It has been two years since Nathalie Molina was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nathalie and her family had only recently moved to Canada from the Dominican Republic when she was diagnosed. Today, the 38-year-old reflects on her journey through cancer and the support she received in her new home.
“In March 2017, when I went to my family doctor for my annual check-up, she found a lump on the right side of my breast. I did a mammogram and an ultrasound to see what it was, but it appeared to be a cyst and I was asked to follow up in 6 months. While I waited, I was both nervous and calm about what the lump would be. When I went back to the lab to get my mammogram I could sense some tension with the doctors and nurses. They did my ultrasound again and said that a biopsy needed to be done. Just by looking at the way they were acting, so rushed and tensed, I knew something wasn’t right. Ten days later they did the biopsy and on October 19th, 2017 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My family doctor referred me to a breast surgeon right away. I was given two options to remove the tumor, a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. I chose to get a mastectomy. My surgery took place just a month after my diagnosis, and that was when they found that cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes. My surgeon removed all the affected lymph nodes on my right breast.
When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know what to expect or how things were going to be, but I believe that God doesn’t put you through anything that you can’t handle. And I knew at that moment, that I needed to show my daughters and my family that I was going to be ok and that I would get through this no matter what. Through all the appointments with my surgeon and oncologist, when it came to talking about my treatment options all I said to the doctor was, ‘As long as I live to see my children grow I’m going to do it.’”
Nathalie has two daughters, 10-year-old Sofia and 6-year-old Valeria. “When I sat my oldest daughter down and told her that I was going to have a surgery she immediately asked why and I said ‘I have cancer but it’s going to be okay’. Her first reaction was to ask me if I was going to die and I reassured her that I was going to be ok. Right after my surgery I gave her a call and told her ‘you see? I’m here and alive and I’m going to be okay.’ My daughters were very supportive while I was undergoing treatment. I included them with what was happening as much as I could so they knew that I was ok. I love my daughters so much and my life is for them.”
Nathalie and her family had moved from the Dominican Republic to Calgary in 2015. Her year undergoing breast cancer treatment and recovery was challenging but filled with moments of deep gratitude for the support she received from her family and friends. “I don’t have the words to describe how hard it was during my treatment to be in a new country, so far away from my family back home. But I didn’t face cancer alone. My husband, Francisco was always there for me and was by my side no matter what. He took care of our daughters and was with me in every medical checkup.
I am also so grateful for my family back home. My mom who was always praying for me and kept a smile on her face even though she wanted to cry on the inside. My cousin, my brother, my dad, all the members of my family back in the Dominican Republic who made me feel like they were right by my side despite the long distance.
But I was also fortunate to find an amazing support system here in Calgary. I got new friends that became my family, my peeps and a group of fabulous school moms who were always there for me. From taking me to my therapy sessions, meeting for a coffee, helping me make food, picking up my daughter from school or just being there to chat. Even today I know that if anything was to happen, I can rely on them. They made me feel like I was home and I think that played a big part in helping me stay strong and positive while undergoing treatment.”
Cancer treatment can be physically challenging. Nathalie found that being active helped her immensely with her recovery. “When I was undergoing chemotherapy, my oncologist recommended that I go for short walks every day. And I started to notice that my body felt a lot better when I did that. So even after treatment, I continued to go on walks every day. And then six months after I completed my treatments I decided to start running. My neighbours and I started to go on runs together in the winter. Some people thought I was crazy but it just made sense to me, and I listened to my body and knew that I could handle it.”
When cancer treatment ends, people begin a new chapter in their lives, one that can bring hope and happiness, but also worries and fear. The fear of cancer recurrence is common among cancer survivors but Nathalie wants people to know that there is hope.
“When people hear the word cancer, their first reaction is fear and they always think of the worst. But I want people to know that there is hope. Nobody should go through this but if you have to for any reason, know that there is a life after cancer that can be filled with joy and hope if you let it.”