Breast Cancer Grad- Monique
Name: Monique Tremblay
Age at Enrollment: 27
Major: Stage 2 triple positive IDC breast cancer
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? I was in the best shape of my life and was very healthy. I had no other symptoms other than finding a small lump in my left breast while laying down in bed one night.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? I’ve had benign cysts and fibroadenomas in the past, but for some reason I knew this one was different. I called my breast specialist the next morning and they got me in a week later. I remember taking a shower one day and thinking “something isn’t right.” I had this gut feeling that something was wrong and I didn’t know what it was. It’s important to always listen to that little voice in your head.
Courses completed: I went through multiple surgeries, 6 months of chemo, 33 rounds of radiation, a year of Herceptin and I’m currently on hormone blocking treatment for 5-10 years. I’m in menopause and I definitely get hot flashes! I’m actually having one right now as I type this!
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? I think the hardest moment for me was realizing that I had cancer. I never thought this would ever happen to me since I was young, healthy and had no family history. I wasn’t married and had no kids and I felt like my life was just beginning. Accepting that I was going to lose my hair and go through chemo was really, really hard. For women, our hair is our security blanket and I never in a million years thought I would be bald. I was so scared that I didn’t want to see my hair falling out in the shower. I made an appointment to get it shaved off two weeks after my first chemo and I felt very empowered to not let cancer take my hair. I felt so much better afterwards but it was definitely hard to look at myself in the mirror.
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed? What advice would you tell them to ignore? My first piece of advice is to understand that this too shall pass. There were days when I was so sick from chemo that I couldn’t even get off the couch. It made me feel better knowing that I wouldn’t feel this way forever and that each day it would get better. My second piece of advice is to know that you are way more strong and resilient than you ever thought you were. These two qualities have made me the woman I am today and I never knew how strong I was until I had to fight cancer. I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to!
When you feel overwhelmed or anxious, what do you do? Life after cancer is full of anxiety. Every ache and pain I’m constantly thinking that my cancer is back. It’s very hard not to overthink everything. I’ve dealt with anxiety after treatment and some days can be very hard. Journaling my feelings has been a huge relief for me. I feel like I am a very creative person so writing down my thoughts and turning them into positive thoughts, has helped me. Also, yoga, meditation and acupuncture have definitely lowered my anxiety. There was a time that cancer was consuming my every thought and I knew it was time to try a low-dose anxiety medicine. I’m currently on a low-dose medication and I’ve noticed it’s drastically helped me. Accepting the fact that there is nothing wrong with taking anxiety medicine has made a huge positive impact in my life.
Have you created any meaning out of this experience? If so, what was it/how did you do it? Even though this experience definitely sucked and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, I’ve learned so much about myself. I documented my journey through my blog and Instagram because I felt like if I could help one woman check themselves and call their doctor if something was wrong, I could save lives. When I was first diagnosed, I looked online to find other women that I could relate to. Having breast cancer in your 20’s is very different than in your 40’s or 50’s. I wanted to help other young women. Also, I now advocate for myself and constantly ask my doctors questions. It’s important for me to understand my health. I’ve also met some amazing women and I wouldn’t trade our friendships for the world. It’s an amazing feeling forming relationships with others who just “get it” and understand what I went through.
Did you learn anything about yourself or your life? If so, what was it? As cliché as it may sound, I did learn that life is way too short. If there is something I really want to do, I do it. I don’t wait. I’ve been able to go to so many new places and do new things because I don’t want an opportunity to pass me by.
If you could write anything you wanted on a billboard in NYC’s Times Square that would reach millions of people, what would it read? “You can. Keep Smiling!” It’s simple, but you can do anything you put your mind to. This quote got me through my darkest days of fighting cancer.