Before I was diagnosed, I rarely thought about breast cancer. When I did it was once a year, usually in June, as I was planning the line-up of pink-ribbon beauty products I wanted to feature in the upcoming October issue of FASHION, Salon, 29Secrets or whatever other magazine I was working for at the time. Other than that, it just wasn’t on my radar. No disease was really. My inner circle was healthy, well, that is if you didn’t count my mom’s dad dying of liver sclerosis from alcoholism when I was around five or my paternal grandmother passing from Alzheimer’s when I was in my early thirties.
I worked during my entire breast cancer treatment. I didn’t want to. I had to. I live alone. I don’t have a husband or boyfriend. I pay my bills on time and by myself. Yes, it was a choice, but it was a horrible one.
It’s funny how breast cancer changed the way I feel about myself and my life. Not in a ha-ha sense, although trust me, I would like to laugh more. And not in a questioning kind of way either, although I did torture myself during the first couple of weeks after my diagnosis, looking for the answer to explain why I had breast cancer. As far as I was concerned it was because I never wore sunscreen as a kid; I drank and smoked my way through my twenties; worked 80-hour, ladder-climbing work weeks in my thirties and went through a heartbreaking divorce that left me feeling like road kill in my forties. Except that it wasn’t.
I hope I can write this column without crying. Or at least if I do get emotional, that I won’t need to stop a million times while I wait for the sobbing to ease up so that I can see clearly enough to continue typing. And no, I’m not being dramatic.
I’m writing this as a PSA for all women. We’re always told to check for lumps and to get mammograms. However, Paget’s disease of the breast is a breast cancer that until October, I had never heard about.
Breast cancer made my hair thicker. And wavy-er. Not right away obviously. It’s not like it was a special prize I was gifted with to make up for the shock and fear of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
I would have never thought that I would be telling my story to a large group of people but today I consider it an honour.
I could cry writing this. Or maybe screaming for five minutes into a pillow so my neighbours don’t hear me would feel better. The walls in my condo aren’t that thick. Either way, my reality’s not changing any time soon. And by reality, I mean my body and the extra weight it has been lugging around since I started taking Tamoxifen a year ago.
Women are multi-dimensional and getting a breast cancer diagnosis does not change that. It doesn’t stop mothers from being mothers, daughters from being daughters, sisters from being sisters, etc. While a breast cancer diagnosis may put a pause on things such as your job and careers, some of the multi-dimensional roles and responsibilities that women play in life continues. One of these roles is being a mother. In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked breast cancer patients to share with us the age at which their children were, when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. We wanted to know how breast cancer impacted their life as a mother, and vice versa. Here are just some of their stories.
Breast cancer prepared me for COVID. Actually, if I want to be really accurate, radiation prepared me for it and almost everything else that has come courtesy of the global pandemic.