I am Ellyn. Also known as @flatplease. I am 58, married, mother of two and grandmother of one.
My Breast Cancer Story
I was diagnosed with ER+PR+ HER2- breast cancer on March 10, 2022. The diagnosis of cancer came as an utter shock. I was fit, a non-smoker, and a social drinker. I breastfed my kids. I had no family history. I also was diligent about my breast scans. I had a baseline at 40 and went every two years since turning 50. My last mammogram in 2019, in the words of my surgeon, was “perfect.”
And yet, I found myself two years and two months later, with multifocal cancer in the left breast. Three tumours, with the largest measuring 4.5 cm. How that was even possible will always be a mystery to me.
After two surgeons’ exams and an MRI, it was determined a mastectomy was the only option. I opted to have both breasts removed for symmetry and peace of mind and chose aesthetic flat closure – a form of chest wall reconstruction that leaves you with a perfectly flat chest.
Initially, things looked good with respect to my lymph nodes. Even after surgery, my doctor told my husband everything looked good. But pathology told a different story. Cancer was found in microscopic amounts in my left side lymph nodes. So I had 12 weeks of preventative chemo and 15 rounds of radiation to reduce risk of recurrence.
Cancer was a test of my strength and resilience. For the first four weeks after my diagnosis while I awaited my biopsy, I was crippled with anxiety. I couldn’t get a breath or pick myself up off the floor. But as time went on, I gathered my courage, decided to “love my fate” and decided cancer was NOT going to take me to the mat. I fought back, trained like I was going into a marathon and went into surgery and treatment with the stubbornness of a bull. I made it through. I never stopped working and never missed a client deadline. I wrote an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail. I wrote a book. I was featured topless in People Magazine showcasing my scars and flat chest. I have co-created the first conversational AI for those on the breast cancer journey. I co-produced this photo essay with Dense Breasts Canada and Hilary Gauld.
I didn’t want cancer. I still can’t believe I had cancer. But I decided that the universe set me on this path for a reason and I am determined to make a difference and make things better for my daughter and other women.
I Want You to Know
We are not at the mercy of the healthcare system. We have a voice and we need to use it. We can’t hide away or put our head in the sand. We need to demand screening. We need to show up for screening. We need to push back if a doctor says no, and not take no for an answer — even if the truth is something that will absolutely terrify us. Because what we know about we can do something about.
Diagnosed at 57