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Octobre Rose : Portraits de femmes atteintes du cancer du sein

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Pink October: Portraits of women with breast cancer

Portrait of Lili Sohn

Lili Sohn is a comic book author. At 37, she is the mother of two boys aged 3 and a half and 1 month, the nights are short...

At what age did you discover your breast cancer?

At the age of 29, one morning I discovered the tip of my nipple was “in”… I went to see it. When I received the results, I was told that I had a tumor the size of a ping-pong ball in the middle of my breast, which prevented me from feeling it...it was cancer.
I did a genetic test which told me that I carried a “predisposition gene” and that it came from my mother's side. Indeed, my grandmother fought two breast cancers, but as she devoted herself entirely to her work, no one was really aware of her illness.

Did doctors underestimate the disease?

My doctor wasn't worried because of my age, he still prescribed a breast ultrasound as a precaution. I underestimated it myself because I didn't think it was possible to have cancer at such a young age and I had little information on this subject, apart from hair loss during treatments.

Did you feel accompanied and supported?

Expatriated in Montreal at that time, I felt surrounded by my friends. On the family side, the announcement of the illness was quite complicated; they had to manage their emotions and reassure them. That's when I had the idea of ​​opening a blog on the theme of illness, with a humorous tone around illustrations, to tell my story and reassure those close to me.

Exactly, what did opening this blog bring you?

First of all, having the status of a creator allowed me to keep myself busy and devote myself to something. There was also a therapeutic side, because the doctors gave me a lot of information that I could assimilate, transcribe into drawings and accept better.
Subsequently I was contacted by several publishing houses and I released three “La Guerre Des Tétons” comic books. So I changed careers to make a living from my passion.
Since then, I have released other comics related to the female body and I do a lot of popular science to talk about the disease in a relaxed way. I collaborate with researchers, the Curie Institute and associations, because it is a subject that needs to be more visible. I also opened my mind to other subjects, such as feminism, gender inequalities, the relationship with medicine and gynecological violence.

Today, I am happy to be alive, being around death has allowed me to uninhibit myself, to embark on my dream job and to be able to make a living from it.

A message to convey?

You shouldn't force yourself to be positive but live as best you can. I don't really forget the illness, especially with the scars and having children, which adds extra fear. But life is a bit like a roller coaster.

Portrait of Mélanie Loule

Mélanie Loule has been from Marseille for over 20 years! At 43, she is the mother of two daughters, Lila, 15, and Thaïs, 18. She created her illustration brand Minimel.

At what age did you discover your breast cancer?

The evening of my 34th birthday, as I went to bed, I felt a lump in my breast the size of a cherry. When the diagnosis was announced, I was stunned! I carry the BRCA1 gene, the same as Angelina Jolie! It poses a higher risk of cancer of both breasts and ovaries. After the treatments, I had regular follow-ups, every six months then once a year. But six years after the first, doctors discovered cancer in the other breast.

Did doctors underestimate the disease?

It was a friend who forced me to see a doctor, I wasn't worried. My gynecologist insisted that no one has cancer at 30, but to eliminate any suspicion, she ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist also reassured me but the verdict fell following the examinations...

Did you feel accompanied and supported?

I felt very surrounded by my family and friends. When I had my first cancer, I received a lot of gifts, including an iPad which allowed me to get back into drawing on a tablet and that's how I started to keep busy and create my stationery brand. Minimal".

What has the illness brought you?

I felt the need to discuss the disease, but I found few testimonies apart from those of women aged 60 and over. So I started talking about it on the internet. Little by little I got feedback and testimonies from women affected by breast cancer, of all ages...some were 20 years old. And we began to exchange without taboo and without discomfort.
The illness made me understand that I loved the woman I was and that “I cared about myself”. This is what pushed me to look for what could make me happy and create the life I dreamed of.

A message to convey?

It is important to talk about breast cancer and to highlight the stories of women affected by this disease. Cancer affects many people but it is a disease that can be cured if it is treated in time.

Portrait of Julie Meunier

Julie Meunier is a sparkling young woman of 34 years old. She lives between Toulon and Nice, she is the founder of the brand “Les Franjynes” and author of the book “To my fighting sisters”.

