On Aug. 14, 2014 Melanie Knight was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at 36-years-old. This type of breast cancer makes up 10-20 per cent of all breast cancer cases, an uncommon form according to breastcancer.org.
Like most women diagnosed with breast cancer, Knight found a lump in her breast, but this was unexpected for her age because most women between the ages of 30 and 49 have a less than one per cent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
“I remember my family doctor was absolutely shocked when the pathology from my first surgery’s biopsy came back because of how old I was and how healthy I was,” says Knight, whose lump in her breast tripled in size from two centimeters to six centimeters in two months after she first noticed the lump.
On Aug. 29, 2014 she started chemotherapy, which she did eight rounds of every two weeks.
“I was naïve in understanding how serious it was,” says Knight, referring to her initial perception of chemotherapy, which was described by her oncologist as unpleasant. “One thing she did say was, ‘it’s not like it is in the movies. You’re not going to be bed ridden, you shouldn’t be barfing for weeks afterwards, but you are going to lose your hair’. Because of this, I went into chemotherapy with higher expectations.”
However, chemotherapy does get worse as you go along, she says. She started going to the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre for her second round of chemo.
“For the first little bit after you’re diagnosed you’re just gathering information,” she says. “In my head I wasn’t thinking, ‘oh what else am I going to do?’ I was still gathering information and trying to process the whole ‘you have cancer thing’.”
But, Knight wasn’t a stranger to dealing with the healthcare system.
“Starting off, getting diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t ignorant to the healthcare system, how it works and going to specialists,” she says. She had two surgeries on her spinal chord to treat spinal cavernoma prior to 2014.
She says this knowledge of the healthcare system and exposure to it helped her navigate and manage the stress of having serious health issue.
“Having the surgery was never a debate,” she recalls. However, she was willing to receive the complementary treatment she did with the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre because of the reading she did online and with books on how to approach cancer treatment.
Knight incorporated supplements, fasting, healthy eating and acupuncture to help her cope with chemotherapy with the guidance of Craig Herrington, a naturopathic doctor at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre.
“I fasted 36 hours before and 24 hours after chemo to starve the cancer cells,” she says. She also says that she ate a low carb diet, rich in vegetables to keep her insulin levels low. She found that this protected her healthy cells by quieting her metabolism to receive the chemo.
“I’m not a hokey person,” says Knight. “I don’t believe I got breast cancer because I had a bad relationship three years ago when I first moved to Ottawa. To me it’s the unlucky draw and you can’t kill yourself spending all your time thinking back to what did I do to get breast cancer? Well Christ, I don’t know.”
By Amara McLaughlin
The Calgary Journal