I reached out to Deanna after seeing a comment of hers on an article shortly after I was diagnosed. Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
Diagnosed at 36 (2011), single workaholic, stage 3 triple negative bc. I woke up early one morning to pulsing pain in my right breast, visible bump protruding from the breast (2.5” walnut sized tumor)
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I’m figuring this out. I have learned I am a pretty calm & grounded individual . I need to be near water // helps me stay centered. Learning to fully trust & let go is my life’s goal.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
Since I was a workaholic at the time, my only thought that jumped to my head was … when will I be back to work.
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
I use to recoil inwards and separate myself from others. Now: I try to connect with like minded people & be open to talking about my concerns. I like to hear of others that have experienced similar situations. Connection is key. It keeps me grounded and present.
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of.
I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional family. But as I have gotten older I have reconnected with my sisters & Dad. I have slowly learned the meaning of family. I also connected with various breast cancer not for profit organizations- Abreast In A Boat, InspireHealth (BC Canada), Callanish Society (BC Canada) and I have been able to create supportive relationships with many women who have walked a similar path.
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. I know how to take care of myself now (physically, mentally & emotionally) I have amazing friends & family who love & value me. I am not my job. I have the ability to continue to grow & change. Letting go of stress has been invaluable.
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
I hate people who assume Or tell me I am a fighter. “Keep fighting” “stay strong” etc. Going through cancer was exhausting. I was scared to death. It’s after the treatments end — is when the hardest part of all of this happens. Looking back, the year of treatment was a breeze. I was diagnosed with PTSD 3 years after my diagnosis. I wasn’t set up to cope with what came after. Integrating back into a life that I no longer fit into. Also people tend to think it’s something specific that causes cancer. It isn’t… for me it was an accumulation of stresses: diet, relationships, poor sleep, family issues, lack of physical activity, workaholism – my stress rainbarrel was overflowing. My body just couldn’t balance anymore.
Thoughts on the pink…
I can’t stand pink ribbon campaigns. There is too much hypocrisy in the large organizations. Important Funds get diluted due to heavy administrative costs. Or it becomes a money making business for companies that don’t actually support BC initiatives. Candy bars, fried foods, cosmetics, plastic bottled water — these are the products we buy to raise breast cancer awareness? We just encourage ignorance under the gize of breast cancer awareness — oh I can go on. I’d prefer to donate to small local not for profit organizations that directly support those diagnosed (and their families) educating them on eating better, making better choices, active life style, stress management, mental emotional support & awareness InspireHealth & Callanish Society (both in BC Canada)
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
Physically – I’m in the best shape of my life. I coached/paddle with a breast cancer dragon boat team & also joined a competitive rec outrigger team. Mentally/Emotionally – it’s a work in progress, I have spent the last 5 years dealing with my life issues before cancer happened, two years of dedicated counseling, changing jobs, focusing on quality of life instead of a career, became an artist — that allows me the opportunity to slow down.
Do you have any lasting side effects- mental, physical, etc.?
Chemo Brain/ Brain fog was long lasting but went away when I went back to school to become a nutritionist. It is a fine line, for me, I became dependent on the story that I had chemo brain… that belief limited me. Once I was able to challenge this belief it eventually went away. I still get tired. I have stopped feeling guilty if I need to nap. However I am also the most active I’ve ever been:)
Have you noticed any lasting effects on your families and friends?
Many friends & family eat better now. Quite a few have started working out more— to allow them to enjoy their lives more (and keep up with their kids) Close friends are looking more honestly at their quality of life. Mid 30’s and onwards … it’s not about $ anymore.
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
Deanna, connect with life. You are not your job. You have the ability to slow down. Take time for yourself & just breathe. Your body & soul need to rest. Take care of them. Life goes by so quickly. Please learn to enjoy it.
What are you passionate about? Is this different than what you were passionate about before dx?
Paddling, good friends, eating good nutritious foods, art, being out on the water, finding ways to detox (mentally, emotionally & physically) & sleep. Yes this is very different – none of that mattered prior to my diagnosis.
Do you have any short term or long term goals that you are actively working towards.
I just bought my own canoe (that was on my list for a while), dabbling with the idea of moving to Vancouver Island — found a place I’d like to live already & making art more of a dominate presence in my life. Perhaps I could live off what I create.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Only the present moment contains life . — enough said:)
Whenever the day comes to travel to the “great beyond”, what do you hope people remember about you?
That I cared for the people in my life, that I made significant changes to better support my life & I inspired connection & community.
Would you like to share one of your shittiest moments/memories? The raw side of C.
A technician said I was too young to have cancer (like I had made a mistake) … yeah, she was wrong and there is no such thing as too young. I hated the looks of pity I received from strangers and a few friends. Once I came back from treatments – I wasn’t able to fit inside my old work life & I felt so inadequate. I was “underperforming”, my whole life was work and I was failing at it.
What’s the latest happenings in your life now?
My art is taking off & I am hoping to see how I can grow this. Exciting and so out of the blue. I had not sketched anything in over 20+ years & in 2017 I picked up old highschool supplies and haven’t looked back.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
Community & Connection is key. It helped me out of depression, it got me mentally & physically stronger, it allowed me to take life’s blinders off – liberating. It changed my life.