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Breast cancer: "Sharing my journey on social media has given me incredible strength to face the disease!"

Oct 26, 2020

Melanie, author of the blog Les Karnets de Mel and a cancer patient, graciously accepted to share her story on Carenity. Through her testimonial, she tells us about her journey with the disease. She first feared it and then quickly bounced back to become an actor in her cancer treatment.

Breast cancer:

Hello Melanie, you are living with breast cancer and have accepted to share your story on Carenity. Thank you very much for doing so. You run a blog “Les Karnets de Mel” where you write about your daily life with cancer according to 3 themes: "Staying feminine", "Me time" and "Managing cancer".

First of all, could you tell us more about yourself (who you are, what you like to do, your profession, family life, etc.)?

I'm Melanie, I'm 41 years old, I'm married and I have 2 daughters who are 7 and 10 years old. Following a burnout in 2017, after nearly 15 years working in a bank, I left my job as a compensation manager and went back to school to study interior design in September 2018.

I am passionate about beauty and aesthetics. I love fashion, decoration, art, nature and travelling. I love to create and decorate.

This has helped me a lot throughout my career, as well as working out and alternative medicine.

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What prompted you to seek treatment for your breast cancer? What were the first symptoms you experienced? And how did you feel when you were diagnosed?

Freshly graduated in March 2019, I was about to start my business when I discovered by chance, while taking a shower, a lump in my left breast. The world collapsed beneath my feet, as I quickly realized that my life was about to change. The medical examinations (mammogram, ultrasound, MRI and biopsy) quickly followed one after the other, only confirming my fears.

After a 10-day wait that seemed endless, my gynecologist sent me a simple email: "Dear Mélanie, today I received the results of your biopsy which shows the presence of irregular cells. An intervention is necessary. Have you chosen a surgeon?" Not a call, not an explanation.

Once the results of the biopsy were in my hands, I saw the jargon "invasive carcinoma" and I discovered on my own that I had cancer. I was strongly affected by the lack of explanation and support. I then made an appointment at the Curie Institute, where I took a 2nd blow: the treatment would require 5 months of chemotherapy, a total mastectomy, radiation and injections of Herceptin for almost a year.
Anger, sadness and guilt overwhelmed me. Why me? Why now? The year I turned 40, the year I started my own business, the year I celebrated 10 years of marriage!

What impact did the news of breast cancer have on your professional and personal life? What was your state of mind at the time?

A tsunami, a huge setback, a double whammy... Burnout, breast cancer, just as I was changing direction in my career. I was caught in the middle: I was no longer a salaried employee, and not yet an entrepreneur... Creating my own business, decorating houses, it had become impossible in the face of what was ahead of me.

The news was the most psychologically complicated aspect for me. I had 2 months of total shock between the discovery of the lump and the start of treatment.

Telling my family and friends, my two daughters who were 5 and 9 years old at the time, was a very emotionally trying step, I felt a lot of guilt and fear of leaving them. But I was lucky to receive a lot of support and kindness. Feeling supported gives incredible strength. And children have this power to play things down.

How did you manage to bounce back? To regain confidence in yourself and in the future?

It took me a long time to accept that I was sick. Because I felt nothing in my body, no pain. I was slowly recovering from my burnout. I had taken up sport again and changed my diet. I was in good shape. Then the treatments made me sick and made me aware of the disease. And I started to work on the messages my body was sending me. Burnout, cancer, they are not insignificant and I overlooked many warning signs.

I continued with sport and a balanced diet. I visualized the effectiveness of the treatments, I challenged my body and mind, I discovered resources beyond my fears, and it gave me self-confidence.

And I wanted to remain feminine: I accessorized my outfits, my head with a fringe and a headwrap, I put on make-up. My reinvented femininity was my main weapon for my self-esteem. I sometimes found myself prettier than before. Certainly because I finally dared to express my creativity and personality. And I didn't want pity, I wanted to be an actor in my health, to be one step ahead of the disease.

On your blog, you say that you received many tips and tricks to deal with the side effects of the treatments, by whom were you supported at the time? Was it your medical team? Or did you join any support groups? Associations?

It was when I went to choose my wig and headwraps, just before my port was put in, when I was scared of everything that was ahead of me, that my first fears disappeared. I was given lots of advice and tips on how to deal with the aesthetic side effects and I felt armed and ready to face and accept the unacceptable.

The medical team also talked about the other side effects, a little coldly, with a list of possible effects and some prescriptions for medication to deal with them. We react differently when faced with them. Some of us experience them, some of us don't. I had a suitcase of medicine just in case.

When I was undergoing treatment, the nurse, before the treatments began, informed me about the best way to get support from the associations around the hospital and in my region. And then I attended the open days of the AFSOS (French Association for Oncological Support Care) at the hospital.

