Today we are continuing with one of our features, personal interviews! You can read our past interviews here. Today Lacuna Loft talks with a cancer survivor, Paula. She discusses her illness, her emotional and physical health and well being, and so much more!
Lacuna Loft: When were you diagnosed and what is your diagnosis?
Paula: May 21 2015, I was 36. I had noticed a dent in my left breast back in January. I thought I was working out to hard but when it didn’t go away I decided to get it checked. They found two tumor’s during the original ultrasound, Stage 3 Grade 3 Invasive Inductile carcinoma. After my mastectomy they discovered 5 tumors and fully involved lymph nodes. I was a large DD so the ultrasound didn’t see the other tumors.
LL: How did you feel when you were first diagnosed?
P: I was scared. There are days I still pray it’s a bad dream and I will eventually wake up. But I was prepared, I knew something was up right from the ultrasound, plus my Mum has been through it. My biggest fears in the beginning were losing my hair and the surgeries. I was angry at myself for not getting it checked sooner. I had put my job before my health. I figured it was nothing. I was too young, even my doctor was shocked.
LL: How did you choose to share your diagnosis with your children?
P: We just told them straight. They knew something was up. I was worried about telling my kids, cause ultimately it increased their chances for the future of being diagnosed as well. My son didn’t understand. He thought I was like Terry Fox. He was worried I was going to die.
LL: Any words of wisdom to other young adult cancer survivor moms out there?
P: Never stop asking questions, about your options, benefits. Never stop living. I kept going to the gym and the arena. I wasn’t missing anything unless my doctors told me I needed to stay home, like post-op and such.
LL: Who/what/where did you turn to?
P: I turned to my family and social media. I had no benefits. I lost my job. We have very few close friends. I found fellow survivors through a local Moms group. It surprised me the people I thought would be there for me weren’t and complete strangers bent over backward to help me.
LL: What (if any) additional outlets could you have used/turned to that you do not feel you had at the time?
P: There needs to be better benefits for Cancer patients who do not have employer benefits. Without the fundraising we would be in a bad place right now, and stress on top of it all doesn’t help the healing process.
LL: What kinds of things did you do to distract yourself when you were going through treatments (either at home or at the hospital… Or both)?
P: I go the gym. I go to Cancer yoga. I watch movies on my tablet.
LL: Could you describe how sharing your story has affected your journey with Cancer?
P: Outsiders know very little about the process. Some don’t know how to treat you, some treat you like you have a common cold, and a few doubt you, if you don’t look sick then you must not be. Many people were inspired by my strength. I never let Cancer stop me from living.
LL: Where are you now in your journey with Cancer?
P: I have had a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I have finished Chemo (thank god). I just had my lymph nodes and ovaries removed right before Christmas, so now I heal for another few weeks, and then I have 35 radiation treatments to go. Once that is complete we will make the right side match, and then hopefully be done. Now I am just praying for my hair to grow back.
LL: What do you like to do in your spare time?
P: I love to go to the gym and I spend 6-8 hour each week at the arena watching my kids play hockey and ringette.
LL: What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young adult facing Cancer or another life-threatening illness?
P: You are stronger than you think. Make sure you keep living, take help when offered, and ask for help when you need it.
The financial strain on a family is almost as bad as the illness itself. It’s so hard to focus on your health when you’re worried about bills, food, etc. I had to wait 5 months for disability from the government. It’s 1/3 of what I was making and we have 4 kids. My husband had to use all of his vacation to be at the important appointments and take me to my surgeries. Everything he took off after July was unpaid. But he is my rock and I needed him with me.
This is my Youcaring link. We are still so far from our goal. I will likely be off work until late 2016 early 2017 so every little bit helps.
Please never put your job before your health. It’s not worth it and it could cost you your life.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Paula! Paula would like you all to know that she is more than happy to answer any questions that you all might have about chemo, surgeries, reconstruction, etc.!
Are you a cancer survivor, caregiver, or do you have a long term illness? Interested in being interviewed by Lacuna Loft? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you!