Interview with Breast Cancer Survivor: Colleen
In honour of breast cancer awareness month, we interviewed our client and survivor Colleen. I first crossed paths with Colleen when she booked a fitting and got a few custom mastectomy bras after her surgery.
After getting to know her and her breast cancer journey, I thought her inspiring and powerful story was worth sharing. You can view the full interview on YouTube here.
Below are some of the questions we asked and her responses:
HOW WAS THE CANCER INITIALLY DETECTED AND AT WHAT AGE?
C: I was 51 when I first found the lump in my breast. I was going to bed I was laying down on my side, I put my hand under my breast and I felt a hard lump. It wasn’t painful at all, it was the first time I’ve ever noticed it, It was a total fluke that I found it. I had to wait about a month before I went in for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. As soon as the radiologist saw my scans I will never, ever forget him telling me this was cancer. He immediately wanted to do a biopsy. They did it then and there. I was the third women that day that he diagnosed with breast cancer.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU FIRST RECEIVED THE NEWS AND DURING THE FIRST FEW STEPS OF TREATMENT?
C: I’m almost embarrassed by my reaction now, as silly as that sounds. I just lost it. I kept repeating: "I don't want to die, I don't want to die". Once I got the diagnosis, I had to meet with my Oncologist. I was just in shell shock being there surrounded by other cancer patients. I could not believe that I was on the oncology floor. I felt I didn't belong there.
WHY DID YOU OPT FOR A MASTECTOMY?
C: My doctor gave me two options: I could either under have a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy with radiation if it had spread. I have had conversations about breast cancer off and on for years, I have always said if it came down to it, I would get a mastectomy. If it's between them and my life, it was hands down going to happen. I didn’t even have to think twice about it. I new right then and there I wanted my breast removed. I wanted a double mastectomy even though there was a lump in just one. My doctor refused to remove my second breast, as he didn't feel comfortable removing healthy tissue.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE UNDER GOING CHEMOTHERAPY?
C: I didn’t really know anything about chemo. I had only seen it in the movies and tv. And that is not what it's like at all. I expected a lot more vomiting to be honest; they give you so much medication now so there is a lot less nausea. During the infusion I felt totally normal but it was surreal. The nurses are dressed in these special gowns because they are injecting a powerful toxin into my body. By day three of the treatment, I felt like I was dying. I couldn’t get out of bed and that lasted 4-5 days. I thought I would feel like that for the whole time I was doing Chemo. What they don't tell you is that you feel more like yourself again by day 7 or 8. Just in time to start the process all over again. I was not prepared for any of that.
WHAT WAS YOUR POST CANCER TREATMENT EXPERIENCE LIKE?
C: These last two years have been almost harder than the cancer treatments, mentally speaking. Because I did not have time to think during the treatment; I just thought about fighting it and beating it, and when you're done they say "bye see ya in 6 months for a check up". And that’s it. That’s when it hit me. What the hell did I just go through. A lot of PTSD. Most women are just left floundering and traumatized by everything that they have been through. I find the mental end of it is still a struggle to this day.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR BREAST NOW AND HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH IT?
I still would like to have my other breast removed, but would I be happier with symmetry? Or will I still be upset that I am deformed? To this day I look at my body and I still can’t believe they chopped off my boob. Initially, I went to get fitted for a prosthetic and I hated it. I never wore the thing. At the time I didn’t know about you. I was crying to my neighbour one day I told her I wish there was a bra that was flat on one side, with a moulded cup on the other. She was the one who recommended you. I reached out because I went from wearing a tank top, as that was the only thing I could wear post surgery, to this god awful thing that the mastectomy store sent home with me that didn’t fit properly, it was so uncomfortable. I remember when I got your bra in the mail I started crying, it was so beautiful. I felt normal again.
As reference, here are the mastectomy bras we made Colleen:
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN ?
C: Cancer is not a death sentence anymore so take a breath. Treatments have come a very long way, they also have a lot of supportive medication so that you are not sick like how you see on TV. There are good days in there, and don’t do it alone you need someone to talk to.
Thank you Colleen for your bravery in sharing your experience with us all. We hope to shed a light on all aspects of breast cancer from the diagnosis, to treatment, to post treatment. Being educated on this multi dimensional disease is so important for the fight to defeat it.
You can view Colleen’s full Breast Cancer journey on YouTube here.
- Ruhee, Founder