I had a very early stage of breast cancer. It was stage one invasive ductal carcinoma, which means that the cancer cells had invaded the surrounding area a little bit. We found it on January 22, and my diagnosis came about three weeks later in February. I was 30 at the time. It was a little bit of a shock because there’s no breast cancer history in my family.
The initial reaction of my family
My husband reacted like me. We were initially shocked because of no history of breast cancer in my family or any other health issues. After I heard it’s treatable, I immediately just focused on the treatment. Cancer is a heavy word, and you can get caught up in that very easily. But I chose to focus on the fact that it was treatable. And so my husband kind of mirrored that when I told him the news. My parents were very surprised and also saddened. It was a scary moment for them. My siblings and my husband’s brother reacted pretty much like my parents.
Treatments underwent and side effects
I went through a double mastectomy with reconstruction. And then I underwent chemotherapy to make sure there was no cancer in my body. The recommendation from my doctors was to actually not remove my breasts but only do a lumpectomy or to remove the tumour from my body. And I chose to remove everything I could to make sure cancer wouldn’t come back. And I haven’t reduced my chances down to zero.
I didn’t try many alternative treatments and was mostly stuck with Western medicine. But, I did do some holistic healing, such as Reiki. I did reiki sessions with my friends. And I’m a firm believer that our mind, body, and spirit are connected. So, I think my holding on to a lot of stress and frustration over the years kind of culminated in my breast cancer.
Managing my emotional wellbeing
I just focused on what I knew. When doctors said that it was treatable, I focused solely on the treatment. When they told me I was going to lose my hair to chemo, it was a really hard time for me. With the help of my health coach and my friends and positive things around me, I was really able to focus on the gift of losing my hair. And I learned throughout this process that hair holds a lot of emotions. I realised maybe I’m finally ready to let go of all these emotions that don’t serve me. This is how it became an exciting experience.
Experience with doctors and other medical staff
My initial experience with them was not good. The doctors didn’t even tell me my diagnosis. It was the breast care coordinator who told me everything but she couldn’t answer any of my questions. Once I got introduced to my team and chose my doctors i.e., my general surgeon, my plastic surgeon, and my oncologist, that’s when I was the most comfortable and very happy with my medical team. And I appreciate each one of my doctors. And I have a great experience with them.
One of the biggest lifestyle changes was changing my diet. I went 100% plant-based when I started chemo. I chose this after doing a little bit of research to make sure I was only putting healthy things into my body and also changed my work lifestyle a little bit. Since, I was a workaholic and I couldn’t stop thinking about work, I started to notice how unhealthy that was. So, I started to incorporate things that were healthy for me, like meditating, reading, and going for walks more often.
New positive outlook
Cancer allowed me to live life differently. Had I not gotten cancer, I’d still be a workaholic. I’d still forgo seeing my family and friends at social gatherings. And since being diagnosed, I’ve actually connected with more people. Old friends are back in my life and I have even made new friends.
Stigmas attached to cancer
I definitely think the notion of cancer needs to be transformed. It’s not the death sentence it used to be. It’s more like a wake-up call. And it’s an important conversation to have, especially when you’re diagnosed at a very young age. And that’s why I’m such an advocate for sharing my story because you just need to know that it’s possible to beat cancer. Awareness of cancer is really important. When I was looking for research or looking for stories about cancer when I got diagnosed, I had a hard time finding young women to relate to. Everybody was actually older than 50 or 60, and they weren’t going through the same thing I was. We need to spread awareness that breast cancer can be treated. We need to see it as a gift and an opportunity to relive life.