Imagine at the age of 24 receiving the heart-breaking news from your doctor that you have breast cancer. That was the reality for Janielle Blenman who, now at 33-years-old, recounts her battle with the disease normally associated with more mature women.
“The day I received my diagnosis was numbing. I don’t remember the exact words she used after that but I remember her saying ‘positive’ and I zoned out until I had to tell my husband that I had breast cancer which was later in the day,” she said.
“I truly can’t remember what I said that day and for a couple days after that. I truly can’t remember what [my husband’s] response was like. I think that he was trying to . . . calm me down because when I explained to him what the doctor said, I started to cry [and] it was uncontrollable,” the breast cancer survivor told Barbados TODAY.
Her numbness could be attributed to the fact that at twenty-four years old, she found that not only did she have breast cancer but she had the most aggressive form of cancer, which would result in a double mastectomy in the year that followed.
“I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which is the most aggressive form of cancer,” she said.
Recounting her battle, Blenman, who underwent rigourous treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, said her family’s support and her faith brought her through.
She praised her husband Deccal and other close family members as well as her employer and fellow colleagues for their understanding.
Following her own cancer fight, Janielle has become an advocate for those going through similar experiences. In 2015, Janielle launched her Life Against Breast Cancer campaign.
She was determined to get the word out that breast cancer can strike even in your twenties. “Little did I know it is possible and it happens more often than the public realizes. After I was diagnosed and I became a member of the community so to speak, I then met other young breast cancer patients and survivors.”
She said for her it is a matter of raising the level of knowledge about the disease, which affects and kills so many women around the world, that it doesn’t have to be a death sentence [and] it can happen to younger women and men as well,” she said.
“There are a lot of things from the financial to the psychological that have changed as a result of these processes; so this campaign is basically to offer support for these women in various areas, based on my experience and the experience of other breast cancer survivors.”
Blenman, now thirty-two years old, has continued her fight against breast cancer as she has joined Payless Shoe Store to be the ambassador for Payless Breast Cancer Awareness Programme.
“For me it’s about awareness as I was diagnosed at twenty-four-years-old and I guess I was so numb because I did not expect and think it was possible for a twenty-four-year-old to be diagnosed with breast cancer,” Blenman said.
Counting her blessings that the disease has been in remission for the past nine years, Janielle reminded women that there was life after breast cancer.
And for those women who had a breast removed in order to save their lives, she said “In 2017 if you can’t get over not having a breast, then reconstructive surgery is an option”.
She stressed that having breast cancer does not define a person as a woman and if they cannot get past that, then they can seek reconstructive surgery.
“They are certain things that we look at that define you as a woman; so initially it was challenging; but I was able to realize it didn’t define me as woman.
Janielle said having cancer made her appreciate a lot of things she had taken for granted.
“There are definitely things that I know now and things that I appreciate that I would not have, if I did not have the cancer experience. I would not trade who I am now, what I know and how I feel to avoid the couple months of pain that I endured,” she said.