Bumpy Boobs (Part Two)

As a follow-up to one of our previous post, we recently had an interview with Catherine who we met through her blog Bumpy Boobs.

Not only is Catherine the youngest women to share her story with us, but she’s also the first international participant (which makes her story that much more special). It was not easy talking about her experience (it never is), but we’re sure her story will inspire other women going through breast cancer – especially young women who wouldn’t expect to be diagnosed with it.

Read our full interview with Catherine below:

1. How did you find out you had breast cancer?

I found a lump in my breast a week before my first year wedding anniversary. Occasionally I’d do a self-exam, no particular routine – just whenever I thought it, and this time there was a lump. After visiting my GP she referred me to the breast clinic, where they took an ultrasound followed by mammogram and biopsy. I was still clinging to threads of hope before receiving my results. But they kept me waiting in the reception for what seemed to be forever, after which my husband and I were called into a side room. The doctor entered with a nurse, and he started feeling around my chest, asking if my family lived in the area (which they don’t. I live in England and my entire family, except Zsolt, live in Canada).  His fingers were probing my sweaty armpit when he said those few impacting words: Well, it’s cancerous.

I just burst into tears.

Gosh, even rewriting about that day brings up so many emotions. It’s a deep memory of pain and shock. That was a big day, and maybe the hardest. I hope to never have a similar conversation.

2. What was the treatment like?

Because I’m only 28 (27 at the time) they decided on a aggressive treatment plan. My family generally stays away from drugs and harsh therapy, but then the doctors throws stats like ‘90% reoccurrence’ without any treatment, and that’s scary. So I had a mastectomy on my right breast – totally removed, along with the lymph nodes.

After recovering from that, we started chemotherapy – which was 4 bi-weekly sessions of a volatile cocktail, followed by 12 weeks (every week) of a less intense chemo.

Next I’ll have radiotherapy, which starts on Feb. 7th. And I’ve now begun my hormone therapy, which is meant to last for five years (though I may stop early and try to have children). Also, I took five shots of Zolodex during chemotherapy – this shuts down the ovaries and put me into ‘temporary menopause’ . . . however I’ve been off Zolodex for a month and am still in menopause. Hot flashes at twenty eight – now I understand what my mother is going through.

3. Is breast cancer genetic in your family?

There is no history of breast cancer in my family on either side. In fact, there is no history of cancer, period. Nothing. However, I have not yet been genetically tested though may be in the future.

4. Did you wear a wig? Any experiences with wearing a wig you’d like to share?

I never wore a wig. I have a wig, it’s still in the box.

Trying on wigs is bizarre! It’s incredible how much hair changes our looks. My mother and I went to the shop to try on wigs and it was a surreal experience. In the end I decided to go bald, mind you – now that my hair is growing back in patches, I might reconsider the wig idea.

5. What helped you take the decision to not wear a wig?

I was so tired during chemotherapy, the thought of a wig – even a scarf – didn’t appeal. Instead I went bald after shaving my head; it was pretty cool. As my hair grows back (in patches) I am wearing scarves, socks, hats, etc.

6. Were there other women your age that you connected with during treatment?

There was this younger girl across the room who looked to be my age, however I never approached her, which I regret. In general the ladies were significantly older than me, but very friendly nevertheless. The elderly women often looked at me and ‘tsk’ed: “So sad when they’re so young”. But otherwise I fit in – except for my bald head, Canadian accent, and the difference in age.

Actually, I connected with the nurses. Most of the nurses were around my age, and it was great to talk with them (about school, nightlife, marriage, etc). They provided a gentle medicine amongst all the needles and chemotherapy drips. Kindness and compassion go a long way.

7. Now that you’re in recovery, are there any positive things that you drew of the experience?

I’m in a strange phase between treatments and my body is regaining strength. The very best thing about recovery is connected to my mood. Now without all those drugs my depression has lifted, I’m less emotional, and my confidence is returning. There will be good days and bad ones, but since recovery began the good have outnumbered the bad.

A positive thing from this entire journey is how close it brought me to my family and friends. The amount of support was incredible. Aunts, friends, strangers, co-workers, parents – people were there to help, whether it be a prayer, a meal, or a chat.

