“My doctors have become like family” – Toni’s Breast Cancer Story
In early 2014, Toni found a lump.
She went to her family doctor who helped arrange a mammogram and a biopsy that confirmed what she feared: she had breast cancer.
“I think my dog knew,” says Toni. “For the first time she started sleeping tucked right under my arm where the lump was.”
Toni was introduced to Humber’s Dr. Sabrina Allegro, who would become her oncologist. In the coming months, Toni would undergo a mastectomy with Dr. Jensen Tan, chemotherapy at Humber River Hospital, radiation at Southlake, a second proactive mastectomy with Dr. Tan and breast reconstruction surgery with Dr. Daniel Martin.
Her surgeries went well and she was touched by the care and support her physicians showed her.
“Chemotherapy was the worst part,” remembers Toni, “but the staff at Humber River Hospital were utterly amazing. Every step of the way, they told me how it would feel and they were right. I always knew what was coming.”
Chemotherapy made her bones ache. After her second treatment, her nurses prepared her for the reality that she might start losing her hair.
“I’ll never forget sitting at work when clumps of my hair started coming out,” remembers Toni. “Losing my hair was very hard.”
For her last day of chemotherapy, Toni made a bright pink sign to celebrate.
Radiation came with its own challenges – her skin blistered and she felt exhausted after every session.
“I developed lymphedema after radiation,” says Toni. “I tried physiotherapy, I tried compression sleeves, I tried everything but the swelling wouldn’t go away.”
Lymphedema is a common concern for cancer patients. Chemotherapy, radiation, cancer surgery, and trauma can all play a role in damaging the lymphatic system, which can manifest with limb swelling and pain.
Toni was referred to Dr. Thomas Constantine, a Plastic Surgeon at Humber River Hospital, who performs specialized supermicrosurgeries to repair damaged areas in the lymphatic network.
“The swelling went down as soon as I healed from my surgery,” says Toni. “I have six small incision marks and still wear my compression sleeve every day, but it has made such a huge difference.”
Six years after her initial diagnosis, Toni still comes to Humber River Hospital for follow ups.
“My doctors have become like family and it makes all the difference,” she says. “My message to anyone else going through breast cancer is to stay positive and focused. We are so lucky to have a great team of doctors and staff helping us fight the fight.”