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September 2020

Why me? What did I do to deserve cancer?

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Why me? What did I do to deserve cancer?

“Babette, the word carcinoma on this paper means it’s cancer, it’s definitely cancer, do you understand?”

Is turns out, I have infiltrating ductal carcinoma… I know right? What!?

It’s triple negative…. What?!

And it’s grade 3.

“What’s the difference between grade and stage? Am I going to die?”

All these big words started flying at me… and all I could think was. “I can’t have cancer! That doesn’t happen to me.” “She probably has someone else’s results” “maybe the lab mixed it up”

“Cancer”

“What’s happening?”  “Why am I crying so profusely?” “Is this really happening?” “Am I dreaming?” “Can’t stop crying”

Infiltrating ductal means that the cancer started in my milk duct. Triple negative means that it’s not influenced by hormones and grade 3 means it’s aggressive, she explained.

Omw… I thought cancer is just cancer… but it’s not!!? There are different types of breast cancers that respond to different kinds of hormones (or not, in my case)

“But Babette”, she said, “usually if cancer is aggressive and classified as grade 3 it means 20% of the cells are duplicating. 90% of your cells are duplicating.”

“What? Why me? Did I do something wrong? Maybe it’s that cigarette I smoked at that one party… I ate McDonalds last week. Can it be my deodorant?” “I should definitely cut sugar.”

“What did I do to deserve this?”

I kept on thinking that… I did something wrong. My whole life has been one trauma after another. I must’ve done something wrong. But What?

I didn’t. You don’t walk into chemo and stare at the people wondering what they did to deserve cancer? Why do it to yourself? It has been my biggest lesson. To love myself enough to have compassion towards me. To be kind to myself too.

The tumor measured at 19.6 x 14.6 x 19.4mm. I’ve only had cancer for a few weeks. It’s growing very rapidly.

The doctors don’t really understand how I picked it up so early. They said that woman usually only feel the lumps at between 5 and 8cm!!

“How did I get this lucky!? Am I lucky?” “. I have breast cancer at 32”

“Babette, it’s just a boob. You don’t think with your boob, you don’t see with your boob, you don’t taste or smell with your boob, it’s just a boob”

“But it’s my boob” “It’s my femininity”

We needed to act quick. She already made me an appointment at my breast surgeon, Lucienne van Schalkwyk, to discuss my treatment options.

“Am I going to get Chemo????!!!!”

High Risk Factors for Breast Cancer you can’t control:

Being a woman
Age
Dense Breasts
Reproductive History
Family History of Breast or Ovarian Cancer
Generic Mutations
Personal History of Breast Cancer or other Breast Diseases

High Risk Factors for Breast Cancer you can control:

Exercise
Being overweight / Obese
Taking hormones
Reproductive History
Excessive Alcohol Consumption

 

What not to say to someone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer

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What not to say to someone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The No-Nos

At least youre getting a free boob job. 

No. Not everyone wants implants. I loved my boobs. They weren’t big, but they were my boobs and I enjoyed the time I had with them. Its a part of my body I am losing. I am mourning my boobs. It’s not just a free boob job. 

My aunt had breast cancer. She died. 

Ok. I might die too. I might suffer the terrible symptoms that your aunt did before she passed. I get that you are probably mourning, and I am sorry for your loss. A soldier doesn’t want to hear about the casualties. Please think before you blurt out the bad news.

You brought this onto yourself. 

I am already remembering everything I might’ve done wrong in the past. Was it because I had a sigarette? Was it because of the weight I gained? Was it all the zero sugar diet drinks? 

Exactly how do you think I did this? I am questioning what I’ve done every single day. I am too hard on myself. Don’t make this harder for me. Nothing I did made me deserve this. 

It’s (insert name here) fault you got breast cancer 

Getting cancer is nobody’s fault. It’s not the ex boyfriend that broke your heart, or because you don’t like your mother in law. It’s not your dog jumping to hard on your chest because he was too excited to see you!  Don’t make me feel resentment towards people and things I know and love. 

Don’t do chemo! Go the natural route 

Do you want me to die? I am choosing the best option for me. There are different grades of how aggressive a cancer might be. If my life wasn’t at risk, I would’ve probably tried it, but please don’t question my treatment plan that was created by doctors that have studied this for years. They are saving my life. 

You still look pretty.

Once is ok. But please don’t try and force me to believe this. I know you mean this well. And I probably do still look “pretty” to you. I just don’t feel it or believe it. I have lost my hair, my eyebrows, my lashes, my breasts and my identity. I’ve picked up weight because of the chemo and the cortisone is giving me a moon face. I don’t feel pretty, I feel bloated, fat and ugly. 