Also, I have to mention my blog because it’s been a hub of discussion, reassurance and focus during this past year. Writing  is my passion, and it was amazing to share that – share my story – with so many people. Connections were made that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, all because I write every now and then. My grandmother loves it.

8. What would you advise other women your age going through breast cancer treatment?

1) Persevere. Keep fighting, and let others fight with you. It’s overwhelming, it’s infuriating, it’s unfair. Keep fighting. Turn that anger into rocket fuel.

2) Share your story. Your bravery will inspire others, but also – and more practically – this is way too challenging to do alone. The emotional, time and physical pressures can be eased through a good support network. But first, you need to be brave and tell people. They will surprise you.

3) One last thing, despite surgery, chemo, hair loss, etc., you are still beautiful. People don’t see the hair loss, they see you – they are so glad to see you. And you are beautiful, and you will be even more beautiful when this clears. For me, it wasn’t the mastectomy that effected my body image, it was the chemotherapy and hair loss. These things don’t last forever, and when you stop being tired, you’ll see how quickly those good feelings return.

Thank you Catherine for opening up to us and sharing your story! Best wishes for a healthy recovery 🙂

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Keep posted with Catherine as she recovers through her blog Bumpy Boobs.

Bumpy Boobs (Part One)

We met Catherine online. When someone’s twitter profile reads “Screw breast cancer, let’s get on with the show.”, how can you not be intrigued?

Twenty eight years old and one boob down, Catherine is ready to move on with her life. Her trusty sidekick through this (besides her supportive husband, family and friends of course) is her blog Bumpy Boobs that shares the ups and downs of her recovery.

“[Bumpy Boobs] isn’t just a breast cancer blog. No way.” Catherine explains. “It’s about body image, relationships, communicating, role models, and how incredible and supportive people can become.. It’s about my experience, which is all the expertise I’m fit to share.”

Fair enough. Her blog has also been one of the positive things Catherine drew out of her experience:

“[My blog] has been a hub of discussion, reassurance and focus during this past year. Writing is my passion, and it was amazing to share that – share my story – with so many people. Connections were made that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, all because I write every now and then.”

Plus, her grandmother loves it (and so do we!).

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More on Catherine coming soon – there’s simply too much to write in one post, so we’ll be posting in two parts – this entry being the intro and the second part with more details about her experience. Keep posted.

Side-note: If you’re inspired to start your own blog to record your own breast cancer experience, thoughts, or to “simply let it out” somewhere – don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll gladly share advice on getting your blog set-up!

Healing and Hope: A Documentary with Survivors in UAE

One of the hardest things about working on a project about Breast Cancer in Lebanon is that people seldom want to talk about it. They don’t want anyone to know about it. They don’t want anyone to see them. It’s something one must suffer in silence and pray for the best. Women that went through it, want to forget they did with a fear that mentioning it might bring this vicious enemy back into their lives. This makes it even more difficult for the patient to recover normally due to all the stress of keeping it secret and isolation. This is not healthy both for the patient and society.

One Wig Stand will keep trying to lift the taboo about talking about cancer, gently but surely. How else will things begin to change here?

Check out this inspirational documentary “Healing and Hope” about Breast Cancer survivors in the UAE. This is a wonderful step in the right direction that reveals that more women in the Middle East are ready to open up about their very personal (and no doubt, very difficult) experiences. Watch both parts below (Arabic with English subtitles):

Hope the videos shed some much-needed insight on treatment options in the region, the importance of getting checked early and “give a spark of hope” as one of the women interviewed says at the end.

تسعة أشهر للتعافي

ما بين أول وثاني شعر مستعار ارتديته، هناك قصة غير مروية عن واحد آخر. إنه الشعر المستعار الذي يشكل حلقة مفقودة في قصتي ولكنني لم أتذكر ذلك إلا مؤخراً. لا بد من أنني أتقدم في العمر!

وكانت الحلقة المفقودة، أو الشعر المستعار كما أحب أن أسميها، الثانية التي أرتديها. إن انتقاله من إمرأة إلى أخرى يخلق رابطاً بينهن. تشير إلى أول امرأة في هذا المشروع، صاحبة واجهة عرض الشعر المستعار، كمصدر إلهام لها، والتي أجابتها على هذه الكلمات بالضبط كالأتي:

“فكري في علاجك كمرحلة الحمل. إنها تسعة أشهر صعبة ومن ثم ينتهي كل العناء. الفرق الوحيد هو أنك بعد الحمل تحصلين على شيء جميل، ولكن العلاج الخاص بك، يساعدك على التخلص من أمر سيئ”.

