ITW n°47: Magalie - K fighter.
today the sparkling Magalie, 37 years old (Mom of little Ben), creator of the super blog illustrated by her: "Magsblog", tells us about her battle against Mister K du Sein, now Magalie has been in remission for 2 years :)
She tells us with great humility: "I thought that drawings could be an original and fun way to talk about my illness. On the other hand, at the beginning each drawing took me a lot of time because I had never drawn before! " , and it’s very successful ;)
We think a lot about your mother, about whom you spoke to us with great emotion at the end of the ITW.
Let's get started:
Who are you ?
First name: Magalie
Profession: French teacher for the Alliance Française in Australia
Where do you live: In Port Macquarie, a pretty little coastal town 400 kilometers north of Sydney, Australia.
Why do you agree to share your story today?
It has always been very beneficial for me to share my story, not to keep it inside.
What are your qualities (in a few words)?
I am cheerful, dynamic, social and I am interested in many things. I'm a good audience, too.
What are your passions (in a few words)?
I love being outdoors, going camping, going in the water, playing in the waves and surfing.
What K (what cancer - grade if you wish / stage ditto):
I'm a former K fighter!
When was it discovered? How old were you ?
I was 33 when I found out I had cancer. My son Ben was just eight months old.
Under what circumstances was it discovered?
I had just stopped breastfeeding my son completely. Sadly I looked at how my breasts had shrunk when I felt a little lump... ( also discover here on Magalie's blog ;))
If you are currently undergoing treatment, or in remission (for how long?)
I have been in remission for 2 years. I still continue to take hormonal treatment, that is to say one pill every day. I've had it for 10 years, I've done 2...
Can you summarize your (K fighter) story for us ?
I grew up in the Paris region and have lived in the land of kangaroos for 6 years. It was when I was 33 that I felt a “little lump” in my left breast. So I decided to show her to the doctor instead of waiting and hoping she would go away on her own. However, I was not in pain, I felt in great shape and I had just finished breastfeeding my son; I never thought it could be cancerous.
I can still hear my friend telling me “you’re young – it can’t be serious”.
That's how I learned that there was no age limit for getting breast cancer.
After the operation, I felt the need to share my story in order to cope. We all react differently to illness. Personally, I felt the need to talk about it. It allowed me to better accept what was happening to me and took a weight off my shoulders. I wanted to tell people: “Yes I have cancer. No I'm not ashamed. Yes I can tell you…”.
It was Nico, my partner, who had the idea for the blog, who found out how to do it… and I was won over! A big fan of comics, I decided to tell my story by drawing it. I thought that drawings could be an original and fun way to talk about my illness. On the other hand, at the beginning each drawing took me a long time because I had never drawn before!
It did me a lot of good. I was focusing more on “what am I going to draw now?” rather than “why is all this happening to me?”
What treatment did you have?
chemo: if you have had it:
4 sessions of AC (Adriamycin Cyclophosphamide) every 3 weeks, 12 sessions of Taxol every week.
radiotherapy: if you have had it:
operation if you have had one:
hormonal treatment, my little daily pill called Tamoxifen.
What tips directly related to K do you want to share?
(your feeling with the doctor, your good treatment organization plans, anything that seems useful to you ;))?
1/ chemo: (ex: your tips, the helmet, your affinities with nurses):
The day of chemo generally went pretty well. I was comfortably seated in my chair. I drank a lot of water. I knew I had hours to go, so I prepared a little picnic, I picked up a good book, I brought some music.
How did you live the day before, the same day, the days after chemo?
and what were your tips?
I reacted differently to my two chemos. I found the first one more aggressive...
I tolerated the second one better but it still had its drawbacks.
( and then to see here too ;))
2/ hospital: (e.g. contact with nurses / doc / caregivers):
I had all my treatment at Randwick Hospital, NSW, Australia. I haven't had a bad experience. The doctors were able to answer all my technical questions, the nurses were there to give me moral support and guide me in what I should or should not do. They were incredible. In Australia, there are breast care nurses who only care for breast cancer patients. At Randwick Hospital there were two. They took turns coming to see me before and after the operation, during the first meeting with the oncologist, during my first chemo. They organized monthly meetings for women under 45 where we were able to meet, express ourselves, there were also speakers who came to talk about the symptoms of menopause, the risks of developing lymphedema, they also spoke to us about risks of suffering from chronic fatigue several years after cancer, and many other subjects. It was very interesting. I learned a lot and met some wonderful young women.
The nurses working in the oncology department were also incredible. They, on the other hand, deal with all cancers and administer treatments.
