It was during a routine palpation that I felt a lump in my left breast. It is impossible to explain how I felt at that time. You must live in this situation to understand. For me, this lump had no reason to be there other than to tell me that I had cancer.
I immediately made an appointment with my gynecologist at the Vert-Galant Private Hospital in Tremblay, France. When the consultation was over, things went very quickly: he called the radiology department and asked for an emergency mammogram and breast ultrasound, as well as a biopsy of a sample taken from the tumour. A few days later, on March 10, 2017, my birthday, he called me and asked me to go to the office. I realized that the tumor was indeed malignant. It was now a question of what stage I was at.
He explained that I had grade 1 cancer, which corresponds to the least aggressive tumor. With mine measuring just over 2 cm and located right next to the under arm, a lumpectomy (removal of the tumour and its surroundings) would be sufficient, and my breast could be preserved. I thanked the Lord.
He made me an appointment with the surgeon for the next day, and with the oncologist the following day after. They first explained to me, in details, the various pre- and post-operative stages and secondly, the protocol I would have to follow, namely, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy.
I have been through some very difficult times, of course, but as my oncologist has said, the effects of treatment are less dangerous than the agony inside of you. He was right. So, I took it upon myself and with the help of all my family and friends I got over it. I cannot thank them enough for their physical and moral support daily. We need to be well surrounded to continue the fight. May God will fill them with grace.
I would also like to thank all the health care staff at the Vert-Galant Private Hospital for their professionalism and humanity.
Today, I am still on hormone therapy (a tablet I take every night) to avoid recurrences and feel good. By the grace of God, I can even add that I come out of this ordeal grown up. Since the day I had the confirmation of the disease, I have only focused on the essential, because life has taught me that it is short and that it must be appreciated at its true value.
I therefore encourage all women to see a doctor as soon as they have doubts during palpations, because the sooner the cancer is discovered, the more likely they are to recover and defeat cancer.
Delphine Kamano’s story
It was the winter we moved to our new home, where my story begins. It was the first day of spring break, the end of March, when I went in for my appointment. I was 41. I had been having these every couple years since I was 30 due to a lump in my left side. The procedure was not new to me and I thought nothing of it. The next day I was asked to come back for further imagining. I was nervous. The next day, I was told there was something suspicious on my right side and that a biopsy was needed. I started to really worry. On April 1st, I got the news that I was dreading, I had breast cancer. I asked if it was possible this was an April Fools joke? I was assured Mayo Clinic does not joke. The next couple of weeks were a blur as I made sub plans after sub plans for additional biopsies since I had invasive ductal carcinoma and planned on a lumpectomy with hopes of avoiding chemo, but that would only be if lymph nodes were not involved. The last biopsy I had to do was in the MRI machine, and the tests showed an additional ring of calcification around the original tumor and it was all cancerous. I needed a mastectomy. Plans changed.
I thought and prayed about my decision and talked with my husband. I decided to have a bilateral procedure. It was scheduled for April 18. When I woke up, I realized my biggest fear was going to be a reality. I had 3 lymph nodes infected, plus one in the interior on the breast. This put me at Stage 3 and it meant Chemo was happening. I had 19 lymph nodes removed. This also meant radiation due to being so “young” and having had possible spread.
I recovered at home with help of my husband, a good friend who washed my hair in the sink and my mom! All were experts at surgical drains, and I was so thankful when they could come out. After I healed from surgery, chemo began. I had 8 rounds total, every other week. This was from end of May through mid-September. I went for walks and watched kids swim and we kept our vacation plans for flying to Las Vegas and driving to California! I had my husband shave my head before the trip since hair started falling out right around the second treatment. I loved scarves and my Muslim friends showed different wraps. I also liked hats. Mostly, I was bald at home. I loved going on car rides with the windows down and did not worry about my hair!
By October, it was time for 5 weeks of radiation. I had 5 weeks of this and was utterly exhausted the whole time! During radiation, my expander “failed” on the affected side and so having implants was out of the question now. Six months later I had to do another long surgery of about 14 hours! After surgery, I slept in the recliner and had to wear lots of compression garments included a hip one to keep the abdomen compressed.
To keep this story short, I did not believe there would ever come a day when cancer was not the first thing on my mind, but that day does come! I will always have visible remembrances and there is no denying that I had cancer. It is just not the first thing on my mind. I am grateful for my treatments and support systems and all the medical specialists. I have tried to make permanent changes with cleaning products in our home, self-care products and change food habits. I try to live each day with appreciation and like to find humor in life. I do not think about death with worry. I know it will come at some point, but NO ONE knows! My mom reassured me when I was worrying one day about having a shorter life expectancy that it could be true of anyone; a person could walk across the street and get hit by a bus! It is not worth energy and LIVING to dwell on the what-ifs. I am living my life with intention and finding purpose. I do not do things I do not want to do anymore. I am careful with me. It is the blessing of a cancer diagnosis. You figure out what matters.
