In the latest #BCMTalks session, Marie Ennis-O’Connor (@JBBC) took us through her journey through breast cancer, describing the moments leading up to diagnosis and her feeling of complete shock and numbness afterwards.
“The physician said there was nothing to worry about, you’re too young to have breast cancer,” she recalled. “As all the treatment options were being thrown at me all at once, I only remembered the words, ‘you have cancer.’ It was like been hit by a truck that you didn’t see coming until it’s too late,” said Marie.
The shock didn’t end there as the treatment options were explained to her. “There it was in black and white: ‘treatment for breast cancer may leave you infertile.’ I had so many questions such as: ‘Where are the young women like me?’ while I was flicking through a patient information booklet. ‘What will I do if I lose my chance to have a child?’ was another one.”
In what is an often overlooked aspect of breast cancer treatment, the theme of fertility left a lasting impression on Marie and resonated deeply with the audience. She added ‘Fertility needs to be part of the discussion prior to treatment beginning. Explore your options. Make decision best for you.”
What was clear during the session was the theme of connection and support. Marie went onto describe some of the actions she took to receive words of care from others as a way to keep her spirits up. “I urge you to connect with other cancer patients your age. If not in person, several online communities. Connect,” she said. “Everything is held together with stories. Stories and compassion.”
Marie also described her relief after being given the all clear as well as the unexpected loss she experienced after the treatment stopped and her schedule was disrupted. “When treatment ended my routine fell apart. I had time but felt so vulnerable. I thought: ‘Who is watching me now? My days were my own again but I was lost.”
“I believe the two highest times for anxiety during the cancer journey is at diagnosis and completion of treatment.” Marie called on more to be done to help cancer patients during these stressful times.