Samantha

Samantha
Age at interview
38

Samantha is married and has one young child. She works in sales and marketing for a bank.

Samantha received her diagnosis in 2012. She first felt a lump in her breast while turning off a light when she was on holiday. She saw her doctor as soon as possible after she came back. Her doctor referred her for a mammogram and an ultrasound and then she underwent two biopsies. Within 8 weeks after first finding the lump, Samantha was told that it was breast cancer. In hindsight, this process went really quickly for her, but at the time it felt like an eternity. Following confirmation of her diagnosis, she opted for a lumpectomy and thought she might need just a bit of radiation afterwards. Samantha recovered so well from the surgery that she decided to go on vacation before she went to see the oncologist. During her appointment with the oncologist, she was told that she needed chemotherapy followed by radiation. In addition, further testing showed a spot on Samantha’s sternum which needed to be followed as well as a local spread across lymph nodes of her mammary glands. This type of spread is more unusual and Samantha decided to request a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. The surgery, which lasted 11½ hours, was tough for Samantha but she doesn’t regret her decision. Overall, Samantha has felt that she received great support from her work; she stopped work during treatment and returned after 15 months.  Samantha and her family were able to continue a relatively normal life while she was home. Her parents played an important role in providing stability for Samantha’s daughter.

Throughout her illness experience, Samantha learned a lot about others around her and she received support from unexpected people. She also sought support by attending local support groups. The first group she visited had members who were mostly older than her. Samantha later found a support group with younger women where she was better able to share her concerns about her illness. For Samantha, it was important to feel that she was contributing to improvements in care offered to patients like her rather than to just complain. This is why she later decided to become a member of a patient and family advisory committee for Cancer Care Ontario – a role she is very much enjoying.

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

Videoclips

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Well thinking about death, I very quickly got my stuff sorted out. Even just financial things looking at insurance policies and that kind of thing. That, my husband was not interested in at all. But for me, that made me feel better, I felt like I was prepared. I got copies of the wills printed, those kinds of things. I think my husband thought that was morbid but I felt that was practical. And again, it was something I could actually do. But has it changed my life? For sure. I often think now, I’ve only been back to work about 8 months now but nobody died today. I hope, I keep that perspective because it’s pretty easy to get worked up about things that in the grander scheme of things are probably not the most important.

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I’m a list maker, so for me, my question would be to my friend that had had breast cancer, “What do I need to ask about radiation?” I Googled top ten things to ask your radiation (technician). I know it’s silly, but I’d go in with a list and I felt like if my list was answered then I felt I had been heard. That worked for me, I had a binder with all the results and we would ask questions if we didn’t understand. I think maybe just having a doctor that confirms your understanding is really helpful. And strangely enough I had a plastic surgeon that was very good at that and very direct, I felt like sometimes if I didn’t ask the question I wouldn’t be given that information and for me, I like to have all the information.

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I think it’s changed our relationship. I never had to depend on someone as much as I did and that was hard. He did it wholeheartedly. He did all the running after my daughter, the cleaning of the house, the cooking and so I think in some ways it strengthened our relationship. Having talked to some other women and actually one woman’s husband sometimes they find it can put distance between people but we were very fortunate and (name husband) was home with me the whole time that I was in treatment. I think that made a big difference, I never felt like I was on my own or alone. There was always someone in the house. Sometimes it was nice to have an hour to myself.

Interviewer: And he was able to arrange that with work?

He’s a consultant. I do think that made a big difference because having talked to some of the women at the support group, I think isolation was an issue as well. I felt fortunate that he was home with me and my mom and dad live close by. My close friends were great they still included me in and would invite me to participate in things I would have done before. If I couldn’t go that was fine and if I could they did. That was really nice.

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I know everybody wants to help and they’re not sure what to do so just pick something and do it. A lot of people have asked what they could do and you can’t even… you can’t articulate all that stuff. It’s make a meal or arrange a play date for someone’s child. I found people that just checked in periodically an e-mail just saying I wanted to let you know I was thinking of you I hope you’re doing well. That was… that meant a lot to me.

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I think that’s what made me the most anxious about the whole thing, what do I say to a 7-year old? The advice that I got from my GP (General Practitioner) was to tell her as much as she asks. Don’t tell her more than she needs to know. His advice was, be as open as you can with her because children can feel like they’ve been lied to if they don’t get the straight bit. So we were pretty straight with her about what was happening. She wanted to know where the cancer was and could she touch it, so we let her. We took her to a chemo session towards the end and she came to my last one and helped me ring the bell. She came to a couple radiation sessions and asked if she could come in and see what it was like when they were setting up, as much as she asked we let her know.