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Nova Scotia Advocacy

I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma - Breast Cancer in Feb 2022 at the age of 56. I was working over 30 years in a career that I enjoyed, preparing for retirement but feeling like I had many more years to contribute to my career and I had 2 children in University.

After I got over the shock of my diagnosis I soon settled in for the fight and developed a pattern in my daily thoughts. These thoughts became a focus for me during surgery and treatment:

  1. I am a strong woman, and I will get through this…I think!

  2. I have a lot of family, friends, that are here for me to support me and help me anyway they can. That brought me a lot of comfort.

  3. The 3rd thought is more like a nagging feeling rather than a positive thought! I strongly felt that the Health Care system in NS failed me.

In Feb 2020 I had my routine screening Mammogram. A few weeks later, I received a letter indicating that my screening mammogram did not show any evidence of breast cancer.

The letter went on to explain that I have a Breast density of Category C and it contained an attachment to explain more of what this meant.

It stated that women with more breast density have an increased risk of developing breast cancer and that on a screening mammogram cancer can be hidden by dense breast tissue.

In March of 2020 I had a conversation with my family doctor regarding this. I asked her what other tests I need to have because of this density. She said that she is not able to order more tests, that NS does not provide the extra testing for those with Dense breasts.

I just couldn’t understand this, and I challenged her. She empathized with me and told me there is nothing she can do and if I had any concerns before my next screening to let her know and she will address it then.

In December 2021 I noticed a dimple on my breast and felt the lump, and it did not feel small! This led to my diagnosis in Feb of 2022. I had developed interval cancer. This was less 2 years since my last screening – the screening that was recommended for me. I believe that had I had more testing done in 2020, when I requested it, my cancer would have been detected earlier, when it was less severe.

I am a strong woman, and I will get through this and I did…With so much help from my support system…but there is that nagging feeling…. that the health care system of NS has failed me!

Today I am 2 year post cancer diagnosis. I am well and very grateful for the care I received after diagnosis. I can only take it day by day and take care of myself to hopefully help prevent recurrence.

As a result of having surgery and treatment I have developed Lymphedema and Fibrosis. This causes discomfort, swelling and sometimes pain. Lymphodema requires daily monitoring, manual lymph drainage and massage to break up fibrosis and encourage lymph drainage. This is time consuming!

I have been unable to return to work full time to a career I enjoy and continue to work part time and partly on LTD – which has been a financial strain and has forced me to change retirement plans.

I have uncomfortable side effects from hormone blockers that I must take for 5-10 years and suffer from cancer related fatigue, poor memory, brain fog, etc, etc.

I will continue to have yearly mammograms as recommended by the NS Health care system…and I will continue to have dense breasts, maybe for a few more years…or more, along with many other Nova Scotians…and I will continue the fight to encourage NS to cover additional testing for woman with dense breasts!

This is needed to prevent others from having to go through what I went through and continue to go through. This has been a very difficult process to go through with huge implication to me and my family…which could have been much less severe!

Speaking in public like this is not something I would normally do but I feel it is necessary to help all our sisters, daughters, nieces and all other Nova Scotians with breasts!

I am a strong woman, I got through this and have an army of people loving and supporting me and unfortunately I still carry the nagging feeling that the health care system is still failing me by not providing additional screening for my dense breasts. Just because I had breast cancer once doesn’t mean I can’t get it again and I cannot understand why NS does not cover extra screening.

This is the reason I am standing with Rafah. I am 100% in support of this Bill today.