Janine Poplak

Janine PoplakJanine Poplak says “it still feels very unreal”. When she first felt the lump in her breast, she had just weaned her second child from breast-feeding, and she thought it was just a blocked milk duct. But, to be sure, she had an ultrasound in July of 2011, and the recommendation was to repeat the ultrasound in 3 months.

Some pain in her back and increasing concern about her lump resulted in moving that ultrasound up by a month, but various delays meant that it was almost 4 months from when she found the lump before she was referred to The Princess Margaret’s Gattuso Rapid Diagnostic Centre. “From there, things moved along quickly, as my cancer appeared to be quite aggressive,” explained Janine. Within a couple of days of her appointment at The Princess Margaret, she received a definitive diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, but in the period from the first ultrasound to her diagnosis, her lump had grown from 1.2 cm to almost 6 cm.

Fortunately, neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy performed specifically to shrink the tumour prior to another treatment, in Janine’s case surgery) has shrunk her tumour considerably, and her lumpectomy surgery is taking place in early May.

While working her way through the testing and diagnostic procedures, Janine did a lot of research to map out her family history of breast cancer, and indeed on her father’s side there had been a few cases of the disease. Like many young women receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, she has done a great deal of reading about her disease—the treatment options, the rate of recurrence, reconstruction surgery—and she is sharing her personal experience through a blog http://bosomsup.wordpress.com .

Preparing for the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers in September has been good therapy for Janine, and has also been a way that her friends and family have been able to show their support. She has already exceeded her personal fundraising goal of $3,500. Like many patients, she feels this is her opportunity to show her appreciation for her caring and compassionate healthcare team—her surgeon and oncologist, chemotherapy nurses, and staff in the Wig Salon.

“Accepting help from others has never been an easy thing for me, but going through cancer treatment has made me really appreciate and welcome the help offered by my neighbours, family and community,” she says.

When asked whether she feels optimistic that cancer will be conquered in our lifetime, she didn’t hesitate to say “I believe it.” Knowing that there is a possibility that her cancer could return, she said that her experience to-date and her research have convinced her that there are new therapies being tested almost continuously, and she is very hopeful that there will be even more effective therapies down the road should she need them.

  Revised: October 2013