Loading...

Follow Rethink Breast Cancer | The young women's brea.. on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

I had a feeling 2019 was going to be the year to “restart” my life, one that I had put on hold due to having children (now eight and four years old) and previous breast cancer diagnoses.

In 2016, I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) just before I turned 36. After the bilateral mastectomy, I had a pretty easy recovery and was told that I was CURED!  I believed that fully until in 2017, the DCIS came back so I had surgery to remove remaining tissues in my breast. I was cured and told to live my life not only once, but twice! Although the thought of recurrence lingered, I held tight to the excellent prognosis that “ten years after DCIS diagnosis, 98% to 99% of women will be alive”[1].

As my children continued to grow, my intention to return to work full-time grew with it, while the fear of recurrence diminished. Afterall, I was closely monitored by three doctors after the last surgery and had clean scans and bloodwork throughout 2018. As I did not need other treatments after surgeries, I gradually regained confidence of my body and believed cancer was behind me. I envisioned myself returning to work in 2019, and with a few extra dollars in our pockets we could take a few more vacations, make more trips out west to see our families, and splurge on the stuff I’ve always wanted. I would get more fulfillment balancing work and family life. We have been planning our annual camping and road trip for summer of 2019, as well as a cruise with my family to celebrate my father’s birthday in the fall. In between all of the planning, I was juggling the daily grind as a stay at home mom and the volunteering duties of the kiddos. I had a game plan to tackle life as a working mom again!

Christmas 2018, I thought to myself “a new beginning in 2019!”, who knew life would take an unexpected turn in late January 2019?

All of that changed in late January this year when I received the newest diagnosis, this time, Stage 4, metastatic breast cancer (MBC).  My disease was extensive in the liver, and metabolic activities shown in various lymph nodes and bones on the PET scan.  In a matter of weeks, all my life goals and plans were thrown out the window and replaced with simply STAYING ALIVE.

Having experienced early-stage breast cancer twice, it was difficult to accept the metastatic diagnosis, because this time, there is no cure. Then it became clear to me that perhaps I (or the doctors who so wanted me to be cured) was wrong all along, as “breast cancer can come back in another part of the body months or years after the original diagnosis and treatment. Nearly 30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will develop metastatic disease.”[2] I believe dealing with any stage or type of cancer is difficult, but for metastatic cancer patients, the future is truly unknown. Staying alive becomes the ultimate goal as that buys more time for newer and more promising treatments, and perhaps one day, for a cure.  It is also a full-time job. It is my new full-time job.

My mom accompanying me to one of my weekly chemo treatments. Note the “icy finger spa” to help with neuropathy.

In a way, my life did “restart” this year, however, I’ve been forced into a new game where “the end” is no longer just a fear, but a reality that I have to learn to live with. My new game began with 12 weeks of chemotherapy, literally hitting a reset button on my body as well as all cancer cells. It also involves ongoing treatments, for me hormonal and targeted therapy as I am ER/PR+ and HER2+, to keep the disease at bay. Ongoing means I continue to take them until I get hit by a truck or when the disease progresses demonstrating that the meds are no longer effective, then we try the next line of treatment. It’s great when medications work but they come with side effects. The chemo ones are hopefully temporary but ongoing medicine side effects are, well, ongoing.  Fortunately, there are other meds or alternative therapies that can combat side effects. As any long-term plans are dependent on progression, my new game plan is simply living each day as meaningful as possible, and plan in three-month intervals, as that’s the time I have between scans. It has also forced me to slow down and think about what is truly important – having a career for self-fulfillment, as I have discovered, is not, but staying alive for my family, is.

I’m very fortunate that “complete metabolic response” was shown in the PET scan done in May, which means the meds are working! However, the disease is not considered cured as in early-stage diagnosis. But I’ll take that! And even though my new schedule is now filled with numerous scans, tests, blood work, and ongoing treatments in needles and pill form with side effects, I am grateful that I am still here, still alive today and hope I will be in this cancer game for a long, long time.

For more stories from women living with MBC, click here.

 

Vivian Chu is a metastatic breast cancer thriver. She lives in Calgary, Canada with her husband, Sam, son and daughter, and is a Vancouverite at heart. She shares her cancer journey at www.wearefamilui.com

The post Life From Stage 0 to Stage 4 appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

By Jade Griffiths

Yes, it is still true. Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. But what does this mean for those of us who like enjoying summer drinks with friends? Well, with this statistic in mind, we came up with five tips for navigating ‘patio season 2019’ alcohol-free. 

 

1. Know how much is too much

Okay, so, we know that having too many drinks can increase your breast cancer risk. But how much alcohol is too much and what’s the definition of a “drink” exactly? Well, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, even low levels of alcohol (as low as one drink a day!) can affect your breast cancer risk and that risk increases the more you drink.  

 As far as the definition of “a drink” goes, it’s important to know that not all drinks are created equal. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer but only equal to five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. So, the answer to the “how much is too much” question will differ depending on your preference.  

