Inessa | Toronto, ON
Metastatic breast cancer
“I never thought that I’d get cancer. I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years, took yoga classes and ran half marathons. I've backpacked around the world, climbed Kilimanjaro, and lived in four countries. I was healthy and had a full life. So, when I got a rare breast cancer diagnosis during my second pregnancy, I was in utter disbelief.
I've always been achievement-oriented, and I initially saw a problem I would solve. I had a mastectomy while 13 weeks pregnant and 25 rounds of radiation when my daughter was two weeks old. I had cancer and two kids under two, and I took care of everyone.
“I haven't lost focus and will do everything I must to take care of my children. I want them to have keepsakes and memories of us together. I’ve had to reframe what winning looks like.”
I was cancer-free and returning back to work from maternity leave when the pandemic hit. The stress was incomprehensible and my cancer-free life was now on hold. I was working full-time in a demanding career with small children, in lockdown.
Two years later, it seems like the pandemic may be winding down and I was starting to look forward to some return to normalcy. But as I saw my friends and family travelling and reuniting, I found out that my cancer had spread to my spine and hip. Last week, my husband and I were looking at Caribbean vacations, and this week I had emergency surgery, cannot walk, and we’re looking at my will. The cancer spread aggressively and the doctors tell me that I have one to two years left.
I’m a realist. I'm tired of well-wishers convinced I will somehow beat this. It’s not really up to me. I studied statistics and I've looked at the data — and there isn’t even a single outlier in it. My tumour (malignant phyllodes) is very rare, and it's even rarer that it spread to bone. Life-saving treatments simply don't exist.
But I haven't lost focus and will do everything I must to take care of my children. I want them to have keepsakes and memories of us together. I’ve had to reframe what winning looks like. I can’t beat this cancer, but I can hopefully 'win' the hell out of the next couple of years.”