Cancer isn’t sexy, but facing it with courage, resilience and humour is. Meet Léna Desjardins, a 46-year-old mother of two who wrote us in July to tell us that, thanks to her new her MIMI bandeau bra, she could now “walk out of my room with two breasts.” Her joy? Despite having undergone a mastectomy of her right breast, Léna could now wear her prosthesis under a bandeau bra and feel feminine again. Her message blew us away, and we asked Léna if she was willing to tell other women about her journey through cancer. Here is Léna's story, which she graciously accepted to share:
“I live with my husband, two children and miniature poodle on the South Shore of Montréal. I’m a stay at home mom and freelance translator.Four years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a complete mastectomy of the right breast. Losing a breast is quite traumatic as you can imagine, but it was the thought of not seeing my children grow up that was the hardest.
Léna with husband and children
The importance of breasts in our society is undeniable. So many women get implants. Good healthy breasts make you feel more attractive, desirable and feminine. Well, that's what I thought... But when that very body part is threatening to kill you, it's a no-brainer. Take it out! The doctors couldn't do the reconstructive surgery when they performed the mastectomy on account of the radiation treatment I would require. I still haven’t undergone reconstructive surgery because the mere thought of going back to the hospital makes me nauseous.
With the help of a psychologist, I worked on my perception of femininity. How it starts in your head and how breasts aren't the only things that define us as women. Our strength and the example we set for our children on how we take on life’s obstacles are what’s important. I'm also very fortunate to be with a man who loves me the way I am. When I was considering reconstructive surgery, my husband said: “Don't do this for me..." This definitely made things easier.
It's now been three and a half years since my breast was removed. I hardly think about it, I'm just happy to be here, to be healthy and to see my children grow up. I try to make every day count, but some days are more difficult than others. I'm no superhero, there are times when I'm scared that the cancer will come back and that, this time, it will destroy me. But, more and more, these thoughts are few and far between.
Léna's children with their miniature poodle
I’m a big fan of the outdoors. I love hiking, running, mountain biking, skiing and snowshoeing, and staying active helped me while I was undergoing cancer treatment. Laughter is another thing that saved me. Of course, cancer stops you in your tracks, but sometimes you need to laugh at it. Make jokes about it! I feel that, if I show cancer I'm not scared, it will stay away.
I don't know what I would have done without my amazing husband who took a year off work to help me through this. I’m also surrounded by a community of amazing women. They got together and every Sunday would deliver soup to my door! Some of these women, I didn't even know!
My friends and family played a huge part in my road to recovery. They supported me, made me laugh, let me cry on their shoulder, listened to me, baked for me, made dinner for me, cleaned my house. It’s very humbling to accept help, I was a fiercely independent woman who didn’t want to bother anybody with my problems. But sometimes, you just need to let people help you. My good friend from Vancouver would send me a card every week, just to let me know she was there for me. Another friend, a jewelry designer, made a bracelet in my honour as a breast cancer fundraiser.
The medical team that took care of me was amazing! All women, all extremely competent and all very caring. They took care of me every step of the way. Knowing that I was in good hands gave me strength.
I’m also lucky to have met Beatrice of Béa Boutique who can help a woman feel sexy no matter what! She can adapt any bra to fit my prosthesis, and this makes me feel so good. Just knowing that I'm wearing a pretty bra or that I can wear a strapless dress is amazing! And every night when I take off my bra, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to be here, even if it was a bad day, I'm still here...
To say that cancer is a life-changing experience is an understatement. Cancer changed me in a positive way. It gave me strength to face my fears and a new appreciation for life.”