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Carmelle's Story

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"In February 2003, we were a young family, boys 18 months and 3 years. Living in beautiful seaside town, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Discovered the lump in my breast when my oldest was 10 months in 2000. In January 2003, while in the shower my heart stopped as I felt a lump now larger than an egg. I knew.

"The shock of diagnosis with the related tests and surgeries. After bilateral mastectomy. Left with 5 positive lymph nodes on one side and a surprise finding of DCIS in the other. As the nurse ducked out to get the oncologist I glanced at my paperwork with 'extremely poor prognosis' written in pen. Six months chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy. During treatment decided to expend all energy on 'getting through treatment.' I allowed others to take over, relied heavily on devoted husband and family, accepted the kindness of strangers and made a commitment to 'Be Kind to Myself.'

"If I could give any advice to those in treatment: Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to be what you need to be. Take time to do what makes you feel good. Also to be kind to others with breast cancer and allow them to be on different paths from yourself as we are all in this together and each of us need to 'feel' we are doing what's best for our own lives and selves.

"After treatment, the focus changed to getting my life back. Overcoming fear of recurrence and 'trusting' my body again. For me now at 11 years, I feel like everybody else now. That recurrence is not something to look over my shoulder for anymore. I believe that the key to overcoming trauma of breast cancer is the simple desire to do so. If you work at it then it will happen. It's not an end but a journey.

" was the best thing that could have ever happened. It allowed me the comfort of 'not feeling alone.' To have BC friends like myself with similar diagnosis and stages. I could go there to research, to chat, to make friends, to debate, to share fear when it got too big… was there when I wanted and when I needed. To see the number of members now from the approx. 3,500 back in 2003....

"Since 2003 I have seen my babies grow into teenagers. When once I lost many nights worrying about who would hold their hand on the way to school, I now drive carpools to high school and sports. I changed my vocation to be with them. I work from home. I haven't missed a moment. People say to you after breast cancer, 'I guess you don't sweat the small stuff after what you've been through?' Actually...I live to 'sweat the small stuff.'"

-- Carmelle (Michelle), age 49, Oakville, ON, Canada

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