When Kimberley Wahamaa learned she had breast cancer this past spring, she decided to tell her story in real time to help others.
The operations manager at Northern Ontario Business has set up a website, www.trustyourbust.com, where she shares “the good, bad, the ugly and the raw” of what it's like to be diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.
The website also features the stories of other breast cancer survivors, a calendar of breast-cancer-related events, businesses offering deals to those with the condition and links to breast cancer resources.
“I wanted to create a site where it's not your medical textbook stuff,” Wahamaa said. “It's real-life stories, and you can learn from these stories undergoing your own treatment.”
Take, for example, the May 22 biopsy which eventually diagnosed her with breast cancer.
Wahamaa compared the procedure to being shot with a paintball gun, and said she was thankful her 20-year-old son had taken her paintballing a few years ago, as it gave her some preparation.
She details the bleeding and bruising on her breast — of which she also includes a picture — caused by the procedure. “I was in recovery for quite a long time, I was obviously a bleeder, four towels later,” she said on the website.
Wahamaa also talks about her July 8 lumpectomy and her subsequent recovery, posting photos of how the scars are healing.
“The bruising is quite unbearable, but the rest at least healed without infection,” she said on the website. “The armpit scar is the weirdest. I can't feel the deodorant when I put it on. I'm sure the numb effect will go away some day.”
Wahamaa recently found out she has Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma after testing of the tissue removed during her lumpectomy. She said she plans to continue to update her story as she undergoes chemotherapy and radiation this fall.
She encourages other breast cancer survivors to visit her website and submit their story for publication. Even if a breast cancer survivor wants to tell their story anonymously, Wahamaa said she'd welcome their contributions.
She said the website has been a welcome distraction from her breast cancer battle.
“Since I started this, I look forward every morning to looking at the comments on my site,” Wahamaa said.
“I get people telling me these stories. Yeah, you have a little cry when you hear their story, but I'm like 'Yes, I've got another story,' because we're sharing this.”
Wahamaa, who is 47, said she also wants to bring attention to the need for earlier breast cancer screening. Women don't receive regular mammograms until the age of 50.
She, herself, realized she might have breast cancer after finding a lump on her breast while showering.
“My push is let's get to the government, too, and bring awareness,” she said. “I think the mammogram age should be 45 or even 40.”
That's why she's creating a 15-month calendar featuring those who have lived with breast cancer who were diagnosed when they were under the age of 50.
Proceeds from the $15 calendar will go towards Angels in Pink Fund, through the Northern Cancer Foundation, which is in turn spent on breast cancer early detection equipment in Sudbury.
They'll be available for purchase in mid-September at Northern Life, Second Avenue Home Hardware, A&J Home Hardware, Trade Secrets and the Rest Centre.
Although most of the breast cancer profiles on the calendar are women, there is one man featured – Greg Baiden, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28, and was forced to undergo a double mastectomy.
Because men sometimes have breast cancer, too, Wahamaa has been using the slogan “Think Pink, Think Blue” on her website. Pink is the colour signifying breast cancer in women, while blue signifies breast cancer in men.
Wahamaa said she's looking for a few more breast cancer stories to be featured in the calendar. Those interested in appearing in the calendar are asked to visit www.trustyourbust.com for more information.