وكان من المطمئن بالنسبة لها أن ترى صديقتها، التي واجهت الحالة عينها قبلها، بصحة سليمة مع كامل شعرها الذي ينمو بعد انتهاء العلاج. تعلقت بهذه الكلمات طوال مدة علاجها.

كانت هي أيضاً شابة على غرار السيدة الثالثة التي أخبرتكم عنها. خضعت في الـ35 من العمر لأول فحص شعاعي للثدي بموجب اقتراح من طبيبها. لا أحد كان يتوقع أن تكشف النتائج عن وجود السرطان في صدرها. وبعد 9 أشهر، تم علاجها تماماً كما قيل لها.
أشد ما أعجبني فيها هو أنها لم تدع السرطان يخفف من عزيمتها. لم تتغيب خلال العام الدراسي بأكمله (انها معلمة للغة العربية في مدرسة ثانوية)، سوى يومين فقط. إنه لأمر مدهش حقاً. وما جعله أكثر إدهاشاً أن انفتاحها بشأن ما كانت تمر به دفع جميع النساء في المدرسة للخضوع لفحص للثدي الشعاعي. واستطاعت امرأة على الكشف عن إصابتها بالسرطان وبدأت علاجاً مبكراً نتيجة لذلك.

إنها منفتحة جداً بخصوص تجربتها، خاصة بعد أن شهدت التأثير الإيجابي الذي أثارته لدى نساء أخريات حولها. ومنذ ذلك الحين، عاشت ثلاث نساء في المدرسة من الحالة نفسها، بالإضافة إلى أستاذ تم تشخيصه بسرطان البروستات. وتجدر الإشارة إلى أنهم يشيرون بشكل غير رسمي عن بعضهم البعض باسم “نادي السرطان” — ناد للناجين يدعمون من خلاله بعضهم البعض عن طريق الخبرات المشتركة.

تشارك بعض النصائح مع نساء أخريات اللواتي على وشك الخضوع لعلاج سرطان الثدي. نأمل أن تساهم كلماتها في تذكيرهن بأنهن لسن وحيدات وتحثهن على الاستمرار في الصمود:

1 – كل الأمور لها بدايتها ونهايتها. فكري في الأمر كأنه مرحلة الحمل كما فعلت أنا. سوف تعيشين الألم لبضعة أشهر، ولكن بعد ذلك كل شيء سيعود إلى طبيعته.
2 – حافظي على الإحساس بالحياة الطبيعية. لم أكن أريد لأطفالي أن يشعروا بان حياتهم تتغير لأنني كنت مريضة، لذلك لم أتوقف عن إيصالهم إلى أنشطتهم والذهاب إلى العمل.
3 – لا تدعي آراء أخرى تؤثر عليك. فالناس لا يزالون يعانون من نقص في المعرفة حول مرض السرطان. السرطان لا يعني الموت! تبلغ نسبتة معدل النجاة 90 في المئة، خاصة إذا لم ينتشر السرطان في الجسم.
4 – يجب أن تبقي معنوياتك مرتفعة. وإذا كان إيمانك قوياً فستننتصرين عليه.
5 – ثقي دائماً بحدسك. فإذا شعرت بأن هناك خطب ما وطبيبك يقول بأنه ليس بالأمر الخطير، إستشيري شخصاُ آخراً.
6 –إيمانك سيقويك. شعرت بأن علاقتي بالله تتعمق وبأنه كان يمسك يدي أثناء العلاج.

وبعد نجاتك بصحة وتوهج، الشيء الوحيد الذي يبقى هو الشعور بالقلق. للأسف لا بد لهذه التجربة أن تترك بصمته. وقالت: “القلق لا يختفي. هذا الشعور موجود دائماً. ستقلقين من أن شيئا سيئاً قد يحدث وأنك قد تصابين مجدداً”.

نحن نأمل بالتأكيد ألا يحدث ذلك، ونرفع صلاتنا لتبقى سليمة. أنا متأكدة من أنها كانت، وستبقى، مصدر إلهام لغيرها من النساء من حولها.

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