Breast Cancer Survivors

Breast Cancer Survivors

Pregnancy & infant loss remembrance day Reading Breast Cancer Survivors 12 minutes

Stories of survival

Beloved moms. Breast cancer survivors. As we lend our support to Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’re heartened and inspired by these stories from our Blanqi tribe of incredible women who ran the gauntlet of breast cancerand lived to tell the tale. Epitomizing strength and courage, these stories are a powerful reminder of the importance of awareness as well as the relentless grit of women.

Gabriela's story


When I was 33 years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At first, the fact of my having cancer was so implausible as to seem practically laughable. Except that, of course, this wasn’t funny at all. I was young-ish, healthy, fit and the busy mum of two young daughters. I couldn’t have cancer. I felt fine.

Backing up a bit… for years I had felt anxious about breast cancer as I had a family history, though not a strong one, and my breasts had always been a bit lumpy. One day I noticed a slight difference in texture between my two breasts and I thought I’d raise it with my GP. It wasn’t a noticeable lump so she wasn’t too worried, but due to my family history, she sent me off for an ultrasound and a mammogram and it snowballed from there.

I was immediately called back in for a biopsy, which was when I started to be very nervous. I knew that most biopsies come back fine so I tried not to freak out, but it was hard. The day of my biopsy my children were home sick from school/preschool so my husband drove them to the clinic with me. It was mid 2020 and we were in the thick of Covid lockdown so I had to go in alone (something I would not recommend if you can possibly avoid it). I said something flippant to the radiologist like, “So this is probably nothing right? Nothing to worry about?” To which she promptly responded, “It looks very suspicious and I’m quite sure that it’s cancer but we won’t know for sure until the pathology report comes back.”

I dissolved into tears. I felt like someone had just knocked the wind out of me. Through tears, I then had to have the actual biopsy, a painful procedure, and then go out to my husband and tell him the news.

That was a bad week. My mind went to some very dark places and the next week of waiting on the results was one of the most stressful times of my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about my girls, then ages 4 and 7, and how I would do anything to stay with them. The thought of not seeing them grow up was crushing.

My GP was the one who delivered the news and referred me to a surgeon, who I met a few days later. My surgeon let me know that I couldn’t have a lumpectomy; it had to be a mastectomy. She let me know that she could do an immediate reconstruction, which came as a huge relief to me. We also discussed whether I was planning to have more children as if I was, I would need to do IVF right away to retrieve eggs. One of the hardest parts of going through a diagnosis like this as a young adult is dealing with the grief and the ‘what could have been’s’. I didn’t want to risk delaying treatment so I opted not to do IVF, which meant grieving the possibility of having another child.

It amazed me how quickly a diagnosis like this takes over your life. You go from being a healthy person to a sick person, seemingly overnight, and suddenly you’re drowning in appointments - with doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists… not to mention the countless blood tests and scans. I began to feel like breast cancer treatment was my full time job while also trying my best to be a good mum. I also had so much to learn about breast cancer. I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of breast cancer, and that treatment varies widely from person to person.

Exactly two weeks after my diagnosis, I was wheeled into the operating theatre for my first ever surgery. Even though I knew my surgeon was the best, it was still very nerve wracking. My girls went for a sleepover with their friends and my husband was with me until the moment I was taken into theatre and as soon as I got out of recovery. I had no idea what to expect but recovering from the mastectomy was harder and more painful than I imagined. It was so hard to have my girls come in to visit me and not be able to hug them or carry on much of a conversation because I was so out of it. I went home a few days later covered in bruises, swollen and with a drain sticking out from between my ribs attached to a bag that collected blood (charming, I know). I then focused on recovering while my village of friends and family helped us with absolutely everything from childcare to meals.

A week after my surgery I found out that I would need to have chemotherapy so I met with an oncologist and started planning for that. I was terrified of chemo but I tried to stay positive and set myself up well. I had my eyebrows microbladed and one afternoon, the kids and I went to the wig library at the hospital and spent a couple hours trying on all of the wigs, from long purple ones to short blond ones and everything in between. I was so lucky to be able to borrow a couple of wigs for free and use them when I was bald. I also had a portacath placed to make my chemo sessions quicker and easier, but the procedure of placing the portacath left me in pain for days.

