Renee is a mother of 2 young children who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She chronicled the tale of her struggle on her own blog, My So-Called Mommy Life. Renee also worked with the Rethink Breast Cancer team develop their Give-A-Care collection to help raise money for Breast Cancer research.
During the month of October, brands such as Peace Collective, Ardene, H&M, Panera, Visage Cosmetics and more are donating proceeds to breast cancer research through the sale of special products created for Breast Cancer month and through donations. As well, the Give-A-Care collection will feature cheekily branded items, all curated to breast cancer victims through some of the more annoying aspects of the disease, such as headaches from well meaning but poor speaking well wishers, and dehydration due to chemotherapy treatment. And while cancer is nothing to laugh at, the team at Rethink know that humor does help, as evidenced by the sarcastic sayings on all the items.
I got the chance to chat with Renee about the challenges she faced when fighting breast cancer, and how people can help the cause that truly affects everyone.
What were the biggest challenges you faced after being diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age?
When you are young with cancer you have so many unique challenges; not only do you have cancer, which is life changing, but when you are young with cancer it interrupts your life right in its prime.
For me, parenting my kids during treatments, after my mastectomy, etc. was one of the biggest challenges. My kids were 3.5 years old and 1.5 years old when I was diagnosed. I didn’t want to hide what was happening to me because it was affecting their lives but I wanted to make sure what they were told and how I explained it to them was age appropriate. I wasn’t able to be as active as I always was with them while going through treatments which was hard and I missed days in their lives after each chemo treatment, which was really difficult.
The loss of a job and my income was another huge challenge. I was on contract when I was diagnosed so I had to quit my job. That meant that I had no long or short term disability and no job to go back to now that my treatments are done. When your life is based around two incomes, when one suddenly disappears it is very stressful!
My desire to live. I know it sounds weird but when you are diagnosed with any sickness at an old age, you can look back at your life and say “I’ve done good. It’s my time to go”. When you are young with cancer, your drive to live is in full force. There are so many things I still want to do and so many plans for my life that my desire to get back to living is very strong.
What have you learned about yourself through your diagnoses and treatment?
Two important things:
The first would be that I’m way stronger than I ever imaged I could be. When faced with this awful experience I think I handled myself quite well.
The second would be that positivity changes an entire situation. Yes, dealing with cancer totally sucks, but after being sad and depressed for 2 weeks and crying in my basement, I made a conscious decision to only focus on the positive and you know what? I called myself a happy person with cancer. I did fun things, I was a lady who lunched and enjoyed my family as much as possible. Having a great attitude really can change how one handles a life changing situation.
How has being a part of the Rethink Young Women’s Network impacted you?
It’s nice to be a part of a Network that is not all pink ribbons and pink bows. They are informative, real, and have worked really hard to understand exactly what young women with breast cancers needs are. When you are faced with cancer you don’t want the sugar coated version. They are real, which I so appreciate.
I specifically have to call out their private Facebook group for young women with breast cancer. It’s been a really great support. It’s a group of strong, informed, supportive women where you can post your question at whatever time of day and someone will answer. No question is stupid. I have received lots of help from the amazing women who are part of the group.
What piece of advice would you give to someone about breast health and breast cancer?
Know your breasts and check them regularly. If you feel something that isn’t right, don’t leave it and ignore it. Get it checked out immediately.
What advice can you give to readers who have just found out a friend or loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer? Is there a right thing to say to provide comfort and support?
Supporting the person is the best thing you can do. If you don’t know what to say, it is totally ok to say to them “I don’t know what to say but I’m here for you”. Providing meals was extremely helpful.
Another new line was just launched called Give-A-Care, which is a specially curated line of products with amazing names, that are products that young women with cancer want and need. This product line takes the guess work out of what to by a loved one who was just diagnosed. Not only will the gift giver be happy because they are giving a useful gift by the recipient will be able to put it to good use and the names are sure to bring a smile to their face.
How can readers get involved during Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Donate money but please make sure you know where your dollars are going. Rethink is committed to funding the Baby Time study in Canada, which helps women have a baby after cancer treatments. You can also donate to help fund the research to find treatments. And if shopping is more your thing, Rethink has partnered with several brands that are raising dollars to help fund Rethink Breast Cancer’s programs that support young women and families with affected by cancer.
As Renee mentioned, doing your part to help the REthink cause is as easy as shopping. So when you’re thinking about what to get your loved ones this holiday season, head over to the Give-A-Care website and pick out a gift that gives back as well.