011, I was pretty sure I knew what it was. I thought my endometriosis was "acting up." Then my symptoms changed and a Google search convinced me I needed my gall bladder removed. I exaggerate, but the point is that while my disparate symptoms piled up, I was sure there was a simple explanation. Cancer never entered my mind, even when my gynaecologist found a lump in my breast I hadn't noticed.
My journey began on New Year’s Eve 2015, when I noticed a red mark on my right breast. It wasn’t long before my stomach dropped and I felt my face flush while my throat did that swallowing action reserved for moments just like this.
Wendie Hayes of Stoney Creek Mountain, Ontario was diagnosed in 2011 with triple negative metaplastic phyllodes breast cancer at the age of 55 after she discovered a lump in her left breast. Her cancer is a rare type, affecting less than one percent of breast cancer patients, so it took some time to get the right diagnosis.
It seems impossible to try to capture the essence of who someone is, was, through just words. Because there are no words that really do justice to honour a person like Laurie Kingston and how her life touched so many people, people she didn’t even know. It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Laurie, one of CBCN’s board members, who passed away on January 8, 2018.
I was not prepared for the number of decisions regarding treatment that needed to be made from cancer diagnosis to treatment options. It was both exhausting and overwhelming – how does one make sound life-changing decisions when there are so many options and choices? I learned to trust myself and be my own advocate as I navigated through the many decision points.
For Naomi Pickersgill, living with metastatic breast cancer and being confronted with her own mortality has been a “roller coaster of emotions.”
Adriana Capozzi of Bradford, Ontario, was diagnosed in October 2014 with HER2-positive, Stage III breast cancer. She received four months of chemotherapy and one year of Herceptin, along with a bilateral mastectomy and 25 rounds of radiation.
I have never been a fan of roller coasters, too much up and down, made me feel sick. Ironically, my life seems to have become a gigantic roller coaster ride!
For Shelley Scott of Winnipeg, a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis in November 2016 had a silver lining.
“It helped me appreciate the moments of my life rather than worrying about what might be, which is kind of a gift,” she says.
She tells the story of two coworkers she knew who planned a big trip for the time when they both were retired. They never made the trip because one of them died.
In August 2016, Erin Richard of Sydney, Nova Scotia was diagnosed with triple negative metastatic breast cancer. She was only 39 years old.
I learned about “timely and equitable access” to oncology drugs at the Canadian Breast Cancer Network's metastatic breast cancer advocacy training in 2013. I was the first in Canada prescribed Perjeta, days after Health Canada approved the drug. My oncologist shared exciting trial results about dual blockade (using two drugs simultaneously against breast cancer). The trastuzumab emtansine (TDM-1) trial had closed days earlier. Another combo was available but it was “back pocket.” The caveat was that it wasn’t funded but my extended health insurance benefits agreed to pay. On route to my first infusion, I penned a sign: BELIEVE. We did. I had dozens of liver and lymph mets and my liver was failing. After two rounds, I had normal liver enzymes and after three, normal tumour markers.
I was born and raised in Southern Alberta and moved to Calgary to attend university and eventually raise my family here. I am an active senior who enjoys singing with a Calgary performing group, travelling with my husband, watching sports and movies on TV, spending time with my two daughters, who both live in Calgary, keeping in touch with my granddaughter, who now lives in Victoria, and watching my grandson grow up and enjoy his activities.
On July 19, 2011, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With a 10-month-old son, I was still glowing with the joy of motherhood—but when a lump that I had been attributing to breastfeeding challenges refused to go away, I decided to see my doctor.
My life changed forever once I received the phone call no one wants to get early one morning in March 2015. My surgeon was on the other line with the results from my recent biopsy. The lump that was supposed to be only a pesky cyst was indeed cancerous. The surgeon further explained my diagnosis. But the only thing I heard was that I had cancer. My world felt like it was spinning out of control.
On November 3, 2011, I received a phone call while waiting in line to pick up my sons, 2 and 4, from school. On the other end of the line was my wife’s GP advising me that Kate had a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. The ensuing months brought bewilderment, fear and anger. I struggled to find a way to express what was happening to our family and to provide care.
When Kim Bulpitt was diagnosed in March 2016 at age 53 with breast cancer, it wasn’t her first experience with serious illness. The Kitchener, Ontario resident was previously diagnosed in 1979 with kidney disease, in 2008 with Parkinson’s disease, and in 2012 with osteoarthritis resulting in replacement of both knees in 2014.
In August 2015 when Tanya Figg of Coaldale, Alberta was six months pregnant with her second child, she was diagnosed with Stage III invasive mammary breast cancer. Her immediate thought was “what did this mean for me and my family?”