Shaniza’s Cancer Care Journey

April 12, 2018

Shaniza (left) pictured here on her last day of chemo with Monica Elligsen, Humber’s Oncology Nurse Navigator, Breast Health

Prior to her diagnosis, no one in Shaniza’s family had breast cancer before. Even when her mammogram revealed a lump, Shaniza’s doctor was optimistic that it wasn’t cancer.

“I’m young. Cancer didn’t seem likely. My doctor ordered the biopsy because she knew that not knowing would bother me,” says Shaniza, “We all have to ask for what we need and advocate for our own healthcare. I didn’t expect it to be cancer, I just knew something was wrong.”

Shaniza was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2016, but when she had surgery to remove the lump, doctors found that she had cancer in multiple places. Starting in January 2017, Shaniza had chemo every three weeks and struggled with severe nausea, exhaustion, and muscle and bone aches.

One month after her chemo treatments ended, Shaniza underwent a mastectomy under the skilled hands of Humber River Hospital’s Dr. Thomas Constantine and Dr. Laura Whiteacre. Shaniza’s mastectomy, breast reconstruction on one side, and a balancing procedure on the other side were all performed in one surgery by these two skilled doctors.

Shaniza smiles with Dr. Constantine during her Mastectomy Pre-Operation Appointment

They addressed as much as possible in one day to avoid Shaniza having to undergo multiple procedures. The surgery went well, and for the first time at Humber, it was facilitated by a new state-of-the-art imaging technology for breast and reconstruction surgery (known as ICG Fluorescent Technology). IGC helps to improve surgical outcomes so between her doctors and the leading edge equipment used to treat her, Shaniza knew she was in good hands at Humber.

As soon as she healed from her surgery, Shaniza started radiation – every day, five days a week, for 25 sessions at Credit Valley Hospital.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad, especially after the chemo, but it was brutal. Radiation feels like being microwaved from the inside out, and it gets worse as you progress,” she remembers, “I was told that would happen. My healthcare team always kept me ahead of the curve, so I knew what was coming next. I was so lucky to have them. They were meticulous, soft, detail-oriented, and warm.”

Shaniza reunited with her care team when she returned to Humber to speak at Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day

“I have friends who say I’m so strong, but with the people around me that I had, it was hard not to be.”

Today, Shaniza is looking forward and grateful for the support she got at Humber: “Mine is a story you may have heard many times, perhaps even in your own life. Humber River Hospital Foundation’s donors are an important part of my story. You were with me every step of my recovery journey and I felt the impact of your donations first hand. Thank you for helping patients like me and thousands of others who will turn to Humber in their time of need.”