In February 2019, I found a lump in my breast while showering. Four weeks later, after seeing my GP, getting a mammogram, ultrasound and having a biopsy of my breast and lymph nodes, I heard the words:
“You have cancer.”My oncologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Institute
It couldn’t be true. I was healthy. I was in shape and competed for Team Canada’s snowboarding race team. I never smoked. I ate well. I had everything going for me: an incredible family with an amazing husband, two young children and two dogs, a new job Vice-President job, teaching part-time in university and part way through a Masters of Science degree from HEC Paris. Unfortunately, my oncologist told me my life would be paused. I have triple-positive breast cancer, which is considered to be one of the more aggressive types. Treatment was to start right away.
Part-way through my chemo treatments, I found out the cancer was actually in my bones. It had been there all along. I have stage 4 breast cancer. There is no cure for it; it is terminal. My prognosis is grim, with only 22% chance of living the next 5 years and an average life expectancy between 2 to 3 years.
I went through five months of aggressive chemo, a mastectomy, radiation to my chest followed four weeks later by spinal radiation. I also began daily hormone therapy and hormone therapy. The treatments, combined with my pre-existing narcolepsy was horrible and I was bedridden from mid-November 2019 until mid-February 2020. There were days that I was so weak, it terrified me. I truly thought that I would fall asleep to never wake up again. I now receive palliative care, which continues to include daily hormone therapy, two targeted therapy infusions every three weeks as well as a quarterly bone modifying agent infusion quarterly.
Just as I started regaining my energy back in March 2019, COVID-19 lockdown was announced. The stress of homeschooling and the inability to attend my regular physical and lymphatic therapies set me back in my recovery. The pain, exhaustion and stress on my body was unlike anything I ever experienced. And that doesn’t factor in the innumerable appointments with my oncologists, various specialists who deal with treatment side effects and the quarterly CT, bone and MRI scans. Being a terminal cancer patient is truly a full time job.
My view in life is to find the silver linings in things. It appears I’ve been given some rotten lemons. Yet, I am finding ways to turn them into lemonade. I won’t let cancer ruin the little time I have left with my family.