Margaret

Margaret
Age at interview
68

Margaret has three grown children and 6 grandchildren and lives on her own. She worked as a home economist and is now retired.

Margaret received her diagnosis in 2006.Margaret noticed a lump in her breast and had it checked by the doctor. A mammogram and ultrasound didn’t show anything and Margaret was relieved. During her annual check-up, a year later, Margaret still had the lump but again nothing was found during more tests. This time the doctor referred her to a surgeon who did a surgical biopsy and she heard the same day that the lump was actually breast cancer. She carried on that weekend with her original plans and spent a weekend with friends, but soon after underwent a lumpectomy and 30 lymph nodes were also removed.

During chemotherapy Margaret tried to take a walk every day except for the days that she was feeling very bad. The biggest hardships for her were the nausea and the pain from the Neulasta injection. Which she needed to boost her white cell count. After chemo Margaret took Arimidex for five years to lower her estrogen and treat her cancer. The first year she had pain in her whole body every single day.  But after one year the pain went away. When she stopped taking the Arimidex, she somehow felt a loss as if she was losing some sort of protection. On her request, Margaret has recently started to take Tamoxifen, and she feels it is going well. Margaret developed lymphedema in her right arm and she wore a sleeve and glove for a year; she also received a drainage massage once per week and she saw a physiotherapist at the cancer hospital. She has been very diligent in doing exercises to prevent the lymphedema from returning. Overall, Margaret feels she has received amazing support from her family and friends during her treatment. People still join her on daily walks, and her daughter and a friend used to accompany her to the chemo treatments while others brought her food. Margaret feels that the great support and her daily walks have helped her to remain strong, courageous and positive.

Margaret was able to become an active member of a dragon boat team after her treatments. She loved being part of the team and to share the love, care and support amongst the members. Learning to meditate provided another powerful way for Margaret to cope with treatments; she meditated religiously before chemo sessions. She learned that not everything in life is worth worrying about this helps her to better value the things in life that are important to her.

Time since diagnosis
6 - 10 years
Phase of treatment
Remission

Videoclips

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One, yeah, every 3 weeks, and I was very lucky I think from what other people experience. I certainly did have a few days where I felt really awful. One of my biggest complaints I think or my biggest hardships of it were the nausea and the pain. The pain was caused from a needle that I had to give myself. It was called Neulasta and it was to build up your white blood cells, is that the right word blood cells?  
I did have bad nausea for a day or two but other than that is was good. I was able to do anything. 

That drug that I had to give myself, the needle, it was interesting. I think it was like 3 days after I would start getting a pain in the top of my head and it would go down through the whole body and it lasted for a few days and it was quite bad. It was all, it was at the same time as the nausea and things like that too.

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One thing that I did, I had a friend who was a psychologist and she said if I wanted to that I could come to see her and she would help me with the meditation. She walked me through a meditation to do. I could do it any day but especially to do before I went to my chemo. I did that religiously before my chemo and quite often in between and maybe a shorter version. And I found that was really helpful and even once in a while now, over the years, if I’ve felt a little bit vulnerable I’ll go and do that and feel it’s getting rid of any of the bad stuff that’s in my body. Giving me good stuff, and that works, I forgot about that but that was really a powerful thing for me.

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But one of the things that still bothers me, once they discharge you from the cancer hospital care there’s not a lot of support out there I find.

Interviewer: What kind of support do you feel you needed at that point when you were discharged?

When I finished my medication that I was on, I thought "Oh! Now what?" It’s quite a loss, a feeling of loss, when you all of a sudden stop this one medication which is probably going to increase your chance of survival by, not 100% that’s for sure, but it does increase it. But then you have no protection, you’re not getting any treatment, things like that. I found that that was quite hard for a while until I thought "Oh well, whatever that’s how it is."

Interviewer: But it just kind of stops and then there’s?

It just stops. Bang! I found that that was hard.

Interviewer: So there’s no follow-up with your physician after that?

I was fortunate that I had a really good physician. Because my breast cancer was never found through mammograms and ultrasounds, and that even the MRI* (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and things like that didn’t really show it, which I had forgot to mention that I had had an MRI.

But it was through my own breast exam that I found it and so she agreed to, for me, to have breast exams every 3 or 4 months and so that was good. It’s just, I sometimes would like to have someone to talk to a little bit about now, what now? At what point do you ask if you can have a bone scan or CT scan* (Computerized Axial Tomography Scan), and is this kind of stuff normal, or is it necessary, or is it more like a paranoia thing?

Interviewer: So that kind of checking in every once in a while...What’s your normal pattern now? Do you go back to your family physician when you want to?

Yeah I still go every 3 or 4 times during the year to have a mammogram and then I do go to the cancer hospital and have an ultrasound and a mammogram too, once per year. That’s it. There’s some people that I know, and I wish I was one of them, they are on a study and so they see a doctor every 3 months. They have blood tests and have different tests and things like that and I’d like to be one of them.

Interviewer: What would be different for you if you were one of them?

I think then you just have a little bit more reassurance that nothing is creeping up, getting too involved in your body I guess…

*MRI: Imaging test that creates a 3-dimensional picture of the body’s internal structures using magnetic force and radio frequencies.
*CT scan: Body scan that produces cross section images of the body’s internal structures.

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I think treating each woman as an individual, being able to take the time to spend with the woman, being caring, being patient, understanding. I always appreciate if I feel like the doctor or the healthcare person has time for me that isn’t rushed, that isn’t rushing off to do something else. Being willing to listen to my questions and concerns and things like that, even if they’re very trivial but at the moment, maybe they aren’t for myself. I like to know the facts, I want to know, I don’t want anyone to sugar-coat anything, I want to know how it is, what to look for and what’s ahead of me. I guess the honesty.

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I did discover or develop a little bit of lymphedema in my right arm where the surgery had been. So I was dealing with that but after my surgery, the hospital that I went at has a really good support system for people with breast cancer, and I went to that and it talked about all sorts of things. Everything that you needed to know like different activities, different exercises to do, different support groups, different organizations, and things like that which are good. It was at that place that I did discover about breast friends, a dragon boat team that I was quite interested in but at that time they weren’t taking any new members. I’ll talk a little bit about my lymphedema. I developed lymphedema in my right arm and for a year I wore a compression sleeve and a glove. Every night I would wrap my hand with gauze. I went for a lymphedema drainage massage about once a week. And I went to the physio at the cancer hospital that I went to. I was diligent in doing exercises and things like that and I also because I lead a very active life I think that’s why I’ve been very lucky that I hardly ever get any lymphedema and when I do I feel it so then I just put on my glove or my sleeve. I always wear something when I fly. You always have to wear a sleeve.

Interviewer: So you still have this recurring issue?

Not much at all but just I guess I want to stay on top of it. And it can be a little bit painful, it’s just a weird feeling. It’s uncomfortable and it can get really bad and I feel very lucky that it went away.