Susanne

Susanne
Age at interview
47

Susanne has two sons, ages 11 and 9 years old and is currently not working. She lives on her own since her separation from her husband in October of 2005.

 Susanne received her diagnosis on March 18, 2009. Susanne became aware of the possibility of breast cancer screening when she saw a display at her local mall. She took a card and called to make an appointment. Her first mammogram turned out to be fine but her second mammogram, 1 year later, showed abnormal results. Her doctor referred her for a biopsy which was done on March 5, 2009. . Susanne felt grateful that the surgeon was able to do the biopsy and a lumpectomy at the same time. Two weeks later Susanne heard from her doctor that the results of the biopsy had shown that it was cancer. An appointment was scheduled for her with the surgeon that same day. A community outreach worker was able to be with her so that she did not have to go alone to the appointment. Susanne was asked to make a decision within 5 minutes regarding her treatment and the community worker guided her through the advantages and disadvantages of the treatments or procedures. After her sentinel node biopsy, where 8 nodes were removed, she had an axillary node clearance and 18 more of her lymph nodes were removed. Living alone during chemo was very difficult, and she was feeling the effects of chemo-brain. She forgot to take the anti-nausea medication correctly during one cycle. She continued to see her friends every day for a coffee even during chemo when her immune system was low. It was important for her to still go out and about, not stop living and to be out walking in the fresh air.

Susanne had to travel 1600 km for a consultation and for radiation therapy. The most difficult thing about having to travel this far was to say goodbye to her young boys. Her sister lived in the city was able to join her for her consultations. Her parents however, did not visit her during her treatment which was very painful for Susanne. She had to try to accept it because it was winter and travelling would be difficult. Susanne was told that they (the team of oncologists, doctors, nurses and technicians) would take good care of her while going through the treatments. She was also able to make use of support offered to cancer patients by volunteers, relaxation sessions as well as a local support group for grief. When she returned back to her hometown this kind of support was nonexistent. Susanne wished that there was some help for counselling for grief and loss due to partial mastectomy and loss of health due to breast cancer. Susanne started a new journey the day that she received her diagnosis and she feels she learned to be grateful and live “in the moment” from that day forward. There was still a lot of grief and loss; like post trauma grief-upon arriving home. 

Time since diagnosis
6 - 10 years
Phase of treatment
Remission

Videoclips

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I went through a lot of fear about the dying. That was pretty scary. At one point, when I, at the point where I was still gaining the knowledge and then still having not consulted with the BC (British Columbia) Cancer Agency, when I wasn’t sure "Am I going to die from this." It wasn’t until after June of June 5th 2009 with the consultation, then I felt better and they were saying once you’re done the treatment 80% cured. And so, I was asking... and they never used the remission. I don’t know if that’s not used so much anymore but when people ask "Oh! so are you cured?" And I said "Well my cure rate is 80% I’m pretty happy with that."

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Oh going to (city in BC) was so hard. The chemo itself, preparing for that, having a sense of humour about it. Our old hospital had a very small chemo department. It was an old hospital room with the 4 beds that they transformed and it was pretty full of storage shelves but did they ever make it cozy. Because as soon as I walked in, they’d go pat the chair and say here’s your chair for you, they’d have a blanket and pillow on there and they’re heating pad thing. They said "have a seat in your chair and heat up your veins." It was like so... we always joked about that. It was like "Come and sit in your chair and heat up your veins." with just the pad around to warm up your veins so they can put the needles in easier. And the first time there like, there’s a local company made a bunch of blankets, pink for the women, blue for the men. So I got this blanket and the nurse covered me with it right away. That was so special. You could recline it just get comfy but the conversations were so laid back. People would come in, the administration office was down the same wing and they’d stop in and talk and say "Hi" or bring flowers or goodies or cookies and stuff and it was really kind of neat.

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So then I went there but in the, that afternoon I had an appointment with the Women’s Outreach worker from the community and for issues not relating to my health but right at that point she said "Well I’m going with you." So she came with me to see the surgeon and I’m glad she did because I was given 5 minutes to decide what I wanted my treatment to be and it that was overwhelming. So she was there. She wrote notes down and then he gave me all the information the pros and cons of having the mastectomy, do I want to do the chemo and she was there just to help. Okay this is what we’re dealing with, these are the options and she was encouraging me that he did say you have five minutes to decide. So yes, you’re going to have to.

With her help though, I was able to decide and then feel comfortable with what I decided too, which was amazing. So I agreed to just be satisfied with the lumpectomy and that the biopsy was already done and then go through the chemo and then radiation therapy. I knew, okay, I guess now I’m starting on this road and so that was the first day.

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And she (volunteer through cancer connections) would tell me about her experience, what helped her and that was really awesome. By the time I arrived in (city in British Columbia) at the cancer lodge, there was a note and a card on the bed and it was from her and that was my inspiration and I taped it to the wall. It was Christmas when I was there, like December, so I was there at the lodge right until December 22nd and or no, the 22nd was my last treatment and then I stayed until the 23rd and then checked out and went to my sister’s apartment. And the whole way through, I had this inspiration from her and it was pretty neat. 

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I’ve just been single ever since 2009 and I think I am nervous about that because now I’m lopsided. They’re not even, and sometimes I don’t like it but I just... I don’t know, I think now, I’m "Oh well I’m different on both sides like who...?" Even two sides of a face are different. So I’m like "Oh well it’s not as much a big deal anymore." And then, if I did happen to find a new relationship, I would just probably, be honest right upfront and let that person know that I may not at times, exactly like the way that I am now, but it might make me a little self-conscious. Sometimes actually, with my blouses, especially if I wear a lighter colour, I will wear a scarf around my neck because it kind of hides that it’s difference on both sides. I don’t want people to make comments.