Younger or older — all women should check their breasts regularly and get a mammogram if they find any size lump at all — no matter what your age.
That is the advice of Megan Huska, a young mother of just 29 years who is battling breast cancer.
“The only advice I have for other women is that no lump is too small of a lump,” Megan says. “If you feel something, have it checked out … no matter what your age. “I know that it’s not easy for younger women to get mammograms on a regular basis, but just talk to your doctor if you are concerned about a lump or family history.”
This Sunday is Tough Enough to Wear Pink day at the Stampede and $1 from every ticket sold will be divided between Megan to help in her battle with cancer and the Cariboo Companions walking team that is raising funds for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.
Megan herself has also raised $3,000 for the CIBC Run for the Cure this year, and despite fighting cancer plans to participate in a run in Kamloops with a few local women from Williams Lake.
Megan was born and raised primarily in Williams Lake except for a few years when her family lived on Vancouver Island. Her parents are Peter and the late Debbie Fofonoff. She has two brothers, Kirby and Chad.
Megan is particularly concerned that women who have a history of cancer in their family make sure they take care of their health and are tested for cancer.
Megan’s mother, grandmother, and numerous aunts and cousins have all experienced breast and/or ovarian cancer.
“I have a lot of cancer on my mother’s side of the family,” Megan says.
“My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was only 27 and had both breasts removed with a full mastectomy and was a survivor thanks to radiation treatments,” Megan says.
Her mother was cancer free for 16 years and was then diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“She was diagnosed at the age of 43 and lost a strong and courageous fight to ovarian cancer a year later at such a young age of 44,” Megan says.
Megan met her future husband Justin Huska in 2003. They moved to the Okanagan in 2005, married in 2007 and welcomed their daughter, Sophie, in October 2008.
Then last November Megan was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I just turned 29 years old when I found the lump in my left breast,” Megan says. “Because of my family history I knew it was something I could not ignore.”
She visited her doctor who immediately sent her for a mammogram and ultrasound which confirmed breast cancer. Her left breast was removed in a full mastectomy in February.
“And it’s such a small, world because the surgeon my doctor sent me to had just moved to Vernon from Williams Lake and it was the same surgeon who did my mother’s mastectomy,” Megan says.
Megan says she healed well from the surgery, then started a series of six cycles of chemotherapy with three weeks between each treatment.
After that she was given five weeks of daily radiation treatments.
She takes the chemotherapy treatments in Vernon and the radiation treatments in Kelowna where she will also have surgery to reconstruct her breast.
“I had a few problems in my first chemo cycle where I developed a deep vein thrombosis which is a blood clot that developed inside a deep vein in my arm and travelled to my lung (pulmonary embolism),” Megan says.
She says the setback put her in hospital for five days. For three weeks after that she had to drive to Vernon every day for blood tests and also make periodic trips to Kelowna for tests.
They live about 40 minutes outside of Vernon.
“So it didn’t take long before my body felt the new pressure of not only having all the side effects from the chemo itself, but having to make that 40-minute drive to and from town every day with a two year old,” Megan says.
“We were turned down for financial support from the Canadian Cancer Society and the stress of fuel bills, eating-out expenses and the high costs of medications were also adding to the stress of the disease,” Megan says.
“So for the past few months life for us consists of at least three trips to town a week for doctor appointments, dressing changes and dealing with everyday chemo side effects. We try and keep it as normal as possible, especially for Sophie. She knows mommy is sick and is very good about going to the doctor appointments.”
Megan says they have been lucky to have such a strong support team — people who send them meals and take care of Sophie or drive her for tests and treatment when she is having a bad day when Justin has to work, or just being there to visit and support her.
“We have even had friends put together a poker tournament where they raised money to help me and my family with financial difficulties due to the high medical costs,” Megan says. Megan says she has times of pure frustration and anger with her whole situation and questions why this is happening to her.
But then she reminds herself of the amazing support she has from family and friends and what is good in her life.
“So far we are survivors because of these people,” Megan says.
“There are always choices. And we have made the choice to hold our heads high to fight this with all we have got. And so with that all the support we have behind us … cancer has a pretty small chance of defeating us!”