Raquel Johnson’s story
On July 3rd, 2017, I was diagnosed with Stage 3, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER/PR+ HER2- breast cancer. I was a healthy, active woman with no history of breast cancer in my family. I felt my body had betrayed me. I was way too young to have breast cancer.
I found a dimple during a self-exam. My doctor told me it felt “smooth and non-worrisome,” but at my request, she scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound for me.
At this appointment, I learned I had dense breast tissue and two lumps which ultimately led to a bilateral mastectomy. The plastic surgeon went straight to implants and seven weeks later, I started chemotherapy. My cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, so my oncologist recommended four treatments of Adriamycin/Cytoxan, “The Red Devil,” followed by Paclitaxel. I only had seven of the 12 treatments because I developed neuropathy in my hands and feet and my white blood cell count was too low for too many weeks.
Because the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, I also had 25 radiation treatments. The radiology oncologist provided me with Mepitel which saved my skin in the long run. After treatments were over, I had a gnarly burn with a rash, but it finally went away after several weeks. I now suffer from capsular contracture in the right breast mound. I also see a lymphedema specialist at Mayo Clinic. She helps with my shoulder mobility and movement of lymphatic fluid.
Once my radiation treatments were complete, I started taking a drug called Tamoxifen. It is a hormone blocker that I will take for approximately 7-10 years.
While it sounds horrific to be grateful for having this journey, I learned so much about myself and living life full of love and gratitude.
During my journey, I journaled and wrote a book called, How Cancer Cured My Broken Soul. The writing process was cathartic for me, and my goal was to use the book to help others going through breast cancer treatments. I am a Guide for newly diagnosed patients with Firefly Sisterhood, a non-profit in The Cities, and a Mentor for Join the Journey, a non-profit in Rochester, Minnesota. I also manage a private, Facebook journaling group.
Nicole L. Czarnomski’s Journey
Ildze Canfield Story
Going through my diagnosis and recovery has taught me the importance of having a support system. I have been an independent woman and liked to do things on my own… left my country of origin, Colombia, 2 decades ago and lately have devoted my life to what I call my miracle child, Isabella. In June 2020, I got a call from the hospital telling me that I had breast cancer. I was alone in my bedroom when I answered the phone. That afternoon I just sat quietly listening to the nurse not understanding a word she was saying. Took a moment to realize that I had it. Then the process started, acceptance, telling my closest family and friends, choosing the best option for treatment and soon enough, dealing with anxiety and depression. For a moment I felt like I was losing my
willingness to enjoy every day. In the hardest days I felt like crawling down to a hole, to close my eyes and hope for a miracle.
A few days before my surgery, a double mastectomy, something happened. I saw the light, I prayed hard, my daughter needs me, I can do this. Then my faith took over, I regained my mental strength and began to be thankful for what I had. Every day was precious, every little thing was important, even taking a car ride with my husband Mark and Isabella was the most enjoyable thing to do. As I learned to survive Cancer, I understood that -for me- there was nothing more important than to have a genuine willingness to enjoy life. Today I can say that somehow heaven has touched me and that there are brighter colors out
In a few months, I will have reconstruction surgery and once again, I know, that my support system will be there. Having the help and companionship of family and friends has been crucial for my physical and mental well-being. I am very fortunate, but there are many women that do not have the same luck and that are literally alone.
I meet Hawa Camara in one of our breast cancer survivor meetings where she mentioned the need of creating a logo for her NGO. I felt the call to volunteer and do it. Listening to her talk about breast cancer outside of the U.S. broke my heart and opened my eyes. To start sketching, I imagine a woman in Guinea Africa facing a breast cancer diagnosis. A woman finding strength to stand and become a survivor regardless of the circumstances. There are places with very little access to medical care or support, many women are misdiagnosed and lose precious time that can make a difference. In several cultures having cancer makes you someone less than, in a way it “cancels” you from having a normal life. You will be seen differently and sometimes even discarded. All these images inspired the design. The logo shows a man and a woman holding up a breast cancer fighter. The colorful print celebrate the African culture. The head scarf highlights the beauty of a woman ready to fight and she is not alone.
I believe this ONG has an invaluable mission. It is a window for all to see beyond our own way of living and a vehicle to help the most vulnerable. I encourage you to take the time to explore this website.
To all the cancer fighters and survivors you are not alone. Please know that there is a network of women that care and this site is proof of it. Reach out and meet with others and most importantly share your story.