At what age did you discover your breast cancer?

6 years ago, my doctor felt a cyst in my breast and recommended a hormone cream. I don't pay attention to it but, three weeks later, I feel a lump rolling under the boning of my bra. I go back to the doctor who orders an ultrasound and a mammogram. After a series of tests and a long wait, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 years old. My type of cancer was being studied in France, so I was offered a clinical trial which was very long and difficult...18 months, 24 chemotherapies, 2 operations, 45 radiotherapy sessions and 5 years of hormone therapy.

Did doctors underestimate the disease?

Yes because my doctor wasn't worried. The screening center didn't want to give me a mammogram at first because I was young and there was no history in my family.

Did you feel accompanied and supported?

During the treatment, I had a lot of support and kindness from the medical team.
At the level of those around me, it was more complicated...cancer is scary and leads to strange reactions and prejudices. I was treated to some thoughts about my tattoos. But there are also positives, the people who accompanied me throughout the process, some...unsuspected.

What has the illness brought you?

My cancer made me want to find another option than traditional wigs. Franjynes is an alternative to a wig for women, girls and men following alopecia, that is to say, hair loss linked to an illness or burn. This project was financed by crowdfunding with more than 1,000 contributors! The adventure was launched!
I also collected numerous testimonies from sick people and I decided to free their voices in my book “To my fighting sisters”. I'm talking about the things left unsaid in illness, the difficulties it can cause even after recovery, the stigmas we carry, but also the physical and mental pain.

Today I realize that this protocol was “worth it” and that I finally feel good after these long years. I took chemotherapy as my best friend because it brought me to recovery despite the serious consequences.

A message to convey?

In illness, courage does not exist, it is the survival instinct that takes over. It is in each of us and helps us face heavy trials. And I use Philippe Croizon's phrase, “the impossible does not exist, because in the impossible, there is possibility”.

Portrait of Caroline, gang of shaved heads

Caroline is a 32-year-old young woman full of humor who set up the association “Le Gang des Cranes Shavés”! For the past year, she has been creating videos on the theme of breast cancer with humor on social networks.

At what age did you discover your breast cancer?

During the confinement in March 2020, I realized that my breasts were swollen. I'm waiting until June to see my gynecologist who prescribes an ultrasound and a mammogram. Seeing that my breasts still aren't deflating, I decide to have these exams done in September. Very quickly, the doctors mentioned the possibility of cancer and invited me to do a puncture. After more than a week of waiting, on September 22, 2020, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and in November treatments began. In April 2021, the chemos ended, I was told about the operation and it scared me very much. In May, I had surgery, with a total removal and immediate reconstruction of my breast.

Did doctors underestimate the disease?

No, because the doctors knew that I had lost both my parents to cancer and took my case seriously. It was rather me who postponed the exams, because I wanted to enjoy my summer after confinement.

Did you feel accompanied and supported?

There is a lack of listening from doctors. They do not take the time to explain to us the consequences of our illness and do not prepare us for the possibility of losing a breast. In addition, Covid complicated things and delayed my operation.
As for those around me, my friends support me enormously, especially one, who had the right words following the announcement of my cancer. But above all he is my friend, the real pillar, he is the only one who shares my daily life. For me, the key is to surround yourself with positive and attentive people who pull you up.

What has the illness brought you?

My education was based on humor and positivity, which is why I started making fun of myself and sharing jokes on social networks.
The Shaved Skull Gang association was born following a video where I walked in the street with my shaved head to accept myself and confront people's gaze.
I interview people in the street, to find out what they think of my hairless head and repeat the chemo experience. I was surprised by the kindness of the people who pushed me to continue. I then decided to organize fashion shows all over France where the wigs would be thrown away at the end, and I spoke about it to Amandine and Justine who wanted to follow me in this project. The goal is for women suffering from cancer that causes hair loss to feel beautiful! But the goal is also to prevent breast cancer, which also affects people under the age of 40.
It gives me a lot of good and allows me to talk about the illness. I also take stand-up classes, where I talk about breast cancer with humor.

A message to convey?

People suffering from cancer must educate themselves and take an interest in their case. It is important to always take two doctors' opinions. And above all to pay attention to your feelings, because it is not the doctors who feel the effects.