The day I got slapped in the face

May 22, 2019

Ever have those moments in life that slap you across the face? Where you're in such a stunned state of shock that the slap leaves you slack-jawed and dumbfounded. The raw nerves on your cheek vibrating with heat and you can't vocalize what just happened in any effective way because you still haven't even begun to piece together what just happened. Well that's where I'll begin my story, the day I got slapped:

Up until a month ago I was teaching as a professor/researcher and treating patients as a Naturopath. I had moved from Canada to my dream job and lifestyle in San Diego 2 years ago. My then fiancé was still living in Brampton as we worked on getting him a US visa.

During that time I felt a lump on my left breast. It was round, soft, mobile and painful, so I assumed it to be a cyst. I have dense breast tissue, so it wasn’t abnormal for me. I’ve felt similar things in the past, so I would change my diet, exercise, take supplements and it would go away. Then maybe a couple years later I'd feel another one and go through the same process again. However, this time, it wasn’t subsiding, in fact it was getting worse with increasing pain and size. I summed it up to getting older and my hormones changing, I figured it was probably about time I investigated my hormones in more detail.

Unfortunately, living in the US, I didn’t have a health plan, or at least not a very substantial one. My trips back home were brief, so by the time I received an ultrasound referral, the appointment would end up falling after I’m already scheduled to go back to San Diego. So, I didn't pursue it with much urgency.

As life/fate would have it, when my husband finally arrived to live in San Diego with me, he didn’t like it there. Since he was young, he had ambitions of moving from his small town in Northern Ireland to Canada. His dreams came into fruition, as he received work in Edmonton, which is where we met. Being that the adventure of travel is what brought us together, we decided to look for work along the west coast of Canada/US. The appeal of an outdoor life with mountains, beaches, sea and warm weather was particularly drawing to us, especially during the depths of Edmonton's 6 month winters. As it turned out, I was the one who landed a job, and we agreed that James was to move to my parent's house in Brampton until he finds work and a US visa. Naively, we went on this adventure without much forethought into the difficulties of a Structural Technician from Northern Ireland, with a Canadian permanent residency finding work in his field in southern California. What we thought would take 3 months, ended up taking 2 years. In the end, he left his job in Markham, and came to join me on a spousal visa, which didn't allow him to work. Frustrated and having had enough, we agreed to move back to Brampton in April.

The next day I went to my family doctor, she urgently sent a request for an ultrasound, which upon the technicians performing the imaging advised on a mammogram and immediate biopsies. The next week (which was last week on Tuesday) my husband and I were sitting at Credit Valley Hospital’s Diagnostic Assessment clinic waiting to be seen by the surgical oncologist on the results of my biopsy. I was still utterly convinced it was benign, and my husband should go back to work, since it was still the first week at his new job. When we were taken to the consult room, we were immediately informed, very plainly, might I add, that I have stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma in situ. 2 spots, one was triple negative while the other was low ER positive. Finally feeling that slap moment across my face, all I could muster up as a response was 'Whaaaaa?', with a look of complete disbelief on my face.

Immediately, I was launched into making decisions about a mastectomy, breast reconstruction chemo and radiation. As soon as the doctor left, I turned to my husband and said ‘What the f*uck?!?!!’ and burst into tears. WTF with everything, I’m 40 years old, newly married, wanting to start a family and now what? I have breast cancer??? Since then, I’ve been torpedoed into appointments around the the cancer and fertility. Dichotomies of despair and hope have shaken my world since that Tuesday. Currently, we’re preparing to extract eggs to freeze before I begin chemotherapy on May 31. The strangest part is, the thing I fear the most right now is an MRI. It’s so silly and really that's all I’ve been able to digest right now is that I fear being closed in during the imaging. That’s where I’m at right now. A person who has made healthy living and natural medicine her life story now learning to accept cancer as a chapter of it.

The only way I can begin to understand what is all happening is to write it out, to tell a story for others to read. I'm hoping that this will be a means for me to express the emotions and experiences that I'm about to go through. I hope to create a community of being honest, laughter to sadness as I experience the highs and lows of this path. I will by no means be making any recommendations from a naturopathic/medical standpoint. As a naturopath, I value holistic and individualized medicine. Your bodies are unique and deserve the care of someone who will address your concerns from a holistic perspective. I'm wanting to document my journey, and hope that it brings clarity, understanding and comfort to others.

Thanks for reading.


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