The ywcaencore program is a FREE health and wellness support program for woman who have had breast cancer at any time in their lives. We have had many, many amazing women join us for this program to support their healing journey. One woman, Amanda, has shared her story below. As Amanda mentions, this program helps so many women, in so many ways. Please consider joining us November 1 and 2 at the Road2Hope to help support ywcaencore
Thank you for sharing your story Amanda
In May 2008, I was a healthy 29 year old active female who enjoyed life and was planning for the future. On May 31, 2008 I was in the shower doing a routine breast check and found a small lump on my right breast. I thought nothing of it but booked a Dr’s appointment the following week. My family Dr. was and has been amazing through everything and had me doing an ultrasound and biopsy very quickly. By the middle of June 2008 I was diagnosed with IDC stage 2 grade 3 Breast Cancer and was being told of my future; including multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, infertility and living a life with cancer and the life changing repercussions of all of these treatments. I and those around me were in shock and disbelief and we kept asking how and why? I am grateful to my husband, parents, my sister, family and close friends that did everything they could to support me and keep my spirits positive. Things moved forward very quickly from the initial diagnosis and I was told by my oncologist that I needed to act fast or the cancer would spread and I could die. His scheduled treatments were a lumpectomy with lymph nodes removed and then chemotherapy if my lymph nodes were affected.
By July 2008 I was scheduled for chemotherapy and was being referred to a fertility clinic for embryo preservation as the chemo could make me infertile. For me, infertility was worse news than the chemo. My husband and I were rushed through a cycle of fertility treatments spending over $10,000. This was not something we had planned for emotionally and financially. We were lucky to have support from family to be able to get the money in 2 weeks to go ahead with the treatments. Then moved quickly to chemo on Aug 15, 2008 and that would continue until November 28, 2014. I completed the genetic counselling and was told I had the BRAC-2 gene and I was at risk for many other cancers and the Dr. strongly recommended a bi-lateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy and I was scheduled with a surgeon to begin to discuss the options and plan for yet another surgery. My head and emotions were in a whirl wind and I couldn’t keep up.
Then, after most of my breast was removed during the lumpectomy, I was bald, skinny, and sickly looking from the chemotherapy, I reflected in the mirror and decided that I was a strong person and I was not going to let a diagnosis of cancer slow me down. I decided that this happened to me for a reason; I was going to do everything I could to take my health in my own hands. My husband and I did research, and started to become informed about breast cancer, treatments options, side effects, natural options and continually asked questions about supports and research for young women like me and it was very hard to find. My goal was to enhance the awareness that breast cancer does happen to young women, look at alternative and complementary medicines and treatments and to find resources in the local community that could assist me and others with the struggles that cancer brings. This was a struggle but I was determined. Many programs had barriers to access, some closed down because of lack of funding and just finding the programs was difficult. My oncologists did not provide any information of supports in the area and I was left to my own devices. Instead of feeling defeated, I took my frustrations and continued to enhance my learning, attended conferences of natural healing and decided I was going to be empowered by all my new learnings. My husband and close family supported me 100% no matter how crazy some of the new foods I and supplements I was introducing them to.
I had my bi-lateral mastectomy with implants at the same time in February 2009 and was on my pathway to recovery and had declined to have a hysterectomy and any other conventional medications. I had completed my treatments was using many supplements and natural remedies to get my body healthy again. I decided to dedicate my time and energy to my own healing and supporting and connecting personally with people and supporting them through their cancer journey; giving them tips, connecting them with resources, and providing a shoulder for them through their battle so they didn’t have to endure the helplessness and loneliness that I felt when I was going through my battle. I had done some of the hard work in finding information and now my purpose was to share and share with anyone that wanted to hear about it.
It was in 2009 that my physiotherapist Jodi Steele, through a program called Cancer Rehab, informed me about the ENCORE program thought the YWCA. Unfortunately for many reasons, I did not connect to the program again until 2012 when I contacted Anne-Marie and an evening program was running at the Ottawa street program in the spring of 2013 and I registered. It had been 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was in a much different space in 2013 then I would have been in 2009 but I was ready to see what the program offered. The program was FREE and the only stipulation was that you were either diagnosed with breast cancer or a survivor. I enjoyed that there were people in different stages of their healing from breast cancer and Anne-Marie being a survivor herself knew what we were going through. The information and speakers that Anne-Marie brought in were exactly in line with the healthy lifestyle approach that I had adapted. I enhanced my knowledge, was introduced to some new professionals and services and some amazing people. The second half of the session was in the pool… oh how amazing to learn stretches and practice them with a group of amazing women. Each time I went to the program I wondered WHY is it not mandatory for the oncologists to promote and encourage their patients to attend programs like this. Where was this program when I was diagnosed and how come it took me researching and searching for me to find it?
ENCORE is a program that we need and we need more programs like this. Many people have donated money for years and years to find a cure for cancer. My goal now is to find supports and resources like ENCORE that works with cancer patients in teaching and support them through a difficult time and making these programs available to everyone. Make it something that is automatic for breast cancer patients to be referred to a program like this. This program needs to grow and be available at all YWCA / YMCA centers.
This year I am running the Road to Hope ½ Marathon with Anne-Marie and other participants from the ENCORE program and I have raised money that goes 100% directly to ENCORE. A ½ marathon has been on my bucket list of things to do and this year I will be able to check it off my list and support a program that I admire, love and am dedicated to spreading the word about. Through ENCORE I have met some amazing people who have become my support network and we will support one another through our different journeys in life.