I’m showing cancer who’s boss
I was diagnosed with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer in February 2021, when I was 37. It was an incredibly shocking and terrifying diagnosis.
Gilda’s Toronto was recommended as a supportive place to process what it means to be faced with cancer suddenly, so I signed up for a group geared towards young adults in their 20s and 30s. We met weekly for eight sessions. I remember starting the sessions in uncontrollable tears and ending with laughter and relief. It was a beautiful thing. Most of us stay in touch, share information and meet up for hangouts. They have become a very integral group of people in my life.
It’s a great comfort to meet and talk to people who are going through similar traumatic experiences. I believe emotional support is just as important as medical support. Gilda’s Toronto deals with the hard stuff that nobody else wants to deal with, like sudden economic impacts, maintaining relationships when dealing with this kind of distress and genuine fears around death. It is a special place.
At the height of the pandemic in June 2020, I discovered a lump and was dismissed by my physician because they thought I was too young to have cancer, and I have no family history. It’s probably something hormonal, they said. I had an ultrasound but heard nothing back and assumed no news was good news and that it would probably go away.
When the results came back, it was devastating. It was the rare and aggressive triple-negative breast cancer, which was now stage 4. It had metastasized to my lungs and sternum.
I want people to be aware that this can happen even if you have no history and are under the age of 50. Doctors may dismiss you; you may have to advocate for yourself, and even though it’s scary, it’s worth investigating any significant changes in your body before it’s too late.
Gilda’s Toronto was the emotional support I needed when I didn’t know where else to turn. They’ve opened the doors to many supportive therapies alongside my medical treatments. I want to create awareness that such a great organization exists, give back to them and thank them for everything they do.
I will continue to use Gilda’s Toronto’s programs and tell people they should come to Gilda’s when they’re first diagnosed.
I’ve never been a runner, but I started going out for jogs to keep myself sane. It distracted me when I was dealing with intense anxiety spells. I knew I wanted to start my treatments as strongly as possible, especially since there were small nodules of cancer in my lungs.
I wanted to show my lungs who was boss. That was important to my mental well-being. I ran 50km that month, which was my personal record!
My friends in the Gilda’s Toronto group are very interested in the Run, which propelled me to create a team for us and anyone who wants to support us. We’re called “Gilda’s Girls and Friends.”I hope a few of us can gather to do the total 5km together. I’m slowly getting into a training routine to see if I can run it, which is more challenging than it used to be because I’ve been in treatment for over a year, which has slowed me down — but it hasn’t stopped me!
Follow Jen’s lead and support Gilda’s Toronto
Register for the October 16 TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon and run, walk, create a team, or donate! Visit the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon website to register for the run or walk. When it asks to add a registrant to a team, select the 3rd option – “Yes, add this registrant to a team created by someone else.” From the first drop-down, choose Fundraising Team – TCS Charity Challenge and select Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto from the second drop-down. If you commit to raising $500, Gilda’s Toronto will provide you with a free registration code. Email Elana Shapiro for details before registering.
If you cannot participate this year and but want to donate to the Gilda’s Toronto team, visit our team page.