Breast Cancer: It Saved My Life
I’ll never forgot those words, “You have Cancer.” I was living in Canterbury, Connecticut. It was 2011.
I had a lump in my left breast. It had been there for a few years now. Might even be safe to say that it was more than five years that I had been living with her occupying space in my bosom. As a nurse, and after undergoing so many medical issues already, I was tired of being on the patient side of the medical system so I never paid much attention to it. It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t in my way. Until the day I noticed it had changed.
I had to find a doctor. I had moved to Connecticut in 2006 and still did not have a doctor, so my nursing colleague called her doctors office and I had an appointment within days. As soon as he saw the lump, the journey to breast cancer began. From that point on I would never be the same.
In 2011 I was first diagnosed with breast cancer by the local community hospital. Once I heard those words, “cancer”, Istarted searching on how I could get my care in Boston, MA. I heard they had “the best”. I was 43 years old. I needed the best. The irony here is that I struggled my whole life with depression and had tried to kill myself in the past, but now I wanted to live. I still don’t understand.
I had a total left mastectomy on November 14, 2011. Battling an eating disorder and body image issues my whole life, this was challenging. I had to try to understand that a woman is so much more than her breasts. What makes me a woman? Why have I always been so insecure? So then the internal journey began to unfold. I needed to understand my Why?
I started the reconstructive process. I actually had breast implants prior to my breast cancer, so the surgical team tried to save my implants as they began the process of reconstruction. The mastectomy side will always be different now, as the fat and muscle were removed as they cleaned out my left chest wall of its cancerous cells and was radiated 33 times. I lost count of the numerous surgeries I had. I do however remember, the day my cancer came back.
I was told that I had a 16% chance of my breast cancer returning. That was determined by the Oncotype Test. The average female had a 12% chance of getting breast cancer at that time, so I had a 4% chance of a recurrence. There was no chemotherapy, no radiation, and 18 months later, under my left arm, my breast cancer had returned.
My second diagnosis was different. It started as a lump on one of the scars under my left arm from previous breast cancer surgeries. It started with what appeared to be scar tissue on a healing surgical wound, so I wasn’t so concerned. I guess you could say I was simply aware. As the new suspicious area had started to take shape, grow, hardened and mimic the same feel the first lump had had, I knew it was time to tell my doctor. My cancer is back I thought. I wasn’t really sure how I felt.
I will never forget my day of surgery to remove this pea size ball in me for a biopsy. It was the morning after the Boston Marathon bombing. As I entered the hospital through doors guarded by the S.W.A.T. Teams guarding the hospital with their M-16’s and in post-op listening, observing, feeling the energy of yesterdays tragic event, I thought to myself; “cancer”, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that bad. My team for surgery came to get me, rolled me into the operating room and the procedure began. The day my life changed forever.
As a cancer patient, I think the hardest part is waiting, waiting for the test results. It didn’t take a genius to figure out my cancer was back though. You can feel it in your doctors. You can feel it in the team. When you specialize in cancer, you start to know before the results come back when cancer is present. I still had to wait the ten days to hear the words though, and when I did I cried. I took this time and cried. What was I going to do? Then I thought about the Boston Marathon bombing, the children, the men and women that lost their lives, lost their limbs, and I said, “maybe there is something I need to learn, maybe there is someone I need to touch”.
My second battle with breast cancer included chemotherapy, radiation, and of course the completion of my breast reconstruction. This is where my real healing started to begin. I felt I needed to start a blog and share my story publicly. That blog saved my life. That blog led me to cannabis. Cannabis changed the direction of my healthcare needs. Cannabis started to heal my soul.
November 7, 2017 will be my 4 year Cancerversary. I survived breast cancer twice. Cannabis is helping me survive life. Nature Nurse Health is saving my soul.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story,
Nique Pichette MSN, RN
Cannabis Nurse Navigator
Veteran of the USMC
Cannabis Advocate & Patient