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?”
In 2014, Krista Dumas of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, was shocked to receive a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer at the age of 33. The cancer was in her liver and L5 vertebrae.
In 2013, I wrote a “My Life after Breast Cancer”, for CBCN’s Network News Spring 2014. It had been four years since being diagnosed with locally advanced, triple negative breast cancer, three years since the end of treatment. I was cancer-free and well, appreciating my bonus years.