9 years since diagnosis
Age at interview: 64
Ginette is 64 years old and lives together with her sister. Ginette has worked as a recreation technician but is now retired.
Ginette was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Ginette and Jeanine were interviewed together as Ginette has some memory issues that arose due to a former health condition. Jeanine is Ginette’s friend and caregiver, and is closely involved in Ginette’s treatment and follow- up. Ginette has always participated in regular screening mammograms and after her last screening in 2005 Ginette had received a letter stating that there were no signs of breast cancer. However, in December 2006, Ginette noticed a lump in her breast and decided to see her physician right away. She received her breast cancer diagnosis after a series of tests and then started treatment in January, beginning with a lumpectomy. When her stitches were removed, she was told that she needed to have a second lumpectomy as the margins were not clear. Then, 15 days after the second surgery, Ginette’s surgeon told her in a very insensitive and unkind way that she needed a full mastectomy. On top of that Ginette found out that the mammography in 2005 had already indicated a lump. She felt so angry after these events that she didn’t even want to tell anybody about the diagnosis. Undergoing three surgeries in six weeks took its toll on Ginette’s physical condition as well as on the people caring for her. She therefore decided to arrange a place in a convalescence home after the mastectomy. For her surgery, Ginette was operated at the end of the afternoon and was then told the next morning that she needed to get ready to leave the hospital. Ginette, who could barely move, argued with the nurses, telling them that she wouldn’t leave until proper care was arranged for her or until she could move to the convalescence home, which was then organized.
After her recovery from these surgeries, Ginette had chemotherapy and radiation. She has since lived with rare and long-term side effects due to her various treatments. She has constant pain in her mouth which is very sensitive so that she can only eat soft and un-spiced foods. She has to drink her coffee with a straw. Ginette has been a participant of several trials in an attempt to reduce the pain; she is now able to regulate her pain better. Despite all of these ordeals, Ginette feels that she has learned to appreciate life by being more aware of the little things that happen. In moments when she was hardly able to do anything else, she has learned to take one step back and look at the things that were still possible. Jeanine admires Ginette’s persistence and is impressed that she has never given up no matter how hard things were at times.
- Surgery – GinetteGinette was shocked by her doctor’s communication about the need for a mastectomy.
- Managing within the health care system – Ginette (2)After undergoing a painful intervention from a health care trainee Ginette asked if she could refuse receiving care from a trainee.
- Managing within the health care system – GinetteHaving experienced several errors, Ginette is more defensive and feels nobody should be left alone in the emergency department.
- Positive effects on self – GinetteGinette too noticed that she had become more appreciative of the small pleasures of life. She felt profoundly changed by her experience.
- Coping strategies – GinetteGinette recounted an incident where it felt, to her, like God had connected her with the help she needed at the time.
- Troubling long-term effects of treatment – Ginette (2)Ginette described how she felt in these situations.
- Troubling long-term effects of treatment – GinetteGinette experienced dramatic weight loss as she was unable to eat anything but a bland liquid diet for two years because of severe mouth pain.