Lindsay Law will be forever grateful to the friend who nudged her. That nudge led to the discovery of a cancerous lump in her breast.
Law went through chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy but considers herself lucky because she’s still alive and she wants other people to understand how serious breast cancer is.
“I’ve had people say, ‘At least it’s breast cancer, it could be worse,’ and ‘If you’re going to have cancer you couldn’t have picked a better one,’” she said. “Cancer is cancer, no matter where it is. It’s a hard battle. You’re warring against your own body and many people don’t survive.”
It was in 2017, just after her 37th birthday, when a woman Law worked with gently nudged her. Something didn’t feel right so she reached around to her side, and it was then she felt the tiny lump.
Because of the prevalence of cancer in her family, Law believed the lump was cancerous. A mammogram and ultrasound were done, followed by biopsies.
Even though she’d been doing regular breast exams, by the time she was diagnosed she had stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma, as well as invasive carcinoma.
“It’s scary to think something can live in your body like that and you don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t know if this was going to kill me. I have a 12-year-old daughter; I was afraid I might not be around for her.”
Because cancer was found throughout Law’s breast, a mastectomy was done in late 2017.
She also endured 10 rounds of chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiation.
“Chemo made me so sick and dehydrated I thought that was it,” she said. “I just felt terrible so much of the time and it was hard to do anything, but it was very eye-opening because it let me know who I could lean on. I have friends have been so helpful and giving. My partner was there to care for me; I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be by my side.”
Once her treatments were complete, doctors told her she would never be eligible for implants because of the type of surgery done and because radiation had thinned her blood vessels.
“I felt lopsided and incomplete, and I worried about having cancer in the other breast, so I decided to have the other breast removed,” she said.
A right-side mastectomy was done in December 2018.
She went to buy a mastectomy bra, but after looking at herself in the mirror she sat on the floor and cried.
“Fake boobs felt fake,” she said. “They reminded me that I’m not the me I used to be. “
Breast cancer surgery left her with a 24-inch scar and the treatments resulted in early menopause. She also has to have a chemotherapy needle every 28 days for the next 10 years.
To lighten things during the most difficult period, she often made jokes. Today, through the BEAUTY program run at the Rath-Eastlink Community Centre, she’s made some new friends to tell jokes and discuss experiences with.
“BEAUTY is an exercise and wellness program, but the solidarity and emotional connections that are formed play a big part in recovery,” said Laura Ty McPhee, who runs the fitness component of the program. “It’s important to talk to people who understand, and the women often meet outside of class to share stories and encourage one another.”
“Cancer is pain and sickness and a lot of tears,” said Law. “It’s smiling and making the best of a horrible situation. People say, ‘You’re always smiling.’ I have to; if I don’t I might cry.
“I’m very, very grateful to be alive and I want to thank the community that supported me, by supporting others.”
On March 29, Law was told she was in remission.
She shares some of her experiences in her blog: As it is, Diary of a Cancer Warrior.
BEAUTY - Breast cancer patients Engaging in Activity while Undergoing Treatment
BEAUTY is a 12-week exercise and wellness program for women who are undergoing, or who have recently completed, treatment for breast cancer.
It is now offered at the Rath-Eastlink Community Centre, with Laura Ty McPhee running fitness sessions and Mandy Moore leading the yoga component.
“We did a trial in November and started a 12-week session on March 28,” said McPhee. “We’re still in the infancy stages and we’re learning every time we run it.”
There are currently 12 women in the program. They meet once a week to work on strength and once for yoga
The BEAUTY program was developed at the University of Calgary and is based on the research of Nicole Culos-Reed, a kinesiology investigator. Culos-Reed’s research showed that exercising while undergoing treatment provides physical and psychological benefits.
The local program is run in partnership with the Cochester-East Hants Health Centre is is available free of charge.
In Canada, in 2017:
About 26,300 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
About 5,000 women died from breast cancer.
About 72 women were diagnosed with breast cancer every day.
About 14 women died from breast cancer every day.
230 men were diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 died from breast cancer.
-Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society