I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in Feb 2022 at the age of 56. I had Stage 2, Grade 2, infiltrating ductal carcinoma. My pathology report showed ER and PR + HER2 -, a 3.4 CM tumor and 2 lymph nodes with isolated tumor cells in them. There was also Lymphovascular invasion.

After I got over the shock of my diagnosis, I soon settled in and developed a pattern in my daily thoughts. These thoughts became a focus for me:
1. I am a strong woman, and I will get through this. I was sure about that!
2. I have a lot of family, friends, that are here for me to support me and help me anyway they can. That brought a lot of comfort.
3. The 3rd point is more like a nagging feeling rather than a positive thought!
I strongly felt that the Health Care system in Nova Scotia failed me and I will explain why I felt that?
In February 2020, I had my yearly screening mammogram. I received a letter in the mail to say that my screening mammogram did not show any evidence of breast cancer at this time. The letter went on to explain that I have breast density Category C and it contained an attachment to explain what this meant.

It stated that women with higher 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 the letter they sent me to tell me about this increased risk, they also told me I would not be having my next screening until two years? time. Up until then it was yearly. This was very confusing to me.

In March of 2020, I had a conversation with my family doctor regarding this. I asked her what other tests do I need to have because of this. She said that she is not able to order more tests, that Nova Scotia does not provide the extra testing for those with dense breasts. I just couldn?t understand this, and I challenged her. I couldn?t let it go.

I actually thought she was wrong so I pushed 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. This was less than two years since my last screening ? the screening that was recommended appropriate for a woman my age with Category C breast density. I believe that had I had additional testing done in 2020, my cancer would have been detected earlier.

I am a strong woman and I will get through this and I did?
Today, I am two years post cancer diagnosis. I am well and very grateful for the care I received after diagnosis. The experience has had a significant impact on my life and will likely impact me for the rest of my life.
As a result of having surgery and treatment I have developed Lymphedema and Fibrosis. This causes discomfort, swelling, and sometimes pain. Lymphedema requires daily monitoring, manual lymph drainage, and massage to break up fibrosis and encourage lymph drainage.

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? when I was diagnosed I had two children in university. This added to an already stressful situation. I have uncomfortable side effects from hormone blockers that I have to take for 5-10 years and suffer from cancer related fatigue.

I am a strong woman and now have an army of people who love me and are willing to help in any way they can.
I am happy to say I will continue to have yearly mammograms as recommended by the Nova Scotia health care system?and I will have dense breasts along with many other Nova Scotians, and I will continue the fight to encourage Nova Scotia to cover additional testing for woman with dense breasts! Speaking in public like this is not something I would normally do but feel it is necessary to help all of 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 the nagging feeling that the health care system is still failing me.

DBC Note: Thank you Cheryl for your advocacy in Nova Scotia. Thank you for telling your story at the press conference held for the Private Member’s Bill for supplemental screening for women with dense breasts. It was disheartening to see the Nova Scotia government dismiss the Bill. We feel it is unacceptable that women in Nova Scotia are flat out denied additional screening. We agree that the health system failed you and continues to fail many others in Nova Scotia.