I drew them like octopuses because, in my opinion, they could do a billion things at once.
3/ “parallel” medicine, if you have done it (what disciplines, what were their benefits):
My mother-in-law sent me homeopathy granules which I took every day, 3 times a day. It is difficult to demonstrate the results of homeopathy, but I think I did not suffer too much from my chemos or my radiotherapy sessions. Was it thanks to my little granules? Highly possible.
Regarding my second chemo, Taxol, my white blood cell count had to be equal to or greater than 1.00 (that's the limit they give in Australia) and on 3 occasions my chemo was canceled because my count was lower at this limit. This was very annoying for me... I was supposed to have these 12 chemo sessions anyway so a cancellation only extended the duration of the treatment. The day of chemo I took two buses (40 minutes), at the hospital I took a blood test and had to wait an hour for the results and on 3 occasions I was sent home because my level was not good ...I was very sad about it. I even felt like "nothing"... I asked how to "boost" my white blood cell count but according to my oncologist, there was nothing to do, just be patient. But at that moment a friend offered me a “reconnection” session which was very beneficial to me. After the session, my white blood cell count rose and even my oncologist was surprised.
Here is the drawing that illustrates my experience:
What did you do to clear your mind/clear your head (before chemo, surgery & co)?
Living near the beach, I was lucky enough to be able to go for a walk along the water. If I was too tired, I would go and sit in the garden. Sometimes I just lay on the sofa and watched my partner play with our son.
I also drew a lot.
What practical “well-being/beauty” tips can you advise us?
1/ beauty: your essential products (e.g.: creams, varnishes, scars, oils, etc.)
In Australia, there is a program called “look good feel better”, all women with cancer (all types of cancer) can go. During a morning, professionals show you how to put on makeup, how to put on a scarf or a wig. It's very user-friendly. Then we have tea (not forgetting the cupcakes) and at the end, everyone leaves with a bag full of beauty products. Everything is free. It was really a very beneficial experience for me.
When I lost my eyebrows at the end of my second chemo, I used a light brown pencil to draw in some new eyebrows. I also liked to apply bronzer to make myself look better.
2/ look, (e.g. your favorite chemo, hospital, every day look to feel good):
Cancer or not, I have always liked wearing tunics (classic or very colorful) with black leggings. The best for me who walked a lot (going to the bus, between the different departments of the hospital) were my shoes, Bürgenstock.
3/ daily (e.g. sport, food & co, meditation, reading, etc.)
When I felt OK, I would go for a walk on the beach, or swim. The hospital offered me sessions with a specialized psychologist who had me participate in 5 meditation sessions, with her, to evaluate the benefits of meditation on the fear of the risk of recurrence. It was the first time I did meditation and it was very beneficial for me. The first few times I had trouble focusing my mind, but the more I did, the easier it became. I tried to do 20 minutes 5 times a week, that's what they asked me to do anyway. At the end of my short sessions, I always felt very relaxed and peaceful.
4/ hair problem (eg: did you wear a wig, scarves, hats)
Sometimes I came out bald. I put on makeup and pretty earrings. I didn't really look sick and one day a woman even told me she loved my style! Otherwise I took a scarf that I tied behind my head with an elastic band. It was pretty, but my partner preferred me without anything.
Were you concerned about the views of others, were you afraid that their views would change? What did you do to counter it?
I was lucky to no longer be working at that time. My entourage was mainly made up of friends, people who wanted to help me. I wasn't afraid that their outlook would change. I felt like most people wanted to help me.
What are the “nugget”/footed phrases (that you remember) that someone said to you during K and that you could have avoided?
No big nuggets but a cute little anecdote. The little neighbor, while I was bald in the garden, asked me if I was a boy or a girl.
" a girl "
but you have no hair...
I hesitated, then I said “I’m shaving so I can swim faster”
She looked at me for a moment, then smiled and left.
How did your loved ones support you?
I had enormous support from my partner Nico.
My son Ben, too young to understand, also gave us the strength to continue, because we had to take care of him and at this age (I'm starting to walk) it's not easy.
My friends in Sydney have been amazing. My group of moms chipped in to give me a voucher for a restaurant and a massage. Some friends took me to the hospital. Others were guarding Ben. My distant friends sent me emails, letters, sometimes even packages with women's magazines from France, little jewels. My parents and my sister were present by email and Skype. My mother-in-law showered me with precious little gifts, like scarves for my hair, beauty oils, etc. I was very cared for.
And what advice could you give to loved ones who accompany a K fighter?
I think I would advise them to read the magnificent text of Les Impatientes
( read here ;))
Do you find out about K on the internet?