In accordance with dating after cancer: “You’re in the high risk dating category now”

That’s great! Thank you for letting me know I now have a smaller chance on meeting someone who will love me. Trust me this is not true. I’ve met someone while in treatment and when I am done I might even have a slimmer chance of reoccurrence than the woman you’re dating now. 

Nothing. 

I know it’s awkward and you don’t know what to say. After being diagnosed casual acquaintances have become close friends, and close friends have dried out. Cancer has a way of showing you who really has your back.

The Do’s

Speak from the heart. 

Just tell me you love me, that you’re sorry or thinking of me. It’ll be a perfect response to my diagnosis. Hugs are wonderful, and telling me you’re bringing pizza or chocolates will give you brownie points. 

Offer help. 

Oh my word. This will really be so helpful. Instead of saying “Let me know if you need something” try suggesting specific tasks. 

Examples:

Take me wig shopping. Fetch the kids from school. Bring dinner over on Tuesday night. Join me for my next chemo session. 

Please tell me about your worries and problems. 

Having cancer is all consuming. I am not only thinking about it 24/7 but I am constantly being asked about it. I also need a break and I am still your friend. I want to know how you’re doing too. 

Thank you!

The Week I found out I had Cancer 

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The Week I found out I had Cancer

On 1 April 2020  I felt a lump in my breast. Everyone was in lockdown, but because of my anxiety I asked a nurse at dischem to do a breast examination. 

We don’t have cancer in our family, I didn’t know what to look out for or how a lump “should” feel. 

The nurse said she was a little bit worried because the lump was hard.

They sent me to radiology at Unitas Hospital in Centurion, South Africa. 

They did a sonar. 

The doctor there was supporting and very loving. I felt safe. 

It’s a daunting experience and very invasive. Everyone is touching and looking and pulling and it gets uncomfortable. These people are trained professionals that deals with a lot of women. Try and remain calm, but please remember that your safety comes first and if you are feeling disrespected or feel that someone might harm you, you are always allowed to ask for another doctor. 

Then she got this look on her face. “Usually benign lumps are round with round edges, your lump has rough edges, but it’s nothing to worry about… yet” 

We did a mamogram and a biopsy straight after. 

Even more uncomfortable! 

I remember at one stage it felt like my soul left my body, and I just surrendered in order for them to do what they need to. 

What a stressful week. I was dating a new guy, I was a student with dreams. What if? What if I have cancer? It can’t be though, we don’t have cancer in our family, only 20% of biopsy lumps are cancer, and only 20% of cancerous lumps are in woman under 50. I’ll be fine! Google… And repeat…

 I was stressing so much that the new guy thought I was seeing someone else and he dumped me. It was either that or he didn’t want to deal with a cancer girl… I felt alone and really really scared. It’s important to find support in times like these. I got comfort from my family and friends that went through similar experiences. Remember that people do have their own lives, they don’t know you’re going through a bad time if you don’t tell them. I realized that some people will drop everything to support you. Your support structure will be your saving grace! 

My gynecologist phoned the next morning: “Babette, it’s Karen Minnaar. I got your biopsy results back can you come see me  as soon as possible?” 

My heart sank, I knew. “Off course I will be there, is it bad news?” 

“Let’s discuss it when you get here”

“I know we are in lockdown, but will I be able to bring my mom with me”

“Yes, bring her with you, definitely bring her with you” 

What to expect during a breast examination: 

    • The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and determine if you have any high risk factors. 
    • Examine your breasts and lymph nodes from your color bone down and under your armpits. 
    • Check the skin on your breasts
    • Look at your nipples for any changes such as invertion or discharge. 

Here are a few things to look for when doing a breast exam: 

    • Lumps or thickening that feel different or harder than the rest or other breast
    • Nipple Discharge 
    • Skin changes: Redness, Dimpling, Itchiness, scaling or puckering 
    • Inverted Nipple

Hi I am Babette!

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Hi I am Babette!

In partnership with The M Store, we want to support and educate woman about breast cancer, not only in prevention and early detection, but with what to expect in the different stages of your treatment plan.

We want to empower you with knowledge and compassion, to know what options you might have and to make the right decisions for you.

All of us are diagnosed differently. Our treatment plans might not be the same. Some of us are early stage while some have metastasized. This road is lonely for all of us. We hope to be a beacon of comfort and support in those times.

More about me:

Age: 33

Diagnosed on: 08 April 2020

Diagnosed with: Early stage invasive ductal carcinoma – Triple Negative

Treatment Plan: 4 x AC Chemo, 12 x Taxol. (Neoadjuvent) Double Nipple Sparing Mastectomy

These past couple of months has changed my life, and as many of you know, it feels like a second chance.

I am passionate about people and appreciate love and kindness.

I am not a doctor and I don’t know everything, but I am human being going through a tough time.

I am proud and so excited for you to get to know me and to share my experience with you.

Sending love and light

B xx

 

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