 

2. Find some alternatives

via GIPHY

Despite how it might feel in the moment, you actually can order non-alcoholic drinks at a bar or patio and still feel like part of the party. You might just have to do a little research first to find what’s right for you. Don’t believe us? Check out these awesome recommendations from BuzzfeedHuffington Post, and Spoon University on non-alcoholic drinks you can order at a bar.  

For some weird reason, there seems to be a stigma around ordering non-alcoholic drinks at a bar. But let us be the first ones to tell you: putting your health first is never something to feel weird about — period. So, do what’s best for you and don’t apologize for it. 

 

3. Become your own bartender 

via GIPHY

One of the best ways to learn what you like when it comes to mocktails and other non-alcoholic drinks is to try making them at home first. So, the next time you’re hosting the dinner party, try one of these mocktail recipes to share with your guests.  

 

4. Order confidently 

via GIPHY

You’re going out with friends and you know you don’t want to drink. But you also want to avoid feeling like you have to explain your choice to those around you (and just so you know, you don’t!) A lot of us have been there, especially if you’re a woman who’s gone through or is going through breast cancer. If this is the case, the conversation around risk changes.  

While the jury is still out on complete abstinence on the alcohol front, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) cites that research on the impact that drinking has on cancer patients is still in the early stages. Whether you want to refrain from alcohol altogether or enjoy an alcoholic beverage in moderation, it’s a decision that’s ultimately up to you (and your doctor) to make and feel good about. 

 

5. Surround yourself with the right people 

via GIPHY

It may feel like “peer pressure” is a phrase from your middle-school days, but the reality is it can be hard to do what’s right for you when those around you are doing the oppositeThere’s strength in numbers and that’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people that support you in your life – people that will build you up and not tear you down when it comes to putting your breast health first. 

For more information on breast health and more practical steps you can take towards risk reduction, visit our Breast Health page.

The post 5 Tips To Navigating Cocktail Season Alcohol-Free  appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

By Lisa Fisher

I’m not sure why talking about reconstruction feels so personal and private to me, but it does. I should be used to it since I’ve been talking about my breasts for two years now. Truthfully, I’ve always felt a little more awkward talking about reconstruction. But being private about it doesn’t allow anyone else to understand what we have to go through and that understanding can make all the difference.

Pre-diagnosis, if asked about breast reconstruction, I probably would have said I wouldn’t bother with such a big surgery just to have boobs. Having seen reconstruction surgeries first-hand in my nursing career, they can be quite big, especially if radiation is involved because of the damage it causes to the radiated muscles and skin.

Once I was actually in this situation my thinking was completely different. From the moment I heard the words that I had breast cancer and that I needed to have a mastectomy, I knew immediately that I wanted reconstruction and that it mattered to me. I no longer cared that it required big or multiple surgeries. I wanted it done as soon as possible.

You never really know what you will do in any situation until you are actually in it. What I didn’t realize before being faced with this decision myself is that reconstruction isn’t really about the breasts – it’s about your mind and how you feel about yourself. Some people need this to feel “better” and some don’t. I also don’t think that age has as much influence on this decision as I once thought. It’s how you feel inside. Having your breasts removed at any age impacts the way you view yourself. The person you’ve always looked at in the mirror has changed dramatically.

I honestly wish I had the confidence and fearlessness to go flat. To me, it’s the ultimate middle finger to cancer and societal norms but I just don’t have it in me. I wouldn’t be happy with myself and that’s what it’s all about – being happy in your own skin with or without breasts. I have to make this individual decision based on what is best for me.

I decided to share my thoughts on breast reconstruction because there are a lot of misconceptions out there. I want people to understand it’s not about “getting Double D’s” or “a free boob job”. It’s about finding peace with the new you. While these jokes don’t offend me (humour is my go-to in uncomfortable situations as well), it does downplay the process. Breast reconstruction is no joke, mentally or physically. It can include multiple surgeries, muscle and skin transfers, flaps, expanders that have to be filled slowly by injection over a period of time to stretch the transplanted skin and muscles before another surgery to exchange the expanders for implants. It can be a very long and painful process. Let’s not even get started on all the new scars or the psychological aspect of it all! So trust me that it’s not quite “just getting implants” but kind of a big deal.

I never wanted a free boob job, and this is true for most, if not all, the women I’ve met who have chosen breast reconstruction after being diagnosed with breast cancer. I was happy with what I had. I just want the old me back. But since cancer took that version, I’m hoping for something that resembles her, inside and out.

Want to read more stories about reconstruction? Click here.

The post How My Opinion on Breast Reconstruction Changed appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

By: Melissa Blanchenay

I am 44 years old. I get up every morning to the same ritual that I have had for almost 20 years. It goes like  this: open eyes, rise and run to bathroom, eliminate as much waste as possible, strip down naked, jump on the scale, hate or love myself depending on the feedback.

