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Marie Muller Sander (Breast and Colorectal Cancer)

Marie Muller Sander (Breast and Colorectal Cancer)

Symptoms and diagnosis

I have been diagnosed with two cancers. I was treated for breast cancer in 2007. And I was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer in 2013. So I've been cancer-free four times with colorectal cancer. Since It was stage four I had metastases to my liver and a long time of diagnosis. I was being followed by an oncologist from breast cancer, so I was having bloodwork done regularly. And one of the last appointments showed that my iron was extremely low, so I was extremely anaemic. So we did, we tried to do some things to bring that backup. And that led to having a colonoscopy, colonoscopy, which found the tumour in my sigmoid colon.

Well, after going through the breast cancer treatment, I was shocked, I thought that we have to do this again. I was very scared, upset and emotional thinking about how this can happen. I have three children. They were 12, 15, and 18 years old. So I thought about them immediately. 

Over the past eight years, I had seven surgeries. I did 24 cycles of chemotherapy and had radiofrequency ablation and radiation. I found some alternative treatments on my own. Most doctors and oncologists are pretty traditional with their treatments. So I tried to find complimentary things on my own. I used essential oils and changed my diet. I practised meditation, prayer, exercise, and yoga.

Fear of recurrence and side effects

I have a fear of recurrence. This is because I've had three recurrences. There is no evidence of disease for the fourth time. So I've been through it several times. At first, I didn't really think about it because it's gone and you just want to continue with your life. But then I had to do a follow-up chemo treatment. So I was still in treatment. When the first one came back, it was like somebody punched you in the stomach. But my doctors were always so positive which really helped me. They were always positive, especially my liver surgeon, he would just say, we'll just go in and take it out. That just helped me.

Fortunately, I was lucky not to have severe side effects. So my side effects were very manageable. I call them manageable because I was able to do things to manage them.

Coping negative thoughts

It was difficult at times, I had some really low days. I just kept telling myself to take one day at a time and try to stay in the moment. You know, sometimes one hour at a time. Listening to meditation tapes helped a lot. Especially at night, when I would have anxiety and couldn't sleep, then I would listen to the tapes while taking a walk. Online support groups were amazing. I don't know if I would have gotten through everything as well without having support from other patients and caregivers that were going through the same thing. So that was a big one for me.

Support group/caregiver

My husband was the main support person and he has been absolutely wonderful. I call him my rock because he was very steady, throughout everything. My children were wonderful friends and family. I have family in the medical industry. My brother-in-law's a surgeon, and he was very instrumental in finding my providers and surgeons and being part of my treatment options, and treatment plans.

Experience with doctors and other medics

I had all my surgeries where my brother-in-law was Chief of Cardiothoracic. I had a very good experience with all of that because I kind of had VIP treatment. But I did go to other hospitals and offices and doctors for second opinions. We were very positive from the beginning, we always talked about curative intent. So we want it to cure this, and some of the challenges were getting appointments promptly. It's hard to get appointments with some doctors. Sometimes it wasn't very smooth. So that was a little bit of a challenge.

Life lessons

Don't sweat for the small stuff. Life lessons to get friends and family are important. Learn to really take care of yourself. You know when we get so busy in life with things we tend to not notice things as much or we put them off, like, a doctor at regular doctor's appointments. If there is something that's bothering you, go and get it checked out. Don't wait. You know how to follow the guidelines for screenings and stuff like that.

Positive changes and life after cancer

I know that cancer has changed me for sure. And I'm not sure whether it's positive or negative. I've always appreciated things you know some people say. Once you have cancer, you learn to appreciate the little things you know, for instance, you stop and smell the roses. I do that more often. My husband and my children have always been a priority but they are more a priority now. If everything else went away in the world if I had them and had time with them that is all that matters. So I just have a lighter feeling. I don't try to worry about too many things. 

After surviving cancer, I continued to work. And then after a certain point, I decided to not go back to work. I had always worked a full-time job, even with all three children. So I left a job that I had been at for 11 years. So that was one major change. I tried to go more on the vegetarian side with more fruits and vegetables. Lower sugar, low, lower dairy, no alcohol, no caffeine, things like that. And I started exercising a little, you know, tried to get on a more regular exercise plan. So trying to keep my stress levels down and the anxiety.

Message for other cancer patients and caregivers

Never give up. Just advocate for yourself. Get answers and educate yourself. find out everything you can about your disease, and ask questions when you go to the doctor. Feel good and confident with your team, that you're getting the best care and the best treatment options presented to you. So yeah, always have hope and never give up.

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