The Voice of Canadians With Breast Cancer

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Being a Mother with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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.

Christine
She was 13. That was 12 years ago this November. Scary, but she was a trooper. She was by my side all the time. She went to chemo and radiation with me. She wanted to be in the room when drains came out. I guess that is why she is a Health Care Assistant now. I love her to bits. She was right there for me through it all. As I said, I believe this is why she is so caring and went into healthcare. I could not be prouder of her. I can’t think of any 13-year-old who would want to come to appointments and hold your head while you are getting sick. She is my rock.

Cathie
2 and 3.. 10 years apart 76 / 86. I told them the truth. I told them I'm going to be a warrior and fight this bad illness, not just for me but for everyone. They loved it when I dressed up as a hero. They dressed up with me, our costumes were fun and made us laugh.

Olesya
My daughter was 19-month-old and still nursing when I found a lump. When she turned 22 months old, I had to wean her within a week due to diagnosis of triple positive breast cancer and upcoming surgery. I was 34 years old at a time of diagnosis in November of 2017. I didn't tell her yet that I had breast cancer. She knows that I was sick and now I take medicine to stay healthy. The cancer was stage 2A. She is 4 years old now. She will have to be aware of possible genetic predisposition, but I don't think I will tell her until she is in school, and until she starts asking questions ;).

Renee
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. My daughter was 10 years old. I am a single mother. Her fear was that she didn’t want to be an orphan. I told her we are going to keep things normal and do things like regular. I had chemo immediately and worked all the way through. Then I had a mastectomy and radiation, I worked all the way through the radiation as well. It was hard but I wanted to be strong for her. I think I was in a fight/flight mode. Now 6 years later, the fear lingers. It still bothers her now and I’m looking into counselling for her. I find that there is not a lot of support for survivors.

Lee
I gave my grown kids very little information. I just told them I had breast cancer and that they (the two young women) should have regular cancer check-ups. I had the tests, a positive was confirmed. About a week later I had a lumpectomy and two weeks after that I was on a plane to Australia to visit one of my daughters.

Jill
8, 6 and 6 weeks. The hardest part for me was having to stop breastfeeding. Honestly, she was such a huge source of love and light during my treatments - she lifted me up so much with her bright innocence and big smiles.

Sharon
When I was diagnosed with a rare breast cancer just over two years ago, my children were 60, 51, 56 and 45. My 51-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a different type of breast cancer (BRC1 mutation) at age 50. She has two children, ages 31 and 30 at time of diagnosis. I had surgery and removal of an odd breast cancer (signet ring cell carcinoma) and radiation, both with no problems.

Julie
When I was initially diagnosed in December 2008, I was 37 and my youngest boy was not quite 2 years old. My older son was 7 and my daughter was 9. It was rough. Trying to care of them whilst going through surgeries and chemo without my family living in the same city was extremely stressful. My youngest didn’t get the attention he needed, I didn’t get the rest I needed, my husband was angry and without support, which made it harder for me. Unfortunately, I found out in December 2017 that it had metastasized. By this time my children were 10, 15, 17 and at the age to really understand the severity of it all. The trauma of having the doctors tell them to say goodbye to their mother in the ICU caused PTSD in one of them. While I can rest to some degree now, I still have to run a house, though they give me great inspiration to keep trying and never give up. I am determined to make it to see my youngest boys high school graduation. After that, it will all be gravy.

Ann
22 and 25. They were my rocks, my champions. They told me, "whatever happens, we'll get through it together". I cried more upon hearing this (tears of joy), than when I was told "you have Stage 3 cancer" (tears of fear).

Janice
My eldest daughter was 32 years old and 6 months pregnant with her first child. My second daughter was 30 years and 8 months pregnant with her second child. My third daughter was 27 years old and was scheduled for surgery on her rotator cuff. My son was 25 years old and was away tree planting. I had scheduled time off to help with each of my daughters, how ironic that I ended up having a mastectomy and they all were trying to take care of me instead of me taking care of them. In fact, my 2nd daughter, who is a nurse, was in my hospital room making sure my dressing was right and the surgeon told her she just needed to concentrate on having a baby! My son did not make it home until I was out of hospital and helped out at home as my husband was busy running his business which required his time 24/7. Somehow it all came together with everyone’s help and I have been cancer free for 3 years this coming July.

Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash