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December 9, 2013

Suzanne – My Breast Cancer Journey

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2004. I was 45 at the time and a single parent with two beautiful children.

I noticed a lump in my right breast which I was a bit concerned about so I went to my GP. He said it was probably a cyst and that I should come back after my next cycle if it was still bothering me. I told him didn’t feel comfortable about waiting that long, so he sent me off for further tests. My results came back and yes my worst fears were diagnosed, I had breast cancer! I sat there feeling numb and in disbelief, I kept saying to myself I can’t have breast cancer.

I was admitted to hospital in September 2004 to have the lump in my right breast and lymph nodes removed, then followed months of chemotherapy and radiation. I became so sick from the chemotherapy I had to take 3 months off work. I was admitted to hospital after every chemotherapy treatment where I was sedated to help me get through the constant vomiting and nausea. I was given anti-nausea drugs to help with this but they had side effects too.

One of the hardest times during my treatment was when my hair began to fall out. I called my friend and she came over, we talked about it and decided to shave what was left of my hair off. After it was done I looked in the mirror and thought how, will my children cope when they see me without hair when they get home from school. I had an idea and began looking for a bandana, I put the bandana on my head, put a toy parrot on my shoulder (which was my youngest daughters toy), an earring in my ear and made out I was a pirate. When my children came home from school they couldn’t stop laughing, my sense of humour definitely helped us through that difficult moment.

It was very hard on my children. My sister came to live with me, during my treatment, to help me get them to school, organise meals and just to give them the support that they needed when I couldn’t get out of bed because I was so sick.

To me at times it was a lonely journey with breast cancer even though I had a lot of support. On one occasion I remember when I was in hospital, it was just before Christmas in 2004, I was feeling so sick, I was in a shared ward and didn’t feel like seeing anyone. I remember drawing the curtains around my bed and staring out of the window, it was pouring rain at the time and tears began rolling down my face. I felt so sad at the time I was thinking how much I missed my mother, it had been years since she had passed away, but at that moment she was the one I needed the most.

In 2012 became a volunteer for the NBCF Speakers Bureau and I must say it has been very rewarding. Being able to share my journey with breast cancer will hopefully help others understand more about their diagnosis and treatment.

In the past few years I have faced many challenges, had 3 miscarriages, gone through a divorce and have seen members of my family pass away from cancer but nothing prepares you for the challenges of a your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment and without the support of my children, my sister, my friends and the breast cancer support people I wouldn’t have been able to get through it. I must admit that every follow up appointment I do get a little anxious but I am very lucky to still be here after 9 years and take every day as it comes, as a blessing!