6 years since diagnosis
Age at interview: 44
Joanne (44 years old) lives with her partner in one of the Atlantic provinces. She works full time as a manager and in her free time she is active as a gymnastics coach.
Joanne was diagnosed in 2009 and has been on hormone therapy for four years following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Joanne found the lump herself but was not worried in the beginning as her doctor thought it was related to an earlier ectopic pregnancy. She didn’t follow-up for a while and just wished for the lump to be gone, but met with a friend one night who was concerned about a lump in her own breast, making her more aware of the seriousness of the lump. Encouraged by her husband, she decided to go for another screening. Initially she was diagnosed with a stage 2 breast cancer but later it was found that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. More testing showed some unidentified spots on her liver, which meant that the breast cancer could have metastasized. Unfortunately the health care professionals could not tell if the spots on the liver were cancer until after her mastectomy, and other treatments had finished. It turned out that the spots on her liver were harmless. Joanne also decided that she would have a hysterectomy given that her cancer was oestrogen positive. At the moment she is looking forward to stopping the hormone treatment to see if certain symptoms such as tingling in hands and feet, brittle nails and teeth, loss of taste and joint pain will disappear. During her treatment she organized a ‘Joanne’s Journey’ show using gymnastics and humour to show people’s different responses towards breast cancer vs mental illness (her son had recently been diagnosed with a mental illness). She has also been a member of an advisory committee to improve breast cancer care in her province.
- Alternative and complementary therapies -Joanne (B)The tingling in her hands was treated with deep tissue massage and that brought relief for Joanne.
- Endocrine (hormone) theraphy – Joanne (B) (2)Joanne blamed her weight gain on the hormones until her surgeon told her truthfully that it was not only the hormones.
- Endocrine (hormone) therapy -Joanne (B)Joanne changed hormone therapy after a hysterectomy, including the removal of the ovaries, and it is a bit better now but has had strong doubts about continuing.
- Chemotherapy -Joanne (B)Joanne explains what the chemo was like in practical terms and how she would visit the hospital for testing, go home, and receive chemo the next day.
- Surgery -Joanne (B)Joanne describes how it was to see her chest for the first time after surgery
- Managing within the health care system – Joanne (B)After her mastectomy Joanne was asked about her breast complaints during screening, Joanne responded with humour.
- First symptoms – Joanne (B)Due to her recent ectopic pregnancy, Joanne's doctor was not overly concerned about her breast tissue changes.
- Sexuality, femininity and intimacy -Joanne (B)Intercourse is a bit less spontaneous since Joanne needs to prepare herself.
- Work and finances – Joanne (B)Initially Joanne thought she would be the type that continues working but realized she needed some time to think.
- Follow-up care and the risk of recurrence -Joanne (B)Joanne stayed on hormone therapy longer than she would have liked because she wanted to feel that she had done all she could to avoid a recurrence.