This is followed by a full body inspection in the mirror. I twist to and fro, grabbing this roll, tugging that one, clapping the cellulite on my thighs and detesting the matronly arms and stretch marks I’ve had since middle school. I shimmy and shake and hang my head in despair. Then, I stare at my boobs because they are staring at me. They are not what hey used to be. They have forsaken me. I came into this adult body sooner than most. During the summer between 6th and 7th grade, I sprouted huge breasts and a big backside. A typical Latina frame. So much so that when I returned to school that fall, the meanest boy called me “The Latex Lady”, indicating I had somehow rejoined the class with fake tits. Other stupid, mean boys joined in, endlessly snapping my bra in the halls between classes. Between that and my buck teeth that had also come in, I wanted to die.

I went on my first crash diet, convincing my mother to take me to the grocery store to shop for all of the items on the 3 Day American Heart Association Diet. It was a litany of rice cakes, grapefruit and cottage cheese. We ran into my best friend and her mother who were doing the same thing because, of course, she and I had conspired to diet together after our  tennis coach singled the two of us out for extra laps around the track. Not surprisingly, it was because we were heavier than our teammates.

Although it was my first “diet,” I had already been at war with my body for years. My own grandmother (“the mean one,” as I refer to her) made a comment to me when I was about eight years old that has stayed with me forever. She watched as I crossed the kitchen to the patio door donning my summer bathing suit, a kid ready for a dip in the pool. She announced in Spanish, to no one in particular, that I had a “fat tonsi,” a slang term I hate to this very day that refers to the female genitalia. I didn’t speak Spanish then (still don’t and maybe this trauma has something do to with why I cannot seem to learn that language despite native parents) but I knew by her tone that she found me repulsive in some way. I hated her and my mons venus instantly from that day forward.

I remember back further to the tap and ballet class at the community rec center. I was no older than six. I was one of many little girls there for their first day  of class, standing nervously in new tights, my back against the ballet  barre. The emotions that surround that memory are vivid. I am an outsider, fat and embarrassed, a girl made of play-dough shoved into a cruelly constrictive leotard. I am a marshmallow on legs amongst the swan-like waifs around me, the full-length studio mirror confirming all of my fears. One class and I was one, much to the bewilderment of my family. To my mother’s credit, she never made me go again.

There were a few good years in my late 20s and early 30s where I grudgingly liked my body. It was conditional, of course. I had gotten a breast reduction and learned how to push and pull myself into different shapes by food restriction and extreme exercise. Then came the glory of the diet pill Fenfluramine/Phentermine (better known as “Fen-phen”) and later, after people’s hearts started to explode, other speedy drugs in its place.

I rode that roller coaster on and off for over 10 years. The husband-and-wife diet doctor/nurse team I found dispensed water pills, phentermine, and Bontril like Pez. They lavished praise on me when I finally lost over 40 pounds in three months under their “care.” When I hit goal weight, they personally invited me on their boat. I arrived for the day on the water wearing a new black bikini and was one of many “clients” to come aboard. I felt like I had entered a glamorous and secret club, one where all I had to do was be skinny to gain access to the finer things in life. I weighed 133 pounds.

My body, to its credit, took all of this abuse: the hours of cardio-kickboxing, the weighing, the measuring, the wide-eyed inspections, the diet drugs, the food journals, and the endless hate and self-loathing that was part and parcel to it all. I got pregnant. My body swelled. Another body was growing inside of me. I remember being freaked out knowing there was another set of eyeballs in my womb, someone seeing me from the inside. I relaxed into the pregnancy because I felt responsible  for the person I was growing. I ate and let my body bloom. I was scolded by the midwives because I gained weight so fast. Shame rose in my throat but I stood up for myself and ate anyway. I was 205 pounds when I delivered. I stand 5’ 3” tall in bare feet. My ankles were tremendous.

When my husband ‘put a ring on it’ after my fourth month of pregnancy, I warned him that it was akin to pulling the ripcord on a floatation device – BAM! – as I was sure to inflate to the dimensions of the fat girl that had always lived inside of me. He thought I was kidding, but I know what happens when I am happy. I eat and I drink and I enjoy life and because I am having a good time, I blow up.

Now, I’m losing weight. The chemo makes it hard to eat most days. My oncologist wasn’t happy when I lost another five pounds after my second chemo. Secretly, I rejoice at the steadily declining number, although I know this is wrong on many levels. I tell her not to worry, that I have some to spare and that it will surely come back because it always has. And then I smile and find my skinny jeans that I haven’t worn in years because they finally fit again. Chemo is the new diet this time. How sick. How sad.

We are all just bags of meat. We are all just managing. There are dark corners in my mind where my body and brain meet up. In those moments I say to my body, “I am sorry I never loved you for what a miracle you are. Now we are sick and we have to fight. I know you can do this. We have to.” So my body fights the good fight. My white blood count is good, so good I could “sell those numbers on the black market,” according to my oncology nurse. I am glad my body is cooperating.

There is another driving force here. A little body that I birthed, the one with sable hair and deep brown eyes, that seeks my body out for comfort, warmth and nourishment. I tell her she is beautiful, I encourage her to wear bikinis. She goes to dance class and has no qualms about leotards. She eats for nourishment and also for joy. She struts around the house naked and I never, ever shame her. I teach her the proper names for all of her parts, no dirty slang. We laugh as she cavorts, her innocence palpable and beautiful. I hope that somewhere in all of this disorder that I can teach her to love her body, always and in all ways. Hopefully, even the forsaken have a shot at redemption.

Melissa Blanchenay. Brand ambassador and sales representative. Diagnosed at 44. IDC, Stage I, ER+, PR+. Melissa Blanchenay earned her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design in 2001. For most of her career, she has represented upper echelon brands as a sales representative and brand ambassador in the interiors industry. Chicago-born, she is a long-time South Florida resident who enjoys all of the things the warm weather has to offer, including boating and days at the beach. She is also a wife and mother to a 4 year old daughter. Melissa has always had aspirations of being a writer and is currently working on her first book and blog. When she isn’t busy traveling for work and pleasure, you can find her in a yoga class, reading a book (or three) or hanging by the pool with her family, which also includes two Yorkies named Manolo and Zooey. @calmyourtts calmyourtts.com

Editor’s Note: This piece has been republished with permission from WILDFIRE Magazine, the annual “Body” issue (Vol 4, No 3, Copyright (c) April 2019 by Wildfire Community LLC). More information available at wildfirecommunity.org

Every month, Rethink will be sharing powerful stories and poetry from WILDFIRE Magazine. Use code RETHINK for 10% off anything in the WILDFIRE Shop.

 

WILDFIRE Magazine is the only magazine for young women survivors and fighters of breast cancer under 45 years old. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, WILDFIRE is a beautiful, story-based bi-monthly magazine published on different themes relevant to young women survivors, from stage 0 to stage IV. Beautiful and ad-free! Visit  wildfirecommunity.org for more info.

The post Stories by Wildfire: Coming to Terms With this Body appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Rethink Breast Cancer | The young women&.. by Rethink Breast Cancer - 1w ago

Name: Sarah Blackmore
Age: 27
Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 26 (two weeks before my 27th birthday, happy birthday to me!)
Breast cancer type: ER+ PR- HER2+ Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Breast cancer stage: Stage 4 (Oligometastatic with two metastases to the sternum)
Treatment: Aggressive treatment with curative intent. Eight rounds of chemotherapy, partial mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection, 25 rounds of radiation to chest and sternum, targeted therapy (Herceptin & Perjeta) every three weeks, daily Tamoxifen pill, monthly Lupron injections.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer

My guilty pleasure is watching reality shows like Big Brother and Survivor. I’ve been watching them for years and I listen to podcasts about them and everything! During chemo, I finally caved and got hooked on The Bachelor too.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

Right now “Juice” by Lizzo, or “Mother’s Daughter” by Miley Cyrus.

How did you discover your breast cancer?

I had pain in my left breast. My doctor told me that I had cystic breasts and that I should stop drinking coffee to prevent cysts from forming. I did quit coffee and the pain coincidentally went away. Then, almost a year later, when I found a lump I assumed it was just a cyst as I don’t have a family history of breast cancer. My small lump suddenly grew really quickly to about the size of a grape. After a very long ultrasound and mammogram, I was told right then and there that it was likely cancer.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

It felt like the whole room had turned upside down and I was suddenly outside of my body. I was alone and not expecting to hear the word “cancer”. I burst into tears of panic and confusion. I just kept thinking, “This can’t be right. There must be some mistake”.

When I later found out that the cancer had actually spread to my sternum (making me Stage 4) all I could think was, “I’m going to die” (even despite my good prognosis). I couldn’t even cry, I was totally shell shocked.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

Someone once asked me how my vacation was going. I know it was meant in a joking way, but let’s just say that on that day the joke didn’t land.

Who is your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

My family and friends have all been incredibly supportive. I moved across Canada one year before my diagnosis, so I didn’t have a huge support network in my new city but my family and friends all made sure to come visit me back to back so that I was never alone for too long (I was basically running an Airbnb!).My partner Carlos has also been by my side since Day 1, and has kept me going through all my darkest times.

Mindfulness and meditation have also played a huge role in my recovery. The book “Full Catastrophe Living” by John Kabat-Zinn was my bible when I was first diagnosed. It’s all about the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, an evidence-based mindfulness program that helps you cope with stress, pain, and illness. I also got the opportunity to participate in the MBSR course offered at my hospital and it was life changing for me. I highly recommend others to seek out an MBSR class in your area or to read anything by John Kabat-Zinn!

What is the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

Not having any guarantees for the future, both in terms of the cancer returning and in terms of being able to have children someday. It’s also really hard to not compare yourself to others (especially when all your friends are travelling, getting married, or planning to have children, and you’re just sending them pictures of how many millimeters of hair you’ve grown).

What’s something unexpected you learned as a result of having breast cancer? 

It sounds so cliché, but I had no idea how strong I was. On paper, I thought I was the worst possible person to get diagnosed with cancer (needle phobia… check, anxiety disorder… check, control freak… check), and yet here I am! I honestly feel like I could do almost anything after all of this. I’ve also completely shifted in terms of how I cope with stress. Little things just don’t get to me the way they used to. And when I do get stressed out or upset, I’ve learned to become more aware of it in the moment, which makes it easier to let go and move on.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Take everything one day at a time… so much beauty, love, and strength will be waiting for you in the days to come.

To read more #YWMBC Profiles, click here.

If you or someone you know is a young woman with breast cancer looking for a community that relates and connects with your struggle, the Rethink Young Women’s Network might be right for you. For more information, click here.

The post #YWMBC: Sarah appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Recently, I attended the Breast Cancer Symposium, a professional development conference for medical professionals who treat cancer patients; medical oncologists, surgeons, etc. This was the first year that patient advocates were invited to attend. Having patient representatives participate in these types of conferences can change the entire tone of the event since our priorities can differ from those of our doctors and it’s important to make them aware of that. There are many metastatic breast cancer patients who aren’t well enough to attend these types of events and advocate for themselves so I felt truly honoured to be included as a representative for MBC patients and I did my best to speak out on their behalf.

Many of the sessions involved discussions around de-escalation of treatment to minimize side effects while not increasing the risk of recurrence. It is the risk of recurrence that worries most breast cancer patients. Even a 3% to 4% increase can be significant if you are one of the patients within the 3% to 4% that experience recurrence. Research is advancing to identify the patients at greater risk of recurrence so that these patients can be offered the more aggressive treatment options.

As a metastatic breast cancer patient, my biggest concern is how my medical team will involve me in deciding which treatment is right for me. Will they outline a treatment plan, ensure that I understand it and get my approval? Or will they present me with treatment options, discuss the advantages / disadvantages of each option, try to understand my values and priorities and ask for my input in deciding which option is right for me? I would prefer the latter approach of shared decision-making. No one else can know what is most important for me so I want to be involved in my health care decisions.

Several physicians and patients attended the shared decision-making session hosted by Rethink Breast Cancer at the Symposium. Shared decision-making recognizes that both medical professionals and patients have a role in making treatment decisions. For example, a physician may inform a patient of clinical trial opportunities that are offered at their medical facility since they are easily accessible to the patient; however, the patient may be willing to travel to access clinical trials. If the doctor is unaware that the patient is willing to travel, their discussions may be limited to local clinical trial opportunities. If the doctor is aware that the patient is willing to travel (and how far they are willing to travel), additional clinical trial opportunities could be available for that patient.

For shared decision-making to happen – Doctors need to understand their patient’s values, go beyond informed consent and make the patient part of the treatment team.
– Patients need to become actively involved in their treatment plan by asking questions to learn about alternate treatment options and voicing their opinion on what’s important to them.

 

The shared decision-making session included a very valuable discussion on the importance of this approach when treating cancer patients. Patient well-being improves when the medical team and patients work together to choose a treatment plan. At the end of the session, one of the physicians commented that this was the most valuable session of the entire Symposium. This is an encouraging sign that more physicians will begin to embrace shared decision-making.

Thanks to the chairs and organizers for accepting our presence at the Symposium. My biggest take-away is that while medical professional know a lot about medicine, it’s impossible to know everything. Doctors do not have a crystal ball and every patient is different. To ensure that your treatment plan is the right one for you, ensure that you become actively involved when there are decisions to be made.

For future sessions, I hope to see: – More physicians participate in the “patient” session,
– More patient involvement in the “physician” sessions, perhaps as co-chairs,
– More medical professionals in attendance (nurse navigators, palliative care, etc.), and
– More patient-physician networking opportunities.

 

I look forward to being involved in further conversations with medical professionals and researchers to improve care for breast cancer patients.

To read more about the Canadian Breast Cancer Symposium, click here.

Nathalie Baudais was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2008, at the age of 29, and with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in 2011. Her treatments have included multiple surgeries, chemotherapy regimens and radiation therapies. She has the BRCA1 genetic mutation.

Nathalie is married and has one child. She works full-time and is involved with a variety of breast cancer charities: She is a board member for Saskatchewan Breast Cancer Connect; peer facilitator for Breast Cancer Support Saskatoon; organizing committee member for Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day – Saskatoon. Nathalie is excited to be a part of the MBC advisory board and to help improve the lives of those living with MBC.

The post Symposium Recap From a Metastatic Breast Cancer Patient’s Perspective appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

When I had my mastectomy in 2015 I was empowered, inspired and most of all I was proud to say “Goodbye, bras! I don’t need boobs to define who I am as a woman.” I was embracing the “Flat and Fabulous” life by declining breast reconstruction.