I vividly remember the very first chemo session as I sat down in the waiting room, looked around and realised that I was the youngest person in the room by several decades. I thought to myself,

“This is all wrong, I’m not meant to be here.” It felt so cruel. I should have been at the park with my family, growing my business, or hanging out with my friends. I couldn’t believe I was about to start weekly chemo for 3 months.

I quickly realised that we are all so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. When I look back on the chemo days, what stands out the most aren’t the moments when I felt sick or tired, it’s all of the moments of glorious beauty I experienced amidst the hard. When my daughter would hand me some of her beloved Ooshies as I walked out the door to keep me company while I sat in the chemo chair. Or the friends who came with me every single week and sat with me, keeping my spirits up and making me laugh. Or the family and friends who dropped off meals most nights of the week. Or the friends who sent beautiful bouquets of flowers and smoothies to my doorstep. Never have I felt more loved and supported by my community and I will always remember that.

I was fortunate enough to be treated at a cancer hospital that has an amazing integrative oncology centre, so throughout my treatment I was going to the gym with oncology exercise physiologists, having massages, reflexology and acupuncture all specifically for cancer patients. I also kept up my personal yoga practice (I’m a yoga teacher) and went to clinical pilates. I went in with the mindset of, whatever you have that might help me, I will take it! And I’m so glad I did.

The day I rang the chemo bell at the hospital was very emotional. Relief, happiness, pride and gratitude all swirled through me as I rang that bell as hard as I could. My hair was gone, I had chemo acne, I was so tired and looked dreadful, but I had done it.

I began hormone therapy right away and continued to go into the hospital every three weeks to receive an injection of another drug that was a very important part of my treatment. Once I finished that drug I was officially at the end of active treatment, and surprisingly, I really struggled! I now know this is a fairly common experience amongst cancer survivors. Once active treatment is over, you’re usually still feeling crappy and in my case, I was in medically induced menopause, which was beyond awful as a 34-year-old woman. You’re suddenly thrust back into “real life” and you have to go back to being normal, but you have no idea how to do that.

A few months later, I had my second surgery: a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction on my other breast. This was a decision that I did not take lightly, but that felt right to me. Then at the end of that year I had one more surgery: a revision surgery that many patients will do after a reconstruction to help with the look and feel of the reconstruction. It felt like every few months I’d be starting to feel better, and then I’d have another surgery and be back at the start of healing and recovery. It’s now been a year and a half since I have had any surgery and I’m feeling really good! Cancer is the pits and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but for better or worse it’s part of my story now. While I sometimes wish I could go back to the carefree person I was before cancer, I think that the lessons I gleaned and perspective I have for going through this experience have made me a better person and I’m grateful for that.

Tips for you

Check your breasts regularly, once a month or so. It’s easy to do and there are lots of great tutorials online.

Be your own advocate. If you’re worried about something, get it checked out and if you feel that you’re not being taken seriously, get a second opinion.

If you are ever diagnosed with cancer (and I hope that you’re not!) — stay off google!!!

Ask for help and get comfortable receiving help, especially if you’re a mother.

Do things that keep your mood up, whether it’s watching funny shows, hanging out with friends, laughing with your kids, going to a yoga class, watching live music. Anything that fills your cup and makes you feel good, do it!

Alesha’s story


My name is Alesha and I was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer last year at the age of 35. I found my lump when I was doing a self exam. I told myself that I was probably just being paranoid and it would be nothing, but I quickly found out that it indeed was cancer. I went from finding the lump to starting my first chemo treatment within 4 weeks. It was a whirlwind, physically and emotionally, to say the least. As a mom of two, I was terrified. My genetic testing was negative and I did not have a strong family history of breast cancer so you could say I just had a case of bad luck. Over the last year I have completed 16 chemo treatments, 6 weeks of radiation, and 2 surgeries including a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I will be on medication for the next 5-10 years to block my hormones since that is what was feeding my cancer.

Since I began this journey, I have seen that women are being diagnosed younger and younger (some at the age of 18-21). It is imperative that all women complete monthly self exams and go to their annual well woman visits for a full breast exam. After all, that’s what saved my life!


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.