Malika

audio
Age at interview
37

Malika (37 years old) is married and has two young children who are three and eight years old. She worked as an administrative agent but is now on sick leave.

Malika received her diagnosis in 2013. Malika’s mother had been diagnosed and treated with breast cancer 12 years ago, but had a recurrence in 2012. Another member of Malika’s family, her cousin, had recently died from breast cancer. Malika returned to her home country last year to be with her mother who was dying. While she was still away and following her mother’s death, Malika noticed a pain in her left breast and she immediately went for testing when she returned to Canada. Malika was told by the doctor that she only had a cyst after undergoing an ultrasound and mammography. Malika, who was still breastfeeding her youngest child, didn’t trust the results and requested a second opinion. This second doctor immediately suspected that this was not just a cyst and took a biopsy from the lump. The results indicated breast cancer, but in Malika’s right breast and not in her left as she initially suspected. It was difficult for Malika to receive this diagnosis so soon after the loss of her mother. This has also been the reason that Malika decided not to tell her close family right away as she didn’t want to hurt them even more. She did eventually tell her children and her son seems to be ok with the news while her daughter is still too young to really understand what is happening. After the diagnosis, Malika experienced the long waiting times for a test. Malika decided to do the tests under private care to speed up the process. She then underwent chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy. She now knows that she has a genetic type of breast cancer and wished that she would have known before so that she could have taken preventive measures. Malika decided to share her story as she wants to encourage women, who have close family members with breast cancer, to go for testing for genetic breast cancer.

Time since diagnosis
2 - 5 years
Phase of treatment
In treatment

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Oh yes, yes! You have to be patient with the people… because when we are… we have this sickness, we become… I don’t know how, we confine ourselves, we feel like… not alone but angry. We say to ourselves: “Why us?” “Why us?” And it is good to be surrounded. It is good to be well surrounded and that they… Those who harass us with positive thinking, it is what I… This is what displease me a little more, it is when they start to… The people start to say: “No, but you must think positively. You have to be positive!” No, no. It’s all very well saying these things when you are on the other side of the barrier. But when you are really living it it’s normal to think about death, it’s normal to think about relapse, it’s normal to say that I am fed up, to be angry and to be depressed at times. You must not add to it by making the person feel guilty. “No, you have to be… No, you have to be positive.”

Yes… How do they say that, half of healing… 50% of healing is the morale. You can be depressed and pessimistic and heal! And optimistic, you do everything and that’s it! So there is nothing! There is no general rule, everything is… Each person is different; your own cancer, your own response, your own feelings, your own… And look how he is… You must not put everybody in the same boat and say… No, you must be positive. It gets on my nerves.

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Those who harass us with positive thinking, it is what I… This is what displease me a little more, it is when they start to… The people start to say: “No, but you must think positively. You have to be positive!” No, no. It’s all very well saying these things when you are on the other side of the barrier. But when you are really living it it’s normal to think about death, it’s normal to think about relapse, it’s normal to say that I am fed up, to be angry and to be depressed at times. You must not add to it by making the person feel guilty. “No, you have to be… No, you have to be positive.”

Yes… How do they say that , half of healing… 50% of healing is the morale. You can be depressed and pessimistic and heal! And optimistic, you do everything and that’s it! So there is nothing! There is no general rule, everything is… Each person is different; your own cancer, your own response, your own feelings, your own… And look how he is… You must not put everybody in the same boat and say… No, you must be positive.

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In September, yeah I had… I was diagnosed at the beginning of September. On the 6th I had my result, the 5th, I had the test, the ultrasound and the biopsy. So it was the wait to do all the tests, to have the appointments in time. When you have cancer, you are looking forward to starting the treatment. The wait is infernal. And then I decided to have my tests in the private clinic, the CT scan*(Computerized Axial Tomography Scan) , both CT scans, abdominal and thoracic, because to wait till November 20, I couldn’t take it psychologically. So I refused.

* CT scan: Body scan that produces cross section images of the body’s internal structures.

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Immediate reconstruction… The goal for me, I told myself: “I must save my own skin, my life. The esthetics, we’ll think about it later. But right now, it is my treatments, it is saving my own skin…” I am trying to survive this and will see after.

Interviewer: It is a question of priority?

It’s me… For me, I am pragmatic… It is a question of priority. The esthetics will come after. Frankly, I didn’t know how I was going to react. I didn’t know. And I don’t know because I am telling myself that some people are living without arms, legs, without… And the breast, I can… we can live without… We can live without it. I was more scared of the reconstruction because I didn’t know if I was going to have radiotherapy, knowing that I had something inside me… I had many questions because… But even the reconstruction it is still two surgeries. Well it was… Even if it was immediate but I had to be operated a second time. Am I ready to undergo this and go every week, go to inflate the expander that they were going to install? What… I didn’t have enough strength for all this. So, I told myself, as well… I must first save my life and then we will think about the esthetics later and knowing that I would have to undergo another surgery; because I must have the ovaries and the fallopian tubes removed because I am a carrier of the Hubert gene.

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So I didn’t see my doctor; he was on vacation. I saw a resident and I was prescribed an ultrasound, which I had done in a radiology centre. I had an ultrasound and I had insisted to have a mammogram also, knowing that I was still breastfeeding at the time. I was still breastfeeding my two-year old daughter at the time. I had an ultrasound, a mammogram and the radiologist did the ultrasound on the left breast and he left. Then I called him back and told him: “Listen, you forgot the right breast.” He came back and did the ultrasound of the right breast. “Everything is ok, it is a cyst.” But I don’t know, something inside me was telling me: “Go, get a second opinion.” Because I left and was told: “There is nothing, those are only cysts.” I went back to my family doctor but he was on vacation. So I went back to the doctor who prescribed the ultrasound, the referral. He gave me the result and told me: “It is nothing, it is a cyst” and all that. Then I said: “Listen, I want a second opinion. I want to see a breast specialist.” So, I was sent to another centre.

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So I didn’t see my doctor; he was on vacation. I saw a resident and I was prescribed an ultrasound, which I had done in a radiology centre.  I had an ultrasound and I had insisted to have a mammogram also, knowing that I was still breastfeeding at that time. I was still breastfeeding my 2-year old daughter at the time. I had an ultrasound, a mammogram and the radiologist did the ultrasound on the left breast and he left. Then I called him back and told him: “Listen, you forgot the right breast.” He came back and did the ultrasound on the right breast. Everything is ok, it is a cyst. But I don’t know, something inside me was telling me: “Go, get a second opinion.” Because I left and was told: “There is nothing, those are only cysts.” I went back to my family doctor, but he was on vacation. So I went back to the doctor who prescribed the ultrasound, the referral. He gave me the result and told me: “It’s nothing, it’s a cyst.” And all that. Then I said: “Listen, I want a second opinion. I want to see a breast specialist.” So I was sent to another centre. I booked an appointment the week after and the doctor that I saw there told me, after feeling the right breast, “Listen, what I am feeling there, it’s hard, it’s not a cyst.”

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The diagnosis, I don’t know. I have known for quite a while that I was going to have it. I don’t know why, because my mother had it at a young age. There are a lot of breast cancers in my family, thus I knew I was going to get it, but not at this time, six weeks after my mother’s death. It was too much at the same time. What was difficulty for me was not the diagnosis, the cancer or the grief, I didn’t know anymore. There were mixed feelings, but the cancer itself didn’t frighten me.