I hardly do it anymore but I did it a little, before the operation and during the treatment. In fact I was mainly looking for answers to my questions by asking the medical staff and/or other (ex) K fighters.
If so, did it make you feel good?
Talking to (ex and non-ex) K fighters did me a lot of good.
If so, what would be the useful (internet) links that helped you during K?
I really enjoyed reading the testimonies and blogs of K fighters or ex K fighters, like that of Catherine Cerisey here
I had the support of au feminin who published a new drawing of mine every week.
I also discovered Médecins de l'Imaginaire and was very proud to draw their New Year's card for 2015. I really like what they do.
What has the K changed in your life…?
(for example: your vision of the world, your priorities, your essentials, refocusing those around you, in your work, your philosophy..?)
We then lived in Bondi beach, one of the most popular beaches in Sydney, where everyone is beautiful, young and earns a lot of money. I think after treatment we got tired of this world of “appearances” and decided to move out. We now live in a beautiful little town that is much less popular but we are happy there.
In Sydney, I worked as an Office Manager in an insurance company. After the move, I couldn't find work in my "industry". I then learned that there was an Alliance Française and was hired as a French teacher. I've been doing this work for 2 years now and I'm really happy. My roots are in France and thanks to this work, I share my love for the French language and for our culture. I really love what I do.
I also got involved in helping young K fighters in my region on a voluntary basis. I completed a multi-day training course given by BCNA ( Breast Cancer Network Australia ), an Australian non-profit organization that supports and educates women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Thanks to donations from friends, family and very generous people who wanted to help me, I managed to have my drawings printed in the form of small brochures which are distributed free of charge in major hospitals in Australia. BCNA helps me with shipping costs. Since my drawings explain my experience in a simple and fun way, we distributed them to Melanesian women in my region. I also printed a French version but unfortunately due to excessive shipping costs between Australia and France, the majority of my small brochures are still under my bed. But traveling friends took some in their luggage and I was able to distribute some in a few cities in France such as Paris, Lyon, Nantes and also Brest where the announcement nurse is very demanding, which touches me a lot. Some of my small brochures have even arrived in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland and New Caledonia. It's priceless when I receive an email from a nurse who tells me to distribute my comics to some of their patients who, thanks to my comics, can identify themselves and project themselves further with courage and hope.
Through my blog, I have met extraordinary women who have become friends.
I am more open to alternative medicines and am much more interested in meditation and yoga.
During a stay in France I met Daniel Monnier who gave me an energy treatment to free me from my ancestral memories. It was very beneficial for me and allowed me to become more accepting of my new self.
Free field ;)
tell us what you want (which might not be in my questions):
I would like to tell you that I lost my mother last November. He had been diagnosed with kidney cancer the previous year which unfortunately metastasized to his lungs. She's gone and I think about it a lot. Even 22,000 kilometers away, even when I was ill, I knew that my mother loved me with a limitless love that gave me wings. It's very hard to lose your mother. She was full of life, a “bon vivant” who loved to laugh, cook, eat well and spend time with her family and friends. Mom traveled the world to see me; she went as far as New Caledonia and Australia! Mom was a nurse and throughout her life she took care of sick people. I saw her with her patients, especially when she worked in the gerontology department of St Perrine hospital in Paris. She was extraordinary, attentive, patient. Seeing her so loving with these elderly people brought tears to my eyes.
Unfortunately depression and cancer took 3 years of her life and she left at 63...
I was very disappointed with his oncologist and the lack of communication between the different services. We took care of his depression in Nantes, his cancer in La Roche sur Yon, his lungs in another department in Nantes, etc. Everyone was passing the buck. For months, I heard that the cancer was stable, that everything was fine, that we were looking for the best suitable treatment but that examinations, tests etc. had to be done and between each examination we had to wait for months and months. I was surprised by how slow the process was and how little communication there was between departments. Then all of a sudden, everything spread, I was told that she was in palliative care and that she was going to die, that it was like that. Fortunately, a few nurses and interns really took the time to talk to me, and I felt that they spoke of my mother with tenderness and respect. I wanted to say thank you to them for doing this very difficult work and for bringing interest and love to each individual.
I thank my mother for bringing so much love to my sister and me, to her husband, to her mother, to her family, to her friends, to her colleagues, but also to her patients.
Thank you Magalie for your testimony, your comforting and moving words, we are thinking of you and your family for your Mom!
Please note that I do not retouch any Interview, they are completely free, it is your freedom, your story, I just add my personal touch with the illustration, they are delivered as they were sent to me ;)
Lots of beautiful positive thoughts to everyone!!
@ very quickly