Breast Cancer Awareness Month: my journey and reflection
Five years ago, during a routine medical checkup, I received unsettling news. A hidden lump in my breast was diagnosed as a fairly aggressive form of cancer.
Being a scientist and also leading the Anticancer Fund, one might assume I had it all figured out. However, the reality was quite different. It was a time of tough decisions and uncertainties.
Of course, I sought the best possible treatment. But what exactly was the best course of action? In Belgium, a Multidisciplinary Oncology Committee (MOC) follows European guidelines based on clinical studies to make this decision. For my type of tumour, the recommended treatment included breast-conserving surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, anti-hormonal therapy, and radiotherapy. The hospital explained the treatment plan, but I still had countless questions.
I turned to my team at the Anticancer Fund, requesting a thorough review of the scientific literature and an assessment of my treatment options. Their insights were invaluable, enabling me to make informed decisions in collaboration with my oncologist. This approach resulted in manageable side effects and allowed me to continue working during the intense 12-week treatment period.
The Anticancer Fund was my guiding light during this challenging time, inspiring me to extend similar support to fellow cancer patients. When Dr. Gabry Kuijten shared the same vision, we established My Cancer Navigator, a free service designed to assist those facing cancer and seeking clarity about their treatment.
My Cancer Navigator has grown over the years, providing support to an increasing number of cancer patients. This mission is deeply meaningful to me. Breast cancer often stands at the forefront of our inquiries, and this is hardly surprising given its prevalence among women. Hence, I hold Pink October, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in high regard. My hope is that my story will empower women—you are not alone. Reach out to My Cancer Navigator; we are here to listen and provide the answers you seek.
I express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who supports our cause. You drive us to extend our reach and help more individuals facing this battle.
As I approach the conclusion of my anti-hormonal therapy and the end of my treatment journey, mixed emotions fill me. Relief that the medication will end, but an underlying awareness that the spectre of cancer will always be present. While the probability of a recurrence decreases with time, it will always remain a concern. My motto is to live as healthily as possible and ‘carpe diem’, embracing each day with gratitude and determination.