Dealing with cancer isn’t just dealing with cancer

breast cancer stress finances fertility work

When you get a cancer diagnosis you aren’t just dealing with the cancer. Sadly, there are so many other issues that you have to deal with and I have learned this the hard way. Cancer itself is so difficult to deal with that when you pile the rest of these potential stressors and issues on top, it makes for a very stressful situation.

Fertility- I was diagnosed on a Friday and in a fertility doctors office the following Wednesday. My fertility was one of the first things mentioned after being told I have cancer. Not only was I dealing with the C-word but now potentially my choice of expanding my family may no longer be my choice. I had always dreamed of having three children and now that may no happen. I had to process that I had cancer and then process if I wanted to harvest and freeze embryos. In order to harvest embryos, one has to take medicine which increases your estrogen. As my cancer is estrogen driven I would have then been given drugs to counter-act the estrogen. I had 5 days to decide with The Hubster if we would forgo fertility treatments or go ahead with them. If we went ahead with them we would have had 5 days to come up with $11,000. With all fertility treatments there are no guarantees that if you spend the money, it will work. It was a very stressful time trying to make our decision that was best for us.

Finances-This is the scary thing when you have cancer. I went back to work after my maternity leave but didn’t have enough hours so I am not eligible to collect EI. Therefore my earnings equal a big, fat zero. It doesn’t matter that I’ve worked for 10 years and contributed to the pool (even though I accessed it for 2 maternity leaves). Our life is based on two incomes and when you don’t have an income coming it, it’s scary and stressful. I’m lucky that we are receiving a little bit of help from family, but that help won’t last forever. I often think about how lucky we are to have their help because if were weren’t so lucky, I’m not sure where we would be now. Life is expensive and when you suddenly lose an income earner, it’s shocking and scary and the economic stress can outlast the cancer.

Work-When I was going through the diagnosis, I stopped working. When I found out it was cancer, I quit my job. When I am ready to go back to work, I don’t have a job waiting for me. This is scary! When I’m ready and feeling good and able to work again, I will have to go through the job search again. What a huge stress. I don’t even know that I’ll have the energy to do what I was doing before as it can be a very physical job and I’m not sure I’ll be up for that. And as everyone knows when you don’t work, you don’t make money. I try not to think about this at all as I’m not going back to work for a while, but I can’t help but worry what I will do when I’m ready.

Relationships- I’ve been really lucky that I’m surrounded by really fabulous people! The Hubster and my mom have been outstanding. I know it’s a tremendous ordeal for them as well, but they both have stepped up so much to make sure my kids lives are as normal as possible, that I’m taken care of, and the household is running as smoothly as can be. Things have been hard with my kids at times. Little Dude now prefers The Hubster over me. At first it hurt, but I couldn’t let it bother me. I just enjoyed those moments that we were together.  Princess Peach is inquisitive about the information we give her which isn’t very much and is age appropriate. She knows I have cancer, wear a wig and go to the hospital so the doctors can make me better.

When I came forward and disclosed I had cancer a few months ago I have been showered ever since with love and support. I really am truly blessed. Sure, some people may be awkward talking about it but I’m pretty open. So if you want to know something, just ask! There have been some people who have disappointed me but I can’t focus on that or them. I focus on the good and the wonderful friends who send me a messages, an email, a text, or want to hang out with me. I’m may be the girl who has cancer, but I’m still Renee 🙂

Body Image– When you have no control over how medication can ravage your body, you can feel shitty at times. When I started losing my hair, I was devastated. Now that it’s growing back I’m trying as best to embrace the short buzz look that I never imagined myself with. I have gained weight, my ankles, feet and calves have swelled, I got a huge sore on my face and I’ve been pricked with needles all over my body. Those were some of the things that have happened to me. And then soon, I will lose both breasts. I try not to focus so much on what my body is like now as I have no control. Once my surgery is done I will focus on getting myself back to feeling like myself.

Vacations– This is probably one of the hardest things. As I’m undergoing treatments I can’t get travel insurance meaning I won’t be leaving the country. Sure, I’ve gone up north for a few days, but we had plans to travel outside of Canada this summer and year and those plans have been put on hold.  So instead I am planning a huge Life Tour once all of my treatments are done. On the list is Disney World with my kids, Paris with The Hubster, NYC with my mom and sister, Vegas with some friends. To be honest, I wish I had endless funds to travel because I would love to go down-under to see my friend Sophie.

Energy– I’m an energetic person who likes to nap. Now I need to nap. There have only been a few days since I started chemo that I’ve gotten through without a nap. I get tired very easily which is frustrating at times because I can’t keep up like before. Hopefully this is just temporary to my treatments, and once all of this is done my energy will slowly return.

Attitude- I have had a pretty good attitude this entire time. I believe in the power of positive thinking and taking one day at a time. I know what I need to get through in a day so I do that and get onto the next day. I believe this attitude has made this bad experience somewhat decent. Sure, there are days and time that I get upset but I try to block out the negativity. For that reason I have chosen not to know the stage or grade of my cancer, I don’t know the type of cancer, I haven’t read very much about it at this point because I trust my physicians and their knowledge and expertise. I try to stay positive 99% of the time. I do what I need to do each day and move on. I do believe this has helped keep me positive and this experience OK.

As you can see, when you have cancer you aren’t just dealing with cancer. There are SO many other issues that are compounded on top of a diagnosis. The above are the major ones that I’m dealing with. As I’ve learned, each and everyone person with cancer has a different journey. This is just part of mine.



  1. Jovana says:

    Renee, you truly are an inspiration! I think you’ve dealt with things in such a positive way and you will end up stronger for it. Thank you for sharing this. You go girl!!!

  2. Jaime says:

    You are amazing. You’re positive outlook is inspiring.

  3. loren416 says:

    This beautiful heartfelt piece is extraordinary. Sending you a big hug. Of course you’re always gonna be the wonderful Renee 🙂

  4. autumnhm says:

    I absolutely loved this post!! It is all so true. I am 2 1/2 years out from chemo and I can tell you the energy does come back. I feel like it could be coming back faster but when I look back at the previous year I realize how much better I feel compared to last year. A positive attitude is a must when going through treatment and beyond. I gained quite a bit of weight during chemo and have been losing it slowly but it is coming off. I still swell up from having lost so many lymph nodes but the swelling is getting better too. Good luck to you and keep going!!

  5. Christine says:

    Renee, I love you. Thank you for sharing with us. You are one of the strongest ladies I know. I k of I say this often, but I am thankful to have you in my life. You remind me of what it means to have strength, live life to the fullest, deal with emotions, and so much more.

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