This digital storytelling project would not have been possible without the engagement of the diverse group of women who have been involved from the beginning – they are the storytellers and co-researchers on the project team. We are grateful for their willingness to share their experiences publicly, in the hopes that it can support others on their journey with cancer.
Learn more about the Digital Storytelling project and the research team here.
Six storytellers are sharing their stories here as presented in the biographies and short videos below. We welcome you to take the time to watch all of them, as they share different aspects of this multifaceted journey.
My name is Andrea Hylton.
I am a proud mother of 5, a grandmother of 6, a life partner to a wonderful man for 19 years and a breast cancer survivor. I am a very spiritual individual who believes that God has given me a second chance at life. I embrace and celebrate this on a daily basis through giving thanks for each day and bringing positive energy to all my interactions. I love to help others and I do this daily by working with the less fortunate. My motto in life is “Treat others the way you would like to be treated, as you never know what tomorrow brings.” I believe that whatever you up out into the world is what you will get back.
On November 20th, 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. It was a week before my 40th birthday that I found a lump in my left breast. My journey from then on has been one filled with obstacles, challenges, but also blessings. There were many times I felt alone, although I had a lot of family and friends supporting me. No one understood the emotional pain that I was going through. I was fighting for my life. Many women struggle with their diagnoses. Some are in denial and disbelief, blaming themselves, while others may share and embrace the challenge. However you decide to face this illness, it is your journey.
My name is Geeta Shetty.
I am a happily retired banker, turned painter and artist. I love to keep myself busy by going on walks, doing laughter yoga every morning, and cooking for my family.
I have been a part of Toastmasters International. Currently, I am employed at a local school and spend time with toddlers and preschool kids to share my teaching knowledge in order to nurture children to achieve their highest potential.
During my cancer journey, I felt that a support system plays a major role. Without support, we cannot win our battle – whether that support comes from family, friends, or our medical system.
My story starts from when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 in India. As a mom of two kids, I never expected it to happen to me. In 2019, once I had immigrated to Canada, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer. Both times I received full support from my family to recover. My goal is to help the community by spreading awareness of support systems, and always sharing messages of positivity.
My name is June Buckle.
At times, I miss my warm, beautiful island of Jamaica, that I left so many years ago when I immigrated to Canada. Nevertheless, it was a good move and I have made a comfortable life here as a single parent for myself and my daughter in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. God has gifted me so many wonderful opportunities and I am truly grateful. I hope to live a long life giving back to a community that has been so good to me. I want to continue to let women know that cancer is not always a death sentence.
On that dreadful afternoon when it was confirmed that I had stage three triple negative cancer, I believed for a moment I had stopped breathing. I caught my breath only when the scream came out of my throat. I cried for me, but most of all, I cried for my young daughter. Who was going to take care of her? It was then that I realized that the only person who could was me, and right then the fight was on. Cancer may have won that battle that day, but it did not win the war. I had a reason to live!
My name is Maxine Thompson.
It is never easy re-telling my story and the 8 years of family time lost, but if my story can help save someone’s life by raising awareness of breast implant disease, then it was worth it. I am the mother of three wonderful children. I enjoy the outdoors, and my goal is to retire early so that I can travel the world.
In 2012, I found a lump in my left breast. I underwent a double mastectomy with breast implant reconstruction. It was a very traumatic experience and the road to recovery was painful. After putting in the implants, I started to develop weird and random symptoms such as joint pains, hair loss, vision loss, brain fog, anxiety, slow speech and other issues. The doctors had no medical explanations. My body was in chronic pain, and with every new symptom that developed, I went into depression and started to have suicidal thoughts. It was 8 years total before I learned that I unknowingly was living with breast implant illness (BII). In January of 2019, I finally had my breast implants removed with capsulectomy. In 2021, I started to feel alive again.
My name is Nadia Aamir.
I am a mother of three wonderful boys, and I like to think that I am a fighter and a survivor. Every day is a struggle, but when I reflect at the end of the day, I like to remind myself that I did it … and I can keep on fighting.
It has been four years since I found a lump in my left breast. The whole process of seeing a doctor and then meeting a surgeon, going through the surgery and then chemo, radiation, and now being on tablets for the last two years, I tell myself that I have only 8 more years to go! Thinking about the past is very painful but I like to remind myself that I was lucky for getting the treatment on time and meeting doctors who were concerned about my health. I remind myself that it was a roller coaster ride, but I managed to complete the ride. Allah (God) has blessed me with strength, and today I am in much better health and have even started working for a wonderful logistics company as a safety manager. Two of my boys are now in university, and the third one is in grade 10.
With this digital story that I welcome you to watch, my hope is that my story can inspire others, and that others will be strong enough to believe that they too can make it.
My name is Shakeela Azmat.
I was born, raised, and educated in Pakistan. After completing my degree in psychology, I started working with a special education institution where I was trained in developing communication skills in cognitively challenged children.
Meanwhile, I got married to a doctor and had two children, a son, and a daughter. I migrated to Italy to join my husband in 2003, and then Canada in 2008.
From October 2017 to January 2019, I remained off from work. After winning the battle with cancer, for which I give credit to God, the support of my family and friends, and the support of the healthcare team who managed my care, I resumed my role at work in January 2019. I was ready one more time to serve the community with the same spirit, perhaps even with more enthusiasm. My daughter has earned her MD degree and recently gotten married. My son has also completed his master’s degree. After passing his Public Service Commission of Canada training, he has joined a government job. My clients appreciate seeing me work with my full strength once again!
Due to family history, I was on the Ontario Breast Screening Program for annual mammograms. During my mammogram on September 27, 2017, I came to know that further investigations are required, and I was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer. September 2016 to September 2017, the time between my two mammograms, was the year of my self-advocacy. The official diagnosis came on October 11, 2017. It was shocking news for the family, as we had attended the White Coat Ceremony of my daughter at the school of medicine at Ottawa University just two weeks earlier. I fought this battle head on, and spent more than twelve months to fight it with the support of my family, my healthcare team, and my friends. My story is about my self-advocacy.