Two years ago, on October 17th, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went to the doctor’s office to find out how a cyst was, after it had been aspirated. Instead, I learned that I had invasive ductal carcinoma and that it was grade 3, the highest grade. This meant that the cells in the tumor were replicating quickly and the tumor was more likely to spread.
From there, I was referred to a wonderful resource, the Comprehensive Breast Care Program, run here in Edmonton. I was assigned a nurse navigator, who guided me through the process of referral to a surgeon and all the necessary tests and assessments to prepare for surgery. I cannot say enough about this program. It is so reassuring to know that there is someone to ask for help with understanding all the information that, as a patient, you are bombarded with. Your nurse navigator also ensures that all the relevant information is gathered so that everything is ready for the next stage of treatment, a bit like a contractor overseeing a building project, bringing all the trades together.
After my surgery I was referred on to the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, for an appointment with oncology. Walking in to the building for the first time was terrifying. I had driven past many times and often thought how lucky I was not to have to go there. Well, there I was, and I needed to be. I met with an oncologist who explained some of the pathology of my tumor, and what the recommended course of treatment was. My tumor was Level II, as it was over 2cm. Fortunately, there was no spread to any lymph nodes, very good news. However, the type of cancer I had was triple negative, meaning that there were no hormones involved in the growth of the cancer, and no HER2 proteins either. This meant the only treatment available to me was chemotherapy.
I had 4 treatments of chemo and they were not easy. I lost my hair, had to get used to wearing a wig, hat or headscarf. I experienced body aches, stomach upset, and swelling of my ankles and feet, lymphodema. I am so grateful to the care team who helped me cope with it all.
The Cross Cancer Cancer Institute is amazing. The people there are compassionate, caring, encouraging, and so supportive. From the staff in the Lab taking blood, volunteers running the cafe, to my nurse practitioner, everyone was so wonderful. When patients are getting their treatments, volunteers bring a cart round every couple of hours. On that cart are cookies, tea, coffee and juice. I loved the cookies! They brought a smile to my face every time they appeared. Being at the Cross Cancer Institute is so frightening, because of what it means. However, being there also means that you are in the best hands, receiving the best care available.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, for me, it is doubly so. My life has changed, I have changed, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I am now focusing on getting fitter and healthier so that I can look into reconstructive surgery. I do urge all of you to check your breasts-and this goes for guys too! Be aware of your health and take care of yourselves.