The idea of going through reconstruction with either breast expanders or a hip to hip abdomen wound with one-year-old twins and a three-year-old hanging off my legs was a huge “no way” for me. I was not going to leave my girls for a five-day hospital stay or travel two and a half hours away for expander fillings. I wanted this to be over and done with quickly so that I could get back to cuddling and carrying my little people around.

Two and a half years later my mindset started to change. I realized that looking in the mirror was becoming harder and harder. My body with and without clothes was causing an emotional detachment – there was no way that person in the mirror was me. If I stopped looking, I wouldn’t see the large belly that chemo and menopause had created but breaking up with the mirror wouldn’t be enough. Not when being out in public often ended up with me awkwardly telling people that I was not pregnant. Feeling bad to set them straight and being embarrassed that this very noticeable bulge of my stomach is what people are seeing. Life with my lack of breasts and extended belly was causing havoc on my mental health.

In April of 2018 I made the decision to start the process to begin reconstruction. I finally got up the nerve to ask my oncologist for a consult with the surgeon. There was so much internal struggle with this. I felt shame for giving up on being one of those “breasts don’t define me” woman I had admired. I felt like it was a cop-out, like I was being lazy going for a specific surgery that included a tummy tuck. Was I using some theoretical cancer card to get big boobs and a flat stomach? Most of all though I felt ashamed. I was beginning to work with Rethink on their Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board working side by side with women who have stage IV, incurable breast cancer. Women who because of this status are often declined initial mastectomies let alone reconstruction. Was I being selfish?

It took noticing one of my daughter’s confusion when realizing she had nipples and I did not to really put it all into perspective. How I feel about my body needed to change. I want my girls to grow up in a house where they can look up to me. They can see a mother who calms the negative self-talk in her head and makes decisions that will best suit her and her post-traumatic growth. Knowing my girls may have to make prophylactic decisions about their breasts one day solidified my decision. I was going to show my girls that this is my body, my choice and that I was not going to let the fear of surgeries or my perceived ideas of what people may think dictate my future.

Laura Rice is a member of Rethink’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board. She is a wife and mother of 3 young girls, as well as a Freelance Graphic Designer from Collingwood, Ontario. While navigating life after Triple Negative Breast Cancer treatment, Laura found purpose through supporting those diagnosed with cancer as well as those who like herself carry a genetic mutation that predisposes them to developing cancer. Laura currently volunteers for the Canadian Cancer Society as a Peer to Peer support facilitator and Co Run Director for the Blue Mountain/Collingwood CIBC Run for the Cure.

The post I Changed My Mind…I Would Like Boobs appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Here’s a good reason to tune in: music therapy can have a positive impact on your cancer care plan. We asked SarahRose Black, an accredited music therapist and registered psychotherapist to weigh in on all the benefits that music can bring no matter what age or stage you’re at in a cancer diagnosis.

 

Music is an inherent part of our lives

From the everyday soundscapes that permeate our environment to the critical life events that punctuate our life stories, music plays varied and significant roles in almost all human cultures. Imagine the sounds that accompany your workday, your classroom, your commuting time, and your time spent with family and friends. Imagine the background to your social environments, your celebrations, your momentous occasions, that are both challenging and difficult. Music is present in joy and in grief. Because it is such a significant source of life story narration, music is often present when we feel inclined to reflect on our lives, and on moments that have created various emotional responses.

 

Music can be a profound resource for coping

Music therapy can provide a number of tools that can support any age and stage of health and well-being. Generally, we as human beings turn to music at specific times for specific reasons. Often, we may access music that empathizes with how we are feeling. On days when we may be feeling filled with sadness, grief, anger, distress, or hopelessness, music can be an empathic source of understanding. Music may actually say what we are feeling in our hearts and minds, and it does so without judgment and without needing a response. On days when we are seeking to feel our emotions, music can hold us in a safe and often comforting way. On days when we are looking to shift our mood, and perhaps make a change in the way we are feeling, music can often act as a quick and effective way to switch emotional gears, and move ourselves into a different emotional space.

 

Consider the role of music in your own life

Many of us already use music intentionally either to meet us where we are or to help us shift our moods, emotional states, or even physical perceptions of pain, discomfort, and energy levels. Using music intentionally can have tremendous power, and can effectively empower us to access, shift or change our physical, emotional or mental states.

As a music therapist at an urban cancer centre, I spend time with people exploring the roles of music in their lives, and using music, song-writing, improvisation, active playing, singing, and playlist creation among other tools to support people in their experience of cancer diagnosis, treatment, varying stages, survivorship, as well as palliative and end of life care. Most often, people I work with already have very specific associations with music, and profound connections to certain styles, genres, songs, and musicians, as this is a very common human phenomenon. At other times, people are surprised by the quick and effective way that music can access their feelings and inner world of experience.

I encourage people of all ages and at all stages of health and well-being to connect to music in an intentional way. Consider creating playlists that match a specific mood such as falling asleep, waking up, getting out and exercising, or finding a moment of peace and tranquillity in the midst of a stressful and intense time.

