Marie Whitehead, Diagnosed at 35, Advertising Sales Consultant, Sudbury Living Magazine
Diagnosed at age 35, in October 2003, with Stage 1 breast cancer, I felt too young to be a cancer patient. I felt that I was the youngest patient at the cancer centre and in the chemo room. Now I know, unfortunately, there are younger patients. This October, I am celebrating my 10-year survival! Hopefully, I have another 50 healthy years to live! I believe our minds are very powerful. We all have to stay positive. How did I find my lump? I gave my doctor a chart of my family health history. Because of high rates of cancer on my mother’s side, I thought it would be important for him to know, that my mother died of breast cancer at the age of 60. I was sent to a surgeon for regular check-ups. My surgeon found my lump during a manual exam. I didn’t do my own manual exams. Like most women, we don’t know what to look for. I am thanking my family doctor and my surgeon for my life today. Like most breast cancer patients, I went through chemo and radiation, following my lumpectomy and lymph node dissection. The lump was 1.7 cm and the margins and lymph nodes were clear. Fantastic news! Early detection is everything. I took the hereditary test and it showed that my cancer was not hereditary. Just bad luck. Only 10 percent of all breast cancers are hereditary. Tamoxifen followed for five years. I refused to read about the side effects so I “sailed” through the five years of Tamoxifen. A few years ago, I started volunteering for the wonderful organization, The Canadian Cancer Society. I took a course and became a Health Ambassador. We create awareness and share prevention messages on breast, cervical and colon cancer at health shows and during presentations. I love to promote healthy living, as it can save lives. Eat right, drink enough water, exercise, get enough sleep, don’t smoke, take your vitamins and supplements, laugh a lot, spend quality time with family and good friends, get out in nature and think positive! Let your life be long and healthy! Let’s make the best of it while it lasts! 🙂
Fiorella Scarsellone, Diagnosed at 50
I’m here to tell the story. September 19 2012, I grew up and said I have to take back my life after I found out I had breast cancer. It was a shock to my system and also to my family. I thought I have no time to cry. I have to take this journey and live for my daughter Amanda Scarsellone. She was my life, and had been my life for the last twenty years. My chemo started the first week in October 2012 and boy what an awful feeling that was for me. Seven days bed ridden. I couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow. Then came my second chemo and that just put me in the hospital. What I went through, isolated from everyone, no one could come into my room without having a mask and full cover ups. It was a nightmare, I spent long days and nights talking to God and saying, why am I here? I later came to figure things out that I was here to help other people with my story. Christmas and New Years came and went and I did not even see it. Then January, the month of all months, surgery to remove my breast. Dr. Brule said to me, off it comes, it’s only fat, you really don’t need it. I said do what you have to do for me to live my life and help other women and men live with breast cancer. So off came the breast and the healing began. One month with tubes in my body, everyday my tubes would drain and then finally one came out. There was no problem there, but the next week, the final and last tube came out. OMG Dr. Brule pulled it out, I guess it was really stuck to my skin. They had to hold me down to pull it out, what a day! After that she said ok Fiorella, two more chemos and then off to radiation. My hair had started to grow during my surgery month, but then off it came again with my last two chemos. I was still bed ridden for those weeks. Radiation came right after, five treatments on my hips, chest and back. Very intense, it was not a walk in the park like some people say, I was sick through all five of them. Well my journey doesn’t end there, I still have to have bone enhancer’s every third Friday and every fourth Friday of the month probably for the rest of my life. Oh yes and don’t forget this beautiful little pill I take to bring me back into menopause. Oh well what can I do. It’s my life were talking about and I am really to be here to tell my story. One thing I have learned is life is too short and we have to live it to the fullest. I work at Costco and I’m with people every day. But it shocks me to see members treating us with disrespect, when we respect them in every way. I would love to tell them come with me and spend an afternoon in the chemo room while I’m doing my injections and see what life is all about. For all my friends in the chemo room, really and honestly, we are injecting death into us to makes us well again and to live our lives. I have spent many days in the cancer centre and have seen many things. Death was in front of me and I came back to live and help many. I thank my daughter Amanda Scarsellone, my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, my nieces, my Costco family, Sue Cumini, my friends who spent time with me while I was sleeping and watched over me, to everyone who came to visit me and held my hand and honestly sometimes held my head, while I was kissing the toilet, not literally, but you know what I mean. Life is a bowl of cherries, you just have to know how to appreciate them. My friends I am here to tell the story and if you have any questions for me ask away xoxo
Carole Paquette, Diagnosed at 36. Most people, somehow, have been affected by cancer. You don’t need to have the disease, to be affected. I believe that during both of my cancer experiences, my family and friends journeyed with me. Unfortunately, we never know exactly if, or when, a cell in our body is going to go “haywire” and begin multiplying. The first time, I was 36 years old. On the evening of Nov. 15, 1994, I was snuggling with my three year-old son and my hand brushed across my right breast. I felt a palpable lump. The next day, I underwent a mammogram and ultrasound and the lump was detected. An excisional biopsy was performed to remove the lump. That same day, the surgeon looked me in the eyes and told me the lump was malignant and I had breast cancer. Frozen in shock, in a stunned voice, I recall uttering, “No, Does this mean I’m going to die?” I adopted a take charge attitude and began reading about breast cancer almost immediately. As a registered nurse, I knew the importance of informed decisions and I wanted to know all available options and treatment. On Dec. 14, 1994, I underwent a lumpectomy and auxiliary node dissection. Fortunately, my lymph nodes were negative, which confirmed that the cancer was found early. My type of cancer was described as infiltrating ductal carcinoma. In January of 1995, I began my first of four chemotherapy treatments followed by five weeks of radiation therapy. Every May since 1995, as part of my follow up, I have a mammogram. In May of 2012…at the age of 54, I was diagnosed, a second time with breast cancer in the same breast. This time, 18 years later, a mastectomy was recommended and on June 25, 2012 the surgery was performed. Fortunately, once again, it was found early and I was prescribed an antiestrogen medication for five years, as part of my treatment. I have always believed that a positive attitude and outlook helps our bodies to respond and to heal. As well, I try to incorporate yoga, meditation, exercise, and eating a balanced diet. What also helped me immensely in my healing journey was my faith and the tremendous outpouring of love, support and encouragement that I received from my husband of 25 years, family and friends. The kind deeds, gestures and relationships helped sustain me and warm my heart and soul. They will never be forgotten. An important message I would like to offer all women is to ‘know your breasts’ do breast self-examinations and have mammograms. In my case the lumps were found, but the worse thing about breast cancer can be NOT finding it. As with any cancer, the earlier you find it – the better.