Jeannette

Jeannette
Age at interview
46

Jeanette (46 years old) works as a postmaster. She has two grown children who were both living at home when she was diagnosed.

Jeanette was diagnosed in 2012 following a regular mammogram. Jeanette and her doctor had been unable to feel the lump themselves. With the first lumpectomy the results showed that the cancer was invasive. She had to undergo a second lumpectomy to check if the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, which it fortunately hadn’t. Jeanette was then treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Currently, Jeanette is taking hormones and she hardly notices any side effects. Overall, Jeanette is very satisfied with the support from the medical team and felt that the nurses knew exactly what to advise when she was, for example, struggling with the difficult side effects of chemo. At the time of the diagnosis, Jeanette decided to tell her children as soon as her son finished his exams for university which was two days before her surgery. After her chemotherapy, Jeanette went back to work with a bald head which was hard to do as customers would not recognize her but at the same time it gave her hope and strength as she received support from people who would share their own illness stories. And now she does the same when she meets customers that have cancer. Work helped Jeanette to focus on something else and to feel that everything is returning back to normal. It has also helped her to use jokes and laughter to deal with the situation that is sometimes so hard and scary to live with. Jeanette’s way of looking at life has changed since her diagnosis she now lives each day for the day and she takes the time to enjoy the beauty of nature or enjoy a good book.

Time since diagnosis
2 - 5 years
Phase of treatment
Remission

Videoclips

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It was hard because I wouldn’t wear a wig so I had no hair. I went back to work and I waited on my customers, because I work in retail, and a lot of the times they didn’t know who I was. But at the same time I would have women come up to me and say "Oh! What type of cancer did you have?" And then they would tell me their story which was great because they had been through it so it was good, it was a happy ending to see them standing in front of me. I even had a man come in who said his mother, who died maybe 5 years ago at the age of 87; she had had breast cancer when she was in her 20s.

It was really hard because my sisters and brothers knew but their children didn’t. So now I have nieces who’ve just turned teenagers and they’re not aware of their family history. I don’t know when their parents will tell them but that’ll be up to them. I went to Christmas dinner with no hair and no wig, I just told them I just cut it all off because I wanted to and they were all happy with that. You know they were 10 & 11 at the time but you have to wonder what they do think, but I didn’t care. But it’s still really hard now because we just referred to when I had short hair.

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Interviewer: You received a whole set of information?

Oh you receive everything. The nurses will sit down with you and go through: this is what we’re going to do, this is what you can expect, this is what you will experience, this is what you can do to take care of it. And then, when the test results came back, they sat down with me and went through everything. They say estrogen positive, well this is not good but we can treat it with Tamoxifen; progesterone negative which is good, they told me exactly what everything meant, so I knew what I was dealing with.

I feel the treatment of breast cancer they have it down to a science. Here we can call the hospital, leave a message for the nurse, she calls back, she knows exactly what you have to do and then you don’t endure it again for the chemo treatments and the radiation. They’re all very, very good here. We’re very lucky to have all of them.

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It was really hard because my sisters and brothers knew but their children didn’t. So now I have nieces who’ve just turned teenagers and they’re not aware of their family history. I don’t know when their parents will tell them but that’ll be up to them. I went to Christmas dinner with no hair and no wig and I just told them “I just cut it all off because I wanted to.” They were all happy with that. You know they were 10 and 11 at the time but you have to wonder what they do think, but I didn’t care. But it’s still really hard now… because we just referred to when I had short hair.

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It was really hard because my sisters and brothers knew but their children didn’t. So now I have nieces who’ve just turned teenagers and they’re not aware of their family history. I don’t know when their parents will tell them but that’ll be up to them. I went to Christmas dinner with no hair and no wig and I just told them “I just cut it all off because I wanted to.” They were all happy with that. You know they were 10 and 11 at the time but you have to wonder what they do think, but I didn’t care. But it’s still really hard now… because we just referred to when I had short hair.

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My daughter and her friend and I, and I was still tired, and we were sitting in the middle of the mall. I was just waiting for them and my daughter was standing there talking to me and she said “Mom, I want to go hit that woman.” There was a woman behind me walking by me and she said “Mom I’m going to go hit that woman, she won’t stop staring at you.” I said ‘Well dear you don’t know, you don’t know what she’s thinking. She might have gone through this herself, she might know exactly how I’m feeling. That may be the reason she’s looking at me because she knows or she knows of somebody who’s been through it. It’s not that she’s judging me and thinking that I shouldn’t be here without no hair it’s… you don’t know why she’s looking at me.” “Oh okay” she said. You don’t know, and it didn’t bother me to be out without it because I’m still me.

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When you’re finished your chemotherapy you ring a little bell on your last day when you’re leaving. So when I went downstairs to do my radiation one of the radiation technicians was a male and he was there every day for my 20 treatments except my very last day. On my very last day I’m laying on the table, he wasn’t there, his wife was expecting a baby and I said, “Well he’s not here, that’s fine he has a job to do.” I’m laying on the table for my last time and the tears were streaming down my eyes just because it’s so overwhelming, like this is it and now it’s, “What’s next? What do I have to do next?” But as I come out of the radiation room, there he was standing there to give me a big hug good-bye. I said that’s so much better than ringing a bell upstairs.