Twenty-nine years old last November, ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer. Six months earlier, I had finished a breastfeeding trial. I gave birth in October 2020. Breastfeeding was not working and I had no production in the breast affected by the cancer. Six months after stopping breastfeeding, I felt a lump that fit neatly between two fingers.
I was told not to worry about it, that it was possible after breastfeeding. When I had my appointment with my gynecologist for another reason, she referred me for a breast ultrasound. The lump was definitely there and was about the size of a golf ball. It was painful, especially the week before my period.
There was a two-month delay before my tests. On the day of my ultrasound, I had that test and then went to another room for a mammogram. They then took me back to the ultrasound room to see more and they didn’t like what they saw. I had an appointment for a biopsy the next morning at 8 a.m. I had biopsies in two places. This was on October 24, 2021, and I was not allowed to be accompanied because of the pandemic health measures.
The gynecologist who gave me the referral worked at the clinic affiliated with the hospital. She received my results on November 4 and gave me an appointment the same day. I was her last patient of the day.
When I got my diagnosis, I thought of my two children, of the fact that I have two girls. I thought of the unknown. You don’t know anything about cancer at 29. You imagine that it hits later, more often at menopause.
I didn’t expect it at all. There had been the pregnancy and the breastfeeding; I thought it was related to that. My oldest was five and my youngest was a baby. I explained to my older daughter that I had a “big boo-boo” and that I would be having several hospital appointments and that daddy would be accompanying mommy.
My partner was very present for me. However, he didn’t talk to me much about how he felt about the situation. He talked about it more to his work colleagues. He didn’t necessarily want to show how worried he was. He felt I had enough to deal with.
Subsequently, I had a second biopsy to better determine treatment plans. My oncologist wanted to make sure whether the cancer was invasive or in situ. It was this biopsy that officially confirmed cancer in situ. For this reason, I did not have chemo.
I was first followed at St-Jérôme Hospital and then my file was transferred to the CHUM for the rest of the treatments. On February 10, 2022, I had a total right breast mastectomy with immediate DIEP flap reconstruction. They reconstruct the breast with belly skin and fat.
When the lump was analyzed, it was 15 cm in diameter and had two infiltrating sites. Everything was removed during the operation. I also had three sentinel lymph nodes taken out. If they were affected, I was going to do postoperative chemotherapy. They weren’t, so no chemo.
When I got the news of my diagnosis, I kept working. I stopped just two days before my operation on February 8. I work with children in a school setting, and it helped to take my mind off things. Then, in June, I had my radiation therapy. A total of 15 treatments, from Monday to Friday, lasting 15 to 20 minutes at CHUM. What I found most difficult about the radiation was the daily journey to downtown Montreal.
At first, the CHUM wanted to transfer me to Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital in Laval for radiation, but the hospital in Laval refused, saying radiation would cause me problems later on. But my oncologist in Montreal disagreed. She said that with a 15-cm tumour, it was better to do radiation. In the end, I was the one who had to make the decision, so I sided with the oncologist who had been following me since the beginning of my treatments. I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid the risk of recurrence at the time.
I finished the radiotherapy on July 4, so I was off work for the school summer vacation. I had excellent service at the CHUM. They returned my calls, answered my questions and were really reassuring.
Several friends have told me that they have discovered abnormalities in their breasts. They turn to me and ask: “Are you suggesting I go and get checked?”
I am stressed about the future. I have to take hormone therapy for five years to block hormone receptors because the cancer in my case was feeding on them. Will it make me menopausal? I don’t know. I’ve been told that it is not supposed to. However, I feel that it is already affecting the regularity of my cycle. We knew that our family was complete, otherwise we could have opted to freeze my eggs before the treatments started.
I found the hardest thing was facing the unknown. I find it wrong that we are not better equipped. There is a lack of information on this subject, especially at my age. I wasn’t doing breast self-observation; I didn’t know how and I didn’t know that it was necessary at my age! There is not enough awareness.
More people should know that it is possible to get breast cancer at a young age.
The Foundation is here to provide you with psychological support following a breast cancer diagnosis. In order to help you through the many emotional challenges of this disease, you can receive psychosocial support during individual or family meetings with our social worker, in person, by phone or by videoconference, in order to regain a sense of balance in your daily life. Call us at 1 855 561-PINK or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.