Age at interview

Naoual (42 years old) has a partner and has two young children. She worked as a prosthetist in a dental office. Naoual continued working after treatment but had to stop working when her employer didn’t have sufficient work for her anymore.  

 Naoual received her diagnosis in 2012. Naoual felt the lumps in her breast herself but was not immediately concerned. She first went on a planned holiday to Morocco before she saw her family doctor. Her family doctor advised her to do further testing. Naoual realized it was more serious than she initially thought when the technician asked her, during the ultrasound, if breast cancer runs in the family. The next day, Naoual got the results and met her family doctor again. She was then asked to undergo a biopsy to test whether it was cancer or not. Naoual had to wait for a month to have a biopsy and she then waited 3 more weeks to receive the results. Naoual was phoned and told that she had breast cancer while she was at work. This was such a difficult moment for Naoual that she had difficulties telling her family and her two young children. She decided to first tell her sister in Morocco and together they decided that it was best for her mother to come to Canada so that Naoual could tell her in person. Naoual is very happy with the good support she received from family who live mostly in Morocco. She underwent a lumpectomy followed with a mastectomy, and then, as the margins were not clear, chemotherapy and radiation. Naoual decided not to have reconstructive surgery as she realized that it would not be easy and, as she says, she is happy with the body that God gave her. While undergoing treatment, Naoual felt that she had to make some changes to be able to cope with everything. For example, she came up with the idea to organize a fashion show for women with breast cancer. Organizing this show was a way for her to overcome her negative moods as she received much joy and happiness from the women involved in the project. Naoual also encouraged her children to become more independent and they learned, for example, to walk alone to school, a single mother before diagnosis, has now entered into a new relationship   with someone who fully accepts her the way she is.

Time since diagnosis
2 - 5 years
Phase of treatment


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But when I started chemo, this was the hardest intervention; it’s harder, harder than the surgeries. Yes. When I started the first session of chemo, I wasn’t well at all. And I was too aggressive with the nurses. It was like they were inserting poison in my body, I didn’t accept that at all, not at all. It was catastrophic for me. And at this moment, I started my first session of chemotherapy and this… It’s not easy to remember all the steps.

I started my first session of chemotherapy and I had complications at the level of… my stomach… I had pain at the stomach level. I wasn’t well at all, in every sense really, it was a catastrophe. And at that moment I started to think of making a fashion show in this… I was in my bubble, I wasn’t talking to anyone, but I was thinking of making a fashion show for women, for the survivors or women with breast cancer, that are under treatment, and to help them overcome their grief, their sadness. To make the women live in happiness surrounded by their family, and to give back to the women that had this sickness a little bit of their femininity and self-esteem. Because it is a trying ordeal, it is not easy at all. So I started thinking about that. I started thinking about something that would help me overcome my grief and this is my idea. So I talked to the hospital association. I was undergoing treatment and I started talking with the association and they approved of my idea. They liked it. Every time I was talking to a woman in the waiting room I was saying: “Would you accept to be a model?” “Yes, yes, yes, I would like, etc.” It is… When I see their smile it makes me happy. And this is my experience.

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And I met with women with cancer and who need, who really need, women with generalized cancer, but there is nobody that knock on their door to say: “Hello, how are you? Do you need anything?” Really it is very difficult. Above all, we are in a country where there is no… there are more immigrants. They have no family around and it is very difficult that someone… He is sick and he is alone. Really, it’s… I was lucky because I was always surrounded by friends, and my family came to see me. But there are other people that need support, moral support, support… It’s true that there is a lot of organizations that present a lot of things, I will not deny that. But for affection, someone that comes to your house if you need something. This is lacking a lot. That’s it. 
I was always accepting invitations. I was trying to get out of my bubble. I was not staying home a lot. I agreed to have people come over. I didn’t have a problem at that level.

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I started doing some research on nutrition. What must I eat? What I musn't eat? We must eat more vegetables, fruits, but we needed to do research. It wasn’t easy because the doctors do not give all the information. They need to be trained at this level. For the most part, there is no guarantee that nutrition is the cause of cancer, but for sure part of what we eat on a daily basis affects our health. So women are lost during the chemotherapy. What can they eat?

What should we eat? What shouldn’t we eat? Even if there are nutritionists on site, but sometimes I say: “Can I eat aloe vera?” They don’t even know what it is. “Ah no, I have no idea.” So the message I would like to share is that women or anyone suffering from cancer, they need to know what they should eat, and what they shouldn’t eat, especially when they are in the hospital. Because sometimes the people don’t have the time to research the Internet.  For sure everything is on the Internet but we need someone to validate the information. “We eat this, we don’t eat that. We must not eat too much meat. For example, we must eat more fish. We must eat fruits. We must make juices, smoothies, natural juices.” We need that.

As I told you about the healthcare professionals, sometimes we ask about one sort of plant and they don’t know or there is no research to show that this plant is efficient or that it is good for your health or that it strengthens the cells. Especially when you suffer from anemia, when you do… what do you call it? The chemo – your immune system is very weak, so you need to eat well, things filled with protein, vitamins. You need to eat well. There is no formula where they tell you: “You must eat this, you must not eat that.” Like I told you, especially at the hospital. Like I told you, the information – the doctor needs to give us more of his time. I know that they have a lot of patients, they work hard, but a patient needs more information. It’s like the doctors are… They have a lot, a lot of responsibilities. They have no time to explain, how… What you should eat, what… They don’t have that information.

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After the illness, we are trying to improve our quality of life. It means, we are trying. I don’t want to say that I am perfect but I am trying to help others. I am trying to do good things. I am trying to improve the situation of… and the quality of life, meaning I do not want… If the boss tells me: “There is no work for you.” I am not going to rack my brain, my destiny is there. It is… I am alive, that is what counts.

I do not want to swim against the current. The current, it works, it is destiny. So you must accept, you must accept, that’s all.

Interviewer: So the change inside…

Exactly… Previously I told myself: “No, why the boss, nan, nan, nan…” Life doesn’t need this. No. Life is good, you must live one day at a time. And that’s it… If I die, everybody dies anyway from cancer and without cancer. That’s it, you must be courageous. Even yesterday when I went to see the doctor, I wasn’t afraid. I said: “Ok, it is true that I am always afraid of chemo.” I would not like to relive that experience but I showed some kind of courage.

What is positive, as I told you, the cancer gave me the courage to see life differently. We must have faith.

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Yes I was alone during that period and I was thinking about the women that were with their husband. They have to be strong and the husband has to be strong as well. Because the woman, she is overly sensitive during that period. But God gave me the sickness, afterwards he gave me someone, a good person. I am with him now and he accepts me as I am. And I was thinking of not doing the reconstruction surgery and he agrees with me. We do not have a problem.

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I went to book an appointment, however it took me a while, I think a month or a month and half to have a biopsy and, following the biopsy, it took a while again to know the result. They told me: “If it’s serious, if it’s severe the doctor will call you the first or the second week, but it will take three weeks to get a result.” I am a dental prosthetist. I was working and the doctor calls me from an anonymous number: “Good day Ms. [name].” “Yes, speaking” “So, unfortunately you have cancer. We will book you an appointment tomorrow to come to the hospital and talk about the steps of the surgery and all.” I couldn’t find the words, but it was difficult to learn such news by phone.