Live music is another wonderful way to embrace the intense and healing power of music in your life. Many cities feature free or easily accessible concerts of varying genres. Universities with music programs often invite the public to attend free student recitals or faculty events. Local pubs frequently have diverse and unique musical offerings on a regular basis. Music festivals and concerts abound in the summer months however live shows are available all year long.

 

Music equals meaningful connection

Sometimes, in the midst of dealing with varying health issues, the role of music may take a back burner, while the administration of health and treatment comes to the forefront. Remember your own inherent musicality: your heartbeat is a perpetual drummer inside your body throughout your life. Your body is musical and your life story has been punctuated by various soundscapes and songs: consider revisiting the songs that hold meaning for you.

I encourage you to welcome new music into your life to invite new memories and associations. I often ask friends and family members to share what kind of music they are listening to, and I often learn a lot. Know that music is an ever-present source of support, even in times when isolation and loneliness are prominent. Music can always connect, whether on an individual and highly personal basis, or in a crowd full of people singing along to their favourite song. Using music for health is an accessible, effective and enjoyable way to tune in to your own well being.

SarahRose Black is an accredited music therapist and registered psychotherapist specializing in palliative care and psychosocial oncology at both the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Kensington Hospice in Toronto. She is a pianist, vocalist, violinist and music health educator, and has performed, taught and presented on her clinical work and research across Canada. SarahRose teaches courses on music and health care, and writes and publishes widely on the role of music in psychosocial oncology. SarahRose holds a Master of Arts in Music Education and a Master of Music Therapy, and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, researching music in the context of assisted dying.

Looking for some more inspired listening? Check out these podcast stories

The post The 411: How Music Therapy Can Be Part Of Your Cancer Care appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

By Lara Parsons

When you think of the classic attitude that sickness or death will never happen to you, or that you are one of the lucky ones that haven’t been personally affected, that was never me. Since the age of five, cancer has been a very close relative to my family, always knocking on the doorstep and getting in the way like an annoying neighbour.

At age 32, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She received chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiotherapy the first time around. Fate dealt her an extremely cruel hand, and by the time I was 28, she was battling her fourth and final acquaintance with cancer. She passed away in May 2014, still smiling and fighting until the end.

It has been found that I contain the same genetic mutation as my mother, BRCA2, explaining how I am now following in her footprints at more or less exactly the same age. My aunt was also diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39, but since then has been in complete remission for over 22 years. She has not been found to contain the BRCA2 gene.

My Own Diagnosis

Approximately three months ago, at age 33, I found a lump in my breast. I had never known what to expect or feel for when hearing that you should check regularly, but when you find one there is no denying that something alien has entered your body. At this point I was in Austria (where I am still receiving treatment) and had just completed my Snowboard Instructors qualification. Over the course of a week I received every test going from cat scan to MRI, mammogram, sonogram and a double biopsy. I was diagnosed with a rare form of Breast Cancer called “Her2 Positive”. My right breast contained a large tumour mass, the largest being about 25mm wide. I was told I would need therapy, a double mastectomy and radiotherapy…the full works as the doctor indicated. He also indicated that although the tumour had not spread, the lymph nodes under my right armpit were active, adding a further worry. My eyes rolled around and my mind began to go into overload. At the same time I was almost laughing at the typicalness of these situations. I was ready to hear the worst.

Treatment In Another Country

In Austria they regularly practice a therapy known as immunotherapy. In combination with chemotherapy, this treatment is also specifically for patients with Her2 Positive, resulting in remarkable success, often more so than other forms of Breast Cancer. Due to the aggressive nature of my tumours, the specialist suggested starting treatment straight away, which in Austrian time meant four days. Making the decision to reside in Austria for a minimum of 4 months and being away from friends and family, I decided this was the best option I could take. In total I would receive treatment once every three weeks with six treatments in total, on a combination drug of chemotherapy and antibodies (Immunotherapy).

For a girl in my situation, if we are talking about silver linings, I am not happy at all that I have cancer, but I am very happy that it happened here. I am simply astonished at the rapidness of the medical team at Schwaz Hospital in Austria and feel very lucky every day that I accidentally ended up in this beautiful country. It was here that I also met my wonderful boyfriend John, who has stuck by me through the thick and thin of this journey. No one can understand what you are going through, but having support is so important and I have had numerous visits from friends and family, flying over with the main goal…to keep my chin up and keep me smiling.

Cancer is one hell of a rollercoaster

Times can be tough, emotions can run very high, losing my hair was an experience in itself, mouth ulcers, sickness and fatigue are all part of the journey. But hang on a minute, let’s not be too depressing or self-pitying, there are also many positives to this experience. Since being diagnosed with cancer I have lead a healthier lifestyle than ever in my adult years. I stopped drinking beer, giving me a much flatter belly than before. I now have actual fingernails, something I have never in my life been able to achieve! For a sick person my appetite is out of this world, I cook, bake and eat more than ever, a part of my therapy as I like to call it. With my friends, I am now allowed to play “the Cancer Card”. A joke of course, but this is a great mental way of making the situation lighthearted and relieving stress.