I am lucky to live in the Paris region and to have associations close to my home which offer various activities: socio-aesthetics, yoga, sophrology, self-massage, nutrition, art therapy, among others.

These supportive treatments and associations are essential to my journey. They help me enormously to manage my stress, my femininity, my physical condition and to meet beautiful human beings who otherwise I would never have met.

You decided to shave your head before you lost your hair, what motivated you in this choice? How did you feel afterwards?

I chose to shave my hair 15 days after my first chemo injection. I didn't want to see my hair fall out in the bathtub or on my pillow so I took matters into my own hands. And paradoxically, I felt proud, strong and brave, almost for the first time in my life.

What inspired you to create your blog, “Les Karnets de Mel”? Does it help to write and share beauty and wellness tips as well as your cancer story with other breast cancer patients?

I decided very early on to share my journey on social media. This allowed me to write down my daily feelings, to have a personal diary, to keep in touch with my loved ones. I quickly felt supported, backed up and sometimes thanked by a community of women going through the same ordeals and this gave me incredible strength.

I had a lot of questions about my activities, about the way I manage my journey, so I decided to direct people to my blog posts, which are more complete than my daily posts.

What is your daily beauty routine? What have you changed since diagnosis Do you have any tips to share with members who are also affected by breast cancer?

During treatment, your skin can become very dry, sensitive and sometimes acne can appear. It's then important to change your skincare routine. I've changed almost all my skincare products and make-up. I've learned how to apply make-up properly, especially eye and eyebrow make-up.

The key word is hydration - through skincare, and beverages.

Well-being is a pillar for you in cancer management, what benefits does it bring you? What do you advise for women with breast cancer to continue to feel beautiful and feminine?

Feeling beautiful and feminine goes beyond hair and breasts, which are two strong symbols of femininity. Doing without has allowed me to reinvent my femininity and embrace it so much more: my style, my headwraps, the colors I wear. It's something I didn't embrace at all before.

Learning to know myself, to work on my emotions, to listen to my feelings, to introduce the notion of joy and pleasure into everything I do, to make myself feel good, to moderate my hyperactivity for the benefit of my inner self, has helped me enormously in my self-esteem.

You can't heal the body without healing the soul and the spirit. Supportive care and a holistic approach to illness are tomorrow's challenges for me. Let's not just treat the symptoms. Let's take care of our balance, our whole being.

Where do you draw your energy to pursue the writing of your blog, your family life, breast cancer but also your business "Aime ton intérieur" ("Love your home")?

My company is currently "on pause". I'm seeing a career coach to help me redefine my career plan. But the name "Aime ton intérieur" still resonates strongly with me. There was already this notion of well-being, benevolence and love.

As for my energy for the rest, I have established a healthy lifestyle around sport and a plant-based diet.

Physical and psychological recovery remains my daily objective, through my activities, my care and my family.

But I still have many moments of exhaustion. In these moments, I listen to myself, I slow down, I recharge my batteries.

Are you supported by your loved ones? Can you discuss cancer with them? How did they react to the news of your diagnosis?

Getting the news of one's illness: a test within a test.

I remember the feeling of guilt that overwhelmed me: I'm going to make my parents suffer, make them sad. My husband doesn't deserve this, how will he find the strength to stay and support me? My children? Oh what pain! How can I tell them and explain to them that the treatments will make me lose my hair, will make me tired and sick? How can I tell them that this disease is potentially serious, that women die from it? Because the fear of not seeing one's children grow up is real, it's overwhelming.

My husband and my parents were very present from the moment I discovered the lump in my breast. My mother went with me to the exams, my husband to the appointments. We went through the different stages together and we talked a lot about how we were going to deal with the situation on a daily basis, about my support during the treatment. 

The after-treatment is more complicated. Our vulnerability is no longer physically visible but it is there, both on a physical and psychological level. Everyone wants to see us move forward and resume our life as if nothing had happened. But nothing is the same anymore!

And last but not least, what would you like to say to Carenity members living with breast cancer?

My motto: Do not suffer. Be an actor in your own recovery.

I have taken responsibility for my own happiness, I have decided to live in the moment, and to follow my intuition and my heart rather than my mind.

You are your own priority, invest in yourself and love yourself.

Feel free to come and discover all my tips on my blog (in French): www.leskarnetsdemel.com

 

Many thanks to Mélanie for agreeing to share her story on Carenity.

And you, what attitude to you take towards breast cancer?

Don't hesitate to talk about it in the comments, we are all here to support one another!

And if you'd also would like to share your story, just click here!

Take care!

avatar Candice Salomé

Author: Candice Salomé, Community Manager France

Candice Salomé is Community Manager France at Carenity. She is also involved in the writing of articles for Santé Magazine. Responsible for member engagement on Carenity's French platform, she... >> Learn more

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