Shanna Fitzgerald


My Story

I am a wife and mother of 4 beautiful children. In April of 2017 at 35 years old I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since the moment I heard those words my life has been a whirlwind of emotion and fear. I was only 8 weeks into a new job and had not yet worked enough hours to qualify for EI. We were just slowly digging our way out of the debt incurred by maternity leave with my 4th child. We had never imagined we would need any kind of critical illness coverage. I was still so young. I tried to find some resources to help us. I called our bank and our credit card company. I met with a counsellor in the Cancer Center. There was nothing available. I worried myself sick over what would become of our family. My friends and family sprang into action and started a gofundme as well as a benefit fundraiser to try and help alleviate some of the stress. We were surrounded by love and support and I was so grateful. I needed to focus on fighting.

On May 16th, the day before my 36th birthday, I underwent my first surgery - a right side mastectomy with sentinel node biopsy. I opted to have a tissue expander placed in my chest at the same time, so I could have reconstructive surgery in the future. My recovery was slow and painful as I developed complications. I had chronic pain in my arm, chest and neck and cording in my arm. I attended regular physio and massage and I returned to work. I began undergoing fills of saline to stretch the muscle and skin in my chest. Painful but tolerable because it would mean I could have some form of feminine figure back again in the future. I got the news that the cancer was contained to the breast. Stage II, Grade 3 DCIS with microinvasion. This was the best possible outcome for me. The cancer would take my breast, but it would not take my life.

In November I opted to have a prophylactic mastectomy of my left breast. I felt like I was so fearful of the occurrence of cancer in my remaining breast that it was paralyzing me. It felt like it was the only option if I wanted to try to regain some control over my life. I had a tissue expander placed in the left side at the same time and began having fills on that side as well. I didn't have to have any other treatment. I felt so lucky but, yet I didn't feel like myself anymore. I was changed. I was a broken version of the person I was before cancer. That December I lost a friend who was battling breast cancer at the same time as I was, and I was devastated. Here I was living... and she wasn't here anymore. Over the next few months I worked on myself. I tried to return to normal. I focused on my children and recovery from my second surgery. I got the news that I could have reconstructive surgery in March of 2018 and I felt like that was the finish line for me. I could leave cancer in the rear view. I soon learned it doesn't work like that. Altering the physical doesn't erase what I've been through. I am not only scarred on the outside. Inside I am fearful and wary, and I worry constantly about myself and my husband and my children's health. I work on that part of myself every day now. This is a journey. There is no finish line. I am living it every day and I am so thankful to still be here.

Being a part of this amazing project gives me a purpose. I was one of the lucky ones. If I can help someone else in any way I think that will not only help them but help me heal as well.

Thank you for letting me tell my story.

Shanna Fitzgerald