I feel lucky for all I have experienced so far in life, which has allowed me to appreciate what really matters and give me the strength to get through these moments. Each morning I try to remember that I am out here living my life the way I wanted it, that this is simply a small stepping stone. No one is alone through this. Life isn’t forever, but we have to make the most of it, regardless of the situation, so fight the good fight, be positive, raise that middle finger towards cancer and smile.

 

Follow more of Lara’s story at laraparsonsproject.com and on Instagram @laraparsonsproject

 

Get informed about breast cancer risk here

The post I Was Diagnosed with Breast Cancer At Nearly The Same Age My Mother Was appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Intense sweating, bad fluorescent lighting, and negative self-talk are all common culprits of the often-dreaded swimsuit try-on experience. “You good?” the employee asks before you’ve had a chance to figure out how this new string bikini top works. With your head in an armhole, you call out “Ya, everything’s great!” when in fact, everything is not great.

Adding in any of these factors: Having had a double or single mastectomy (including going flat), breast inserts, and diep flap surgical scars can make you want to throw in the beach towel when it comes to finding the perfect fitting, yet on-trend suit.

Take a deep breath.

We’re here to be your swimsuit spirit guide and ease you into the pool, lake, ocean – so you can enjoy your experience – sans anxiety.

KIT AND ACE

In every KIT AND ACE design decision, comfort is a non-negotiable. Made from snag-resistant pool, sun, and ocean-safe four-way stretch, swim fabric, their suits are crafted to last throughout all your lake, ocean and pool-filled summer days.


HEAD HERE FOR:

Full coverage one-pieces with buttery fabric that will sit softly against double mastectomy and diep flap scars, bikini tops with adjustable straight strap silhouettes that disperse weight away from pressure points and high-waisted bottoms – with shape retention and quick dry technology.

MONDAY 

Monday Swimwear was founded on creating suits with iconic feminine designs, immaculate fit, soft-to-touch feel and enduring quality – all of which are their top priorities when adding any new pieces to the range. If that’s not enough to catch your attention, did we mention that it was founded by two boss women? #GIRLPOWER. Designed for comfort and coverage, Monday suits are all designed to be flattering, with buttery soft fabric and adjustable suits so they never dig into you.

HEAD HERE FOR:

Fashion-forward one-piece finds that can go from city (think bodysuits) to the sand. Don’t miss the season’s most coveted colours and patterns – think lavender, leopard and cobalt blue and dazzling unique bikini top finds that are designed to fit an A-DDD cup and everything in between.

TEA YOU

Proudly made here in Canada (shameless Canada plug), TEA YOU is based out of Montreal, but ships worldwide. Meet your high-waisted swimwear haven where à la carte flirty two-piece bikinis in the latest skin-baring styles will fulfill all your neon coloured dreams. 

HEAD HERE FOR:

Breathable, quick drying, self-lined suits that offer up UV-Ray protection, necessary for sensitive areas of the skin. 

FORTNIGHT

Fortnight swimsuits are ethically made, at a Parkdale Village studio located in Toronto, Canada. The undergarments are handcrafted by highly-trained technicians, to uphold quality and precision with every piece that is created. After surgery the last thing you want is overly tight fitting uncomfortable digging into your back and sides – luckily Fornight’s bikini silhouettes are sized by bra, which allows for a more tailored fit according to your shape.


HEAD HERE FOR:

Cool-girl, timeless, minimalist style sustainable swimsuits that will complete your sunkissed summer style. 

AERIE

It is possible to feel cute, confident and better than ever with Aerie swimwear.  Their line of well-stocked women’s swimsuits has every fit and style you need for that family vacay, weekend trip with friends or beach excursion.  Not just for teens – this line ranges from full coverage high neck-line bikini style tops (bye for now, port scars), to cheeky fits.

 

HEAD HERE FOR:

Unretouched photos, affordable suits that won’t break the bank, adjustable straps, tie designs and removable pads to ensure you have the best, most comfy fit. 

J.CREW

Whether you’re beach-bound or hanging by the hotel pool, J. Crew has every type of bathing suit you need to make a splash – but they especially excel in the ruffle department. Ruffle tops add great texture if you’ve decided to have a double mastectomy, go flat or have a single mastectomy and want a little volume up top. Removable pads are key for breast inserts (full or partial).

 

HEAD HERE FOR:

Quality swimsuits for every body type, from curvy, DD+ to long torso one pieces for all you tall ladies, J.Crew has a little bit of everything for everyone.

So go on, have your chips and dip, and dive into this summer with confidence (and a swimsuit) that just feels good.

Illustration by: @floperrydraws

For more summer essentials click here

 

 

 

The post 6 NEW SWIMWEAR BRANDS TO TRY POST BREAST CANCER SURGERY appeared first on Rethink Breast Cancer.

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview