When cancer entered my life, I was 43 years old. More than 5 years had passed since I had seen a doctor. I had some chest discomfort, but I did not feel any lumps or irregularity. Luckily, a friend encouraged me to go to the gynecologist. Thanks to that visit, they found a lump that turned out to be triple negative breast cancer. At that moment, a long, hard battle began for me, but I always found the energy to defeat it.
I have a family history of breast cancer, my paternal grandmother and first cousin had both had it. When I was diagnosed with the tumor, I was scared, and I thought why me? However, I quickly turned that frustration and fear into hope and the will to fight: I was sure that I was going to win this fight.
The treatment phase and surgery
First, I had surgery, followed by several sessions of chemotherapy and subsequent radiotherapy. The operation went very well. Recovery was quick and not too painful. It is important to be calm and not exert yourself because it is such a delicate area. During the time between surgery and treatment, you have to take care of yourself and build up the energy to take on what’s next.
You are limited because you cannot move your arm, you’re uncomfortable, but this is normal after such an operation.
Two years after my operation, I decided to have a breast reduction because my chest size was giving me back problems. The surgeon, having seen my history of triple-negative cancer, recommended the BRCA test to see if my tumor was genetic. Unfortunately it was positive, so I went from going in for a breast reduction to undergoing a double mastectomy.
At that time you are in shock. You start to think: “How will I look without my breasts?” but my surgeon explained that I would be leaving the operating room with implants in place. That way, it’s much easier to accept because you never have to see yourself without breasts.
The operation was successful, but my problem came after six months, when I had an infection in the breast that had been treated with radiotherapy. I had to have the implants removed. I’m not going to lie. I felt awful. I thought this was all behind me. Instead, I was in the emergency room and a few hours later, in the operating room having the implant removed.
It was hard. I was angry, sad… But thanks to the medical team that I had with me, I felt supported, and I mustered up the energy to keep going.
The hardest part came later when I saw myself without my breasts. That was the hardest blow. I was advised by a specialist center where I could buy an external prothesis. That was liberating because I felt like a woman again. It gave me the courage to keep fighting no matter what was coming my way. I had my breasts again.
Since it was a type of genetic cancer, I was advised to also have my ovaries removed, and I did so. As a woman, having your breasts and ovaries removed, our organs, is not easy. It is part of our femininity, thanks to them we reproduce, we feel, we enjoy…
The question: “Can I have children again?” that I sometimes asked myself, finally had an answer: No. At least not naturally. “Will I feel like a woman without my reproductive sex organs?” is another question I asked myself, but removing my ovaries and breasts was the solution for preventing the disease from relapsing, to not have cancer again. So I didn’t think about it: I wanted to keep living.
Reflections on my experience
I’m happy with the steps I took. I feel healthy and happy with myself and with my family. Family is the most important pillar of my life.
Since it is inherited, my children will need to be monitored, as will my brother and niece, as they may be more likely to develop cancer.
During this journey, I have needed psychological help at different times. I recommend it to everyone since it can really help you accept your new life. All of this makes you change, and it’s not always easy to absorb everything that’s going on in this big battle.
To feel beautiful and happy, the support of your family and your surroundings play a major role. My husband supports me in everything. He’s never had any trouble looking at my scars, even he’s even done the wound dressing for me. He always supports me, just like other family and friends do.
I, as an oncology patient, want to send encouragement to all those women who have breast cancer, ovarian cancer or other types of cancer. You gotta keep fighting. If you need help: ask for it. There are so many people out there to heal us, to care for us, and we´ll never stop being women. These people make this long journey a little easier.