Rethink Breast Cancer is a Canadian not-for-profit charity that gears itself towards women under 45 years of age going through breast cancer. They have a strong focus on educating and advocating for young women. I was honoured to be selected and asked to come to Toronto for the weekend for a workshop geared towards becoming an ambassador for Rethink and implementing their Care Guidelines. Firstly, after the last few weeks that I've had this was a welcome change and I was excited to simply get away.
I flew out to Toronto where they put me up at the Trump International Hotel. My wonderful mom was kind enough to fly out with me because I still wasn't feeling a 100%. Firstly, if you've never been to the Trump you must understand that this hotel is stunning!! It's one of those nice hotels where you stash all the soap, lotion, pen, and notepad so that they can stock it up with more the next day because it's so wonderful! Don't worry, I don't stash sheets, pillows, or towels; only the complimentary things;). I was already super impressed by the accommodations, so I could only imagine what the rest of the weekend had in store. After arriving on Friday, they had set up a dinner for all of us ladies who were from out of town in a private dining room at a fabulous bistro. The food was AMAZING, but the people I met were even more incredible. I finally got to meet the amazing Steph Gilman whom I had talked to online but never met in person. It's one of those meetings where you feel you have known them forever simply because you realize you have so much in common with them! To be able to talk to others who truly "get it" is simply an indescribable feeling. To be able to throw medical lingo at someone you've never met and to have them throw the lingo back at you is a wonderful feeling!!!!! You don't need to explain to someone what things mean, and the conversation does not revolve around pity. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't want pity!!!! I don't want pity or people being sad and telling me to cry, blah blah blah. I know what's good for me, and crying and pitying myself does NOT make me feel good, so people please don't tell me these things. I could have conversations of understanding without once feeling like they thought, "this is the shit-outta-luck girl," which was the greatest feeling of all. None of us chose to be a part of this group of young breast cancer women, but it chose us, so we decided to do what we could to make this "journey" more inclusive to other young women.
Day two was the actual workshop. At this workshop, we were surrounded by some other women whom we had not yet met the day before who were all from Toronto. There were three of us living with mets, and it was nice to be able to connect and compare treatments, side effects, etc... I would never wish this disease on anyone, but when you meet some truly inspirational, smart, and empowering women it really does make you feel as though you can accomplish anything. It was great to hear about Rethink's vision and their increasing focus towards social media. I think that's great especially for the population they serve. Their private facebook group, RYWN, which is a wonderful resource for anyone who has, or had breast cancer to simply ask questions about treatment, side effects, basically anything. I wish I would have been involved in something like this the first time I got diagnosed because this type of resource is invaluable. Moving towards a more social media focus is huge, especially for the younger population with cancer. I never had even the slightest inkling to want to join a support group. That's just not me. Everyone is different. However, an online group is an easier way to connect for those currently undergoing chemo or for anyone who doesn't feel well enough to leave their house. You can go online, and simply browse the conversations, or you can comment and leave your input. It's simple and accessible for everyone.
This day also involved a central focus around care guidelines that should be incorporated to achieve optimal well being for YOUNG women with breast cancer. I emphasize "young" because the needs of younger women going through breast cancer are extremely different. Many are just starting careers, getting married, and having children. Typically this is a time in life when we are reaching these wonderful milestones, and then this diagnosis abruptly halts everything. These guidelines are meant to inform our healthcare team about our very unique needs. We do NOT relate with someone in their 50s, 60s, or 70s. I absolutely sympathize with anyone diagnosed with cancer, but I have an extremely hard time taking advice and trying to pretend that cancer in your 20s or 30s is in any way, shape, or form the same. It just isn't! It's not normal to face your mortality when you are beginning your life. It's not normal to make medical decisions that could impact your future fertility. It's not normal to have to leave your career that you love because your time has suddenly been condensed and, sadly, you must recognize what is the absolute most important aspects of your life that you want to focus on. It's just not normal or natural to have this disease in your 20s. I truly hope these care guidelines can be introduced into cancer centres across this country because there is a huge need that must be addressed. As well, when a young woman is diagnosed, they may not even realize their very unique circumstance unless their healthcare team brings it up. Let's be real, being diagnosed with cancer when you're young leaves you completely numb and frozen. You feel like you've been thrown out of an airplane and landed on some island (we aren't talking about a St. Barts island but a much crappier island), and you are completely alone, confused, and lost. Sometimes you need your team to bring up issues around fertility because you may not even recognize the impact that treatment will have on you and your future plans. There's a lot of "unique" needs of young women even pertaining to sexuality and body image that may not be imperative to our older counterparts.
Overall, I had an amazing weekend connecting with other amazing women. To get a further glimpse of the wonderful work that Rethink Breast Cancer does for the community and young women was great. To recognize that there are so many empowering and strong women dedicated to making the lives, for people like me, so much better was truly inspirational. Every young woman diagnosed with breast cancer deserves to be educated about their course of treatment, short and long term side effects, and the overall impact on your quality of life. I thank Rethink for including me in this weekend workshop, and hope that any young woman going through breast cancer can connect with this organization.
If you are a young woman (under 45), who has/had breast cancer check out their site and the care guidelines! As well, you can join the closed Facebook group, RYWN, where you can connect with other young women going through similar circumstances. http://rethinkbreastcancer.
I feel very lucky to have met these amazing women:)
This is the lovely Steph Gilman. In my mind I felt like we should have been the same height. Thank you for being so welcoming. I gained a friend for life:). You must check out her great blog if you haven't yet at:
Anna Craig who is also living with metastatic Breast Cancer. Anna also has an amazing blog at:
Our view from our hotel room. Toronto you need to warm up!!!!! Bone chilling cold, and this comes from someone who has constant hot flashes, but I was still freezing!!!
The last night my mom and I realized we had no pics together!!! Therefore, we decided to put on our Trump robes and pose. We very well could have taken this pic at home, but nope our robes clearly state: Trump. Love you mom, and thank you for doing anything and everything for me:)