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HomeCancer Survivor StoriesJacqueline Irish (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Jacqueline Irish (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Jacqueline Irish (Breast Cancer Survivor)

About me

I was diagnosed when I was 41 with an early, but aggressive type of breast cancer. It was a huge surprise for me because I didn’t have any risk factors. Apparently, if you do not have children, for a woman by the age of 30 or 35, that gives you a higher risk of developing breast cancer. And I was completely unaware of that.

Symptoms and diagnosis

So I didn’t have any symptoms. When I was doing my own breast exam, I did find a lump that felt different than other types of breast tissue. It felt like a rock and was probably about the size of a pea. I saw a doctor about a month or two later. I was waiting to see if the lump would shrink on its own but it didn’t. I finally made an appointment and had an ultrasound. Doctor asked me for a biopsy. After the biopsy, I got a call from the doctor and came to know that I had cancer.

At first, I was really quiet after hearing the news. I did some Google searches on what I just found out from the doctor. But when my husband asked me the reason for my quietness, I told him everything. And then I gave the news to my parents and to my immediate family. So for me, it was like information overload. I immediately thought about chemotherapy, and that I was going to be sick. 

Treatments underwent

I immediately started seeing the naturopath. And so he had suggested eating a clean ketogenic diet. I had been diagnosed with something called DCIS, which is a stage zero. So with DCIS, some women develop it, and it never turns into an invasive type of cancer. Doctors recommended a bilateral mastectomy and then possibly chemo. It just depends on what they were going to find out. I had the ketogenic diet for six months, and then we did an MRI, which showed that the lump had grown by 25%. 

So opted for the bilateral mastectomy. When you have one single lump, you can do that simple lumpectomy. Otherwise, you have to go for a mastectomy. After the pathology, they did upstage me because they found out that the location of a second biopsy, that’s where they found the aggressive type of cancer. So not only did I have that DCIS stage zero but a stage one aggressive cancer in a different location. 

A stage zero can be just taken out. With this aggressive type of cancer found in a different area, it was going to create more risk. So they basically gave me chemotherapy. I did really well and was only sick once. I did have some other symptoms in addition to losing hair, my digestion was more sensitive. My nails, fingernails, and whatnot became more brittle. And I also was taking tamoxifen. And that was supposed to be for ten years. I was supposed to have twelve but I only did ten. They basically said that my immune system was too low to give chemotherapy. I think that the biggest fear with cancer, in general, is the side effects of chemotherapy i.e., lowering your immune system which leaves you at risk for recurrence.

Coping the side effects

I was on a ketogenic diet. I did intermittent fasting. There’s been research that if you do some intermittent fasting just before your treatments, basically it damages the cancer cells and makes chemotherapy more effective. The toxins just from the chemotherapy are so strong, that it’s basically killing a lot of good cells in addition to bad cells. So I wanted to make sure to eat a lot of vegetables. I tried to stay away from certain things in our environment, like body care products, make-up, and certain types of oils. I took coffee enemas to detox the liver. I started using more natural and holistic therapies too.

Managing my emotional wellbeing

I just put my trust in God. The church became our closest support because our family is probably at least an hour away. So we relied on whom we saw every week through Church prayer. I attended a Bible study and many ladies in that group prayed for me. So, I never felt alone. Learning about holistic therapies, I hope that the body can heal itself. 

Lifestyle changes to fight cancer

The biggest change was diet. I did the coffee enemas. I also practised some intermittent fasting. I took a lot of detox supplements. After my chemotherapy was over, I started taking a lot of vitamin A and C. In addition to vitamins, I ate a lot of herbs, mushrooms, and multivitamins. 

Life lessons I got 

I certainly look at life through a different lens. Before that, I was that person who was a perfectionist and workaholic. Now, I know the importance of taking care of yourself. I used to not think about little things and took things for granted. But now, I know these little things are important.

Dealing with fear of recurrence

I have a little bit of fear. But for the most part, I keep a positive attitude, knowing that toxic thinking alone is going to create inflammation. I’ve already dealt with not having a fear of death so I feel a lot more at peace. I think I have to embrace life, live in the moment, and not fear the future or dwell on the past.

Message to cancer patients and caregivers

The support system is vital. I think that the caregivers also need to rest. I would say either the one going through cancer or the caretaker, sleep is so important. Ensure that if your body feels tired, you need to listen and take that time to rest. Also, involve the people you trust like close friends or family members. I would say that if you have a friend or spouse who either goes with you to the appointments, do some research or get some information from your doctor. But if you’re going more of a holistic route, there are so many things you can look up. There are so many books out there.

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