What about the emotional risk factor for breast cancer ?

We hear about the risk factors for breast cancer. Not having children, or having them later in life is a risk factor.

But what of the emotional risk factor? What if your heart is broken so badly that your pain manifests in a mass, a tumour? I believe this is possible and here is my story.

In 1981, I lost my only brother to leukemia at the young age of 38. My Mom and Dad never got over Bill’s death; it is so unnatural and unacceptable for your children to predecease you. So, I became an only ‘child’ at the age of 32. I had never moved out on my own and I surely wasn’t going to do so then, not with Mom being so depressed and all. And so I stayed and life carried on.

Fast forward to 1988, Mom’s suffering with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease , frequent ambulance rides to the hospital and intubation, ended with her dying of a stroke on January 15th. I couldn’t keep Dad at home any longer as his Alzheimer’s Disease had progressed so that even a male attendant I had hired couldn’t adequately care for him. In February 1988, I placed Dad in a Centre d’Acceuil where he ‘lived” for one year until he succumbed from pneumonia in February 1989.

I found myself alone for the first time in my life, still living in my parents’ apartment. My next-door neighbour introduced me to a fellow and we began dating. In March, we were cross-country skiing at my country home in the Laurentian Mountains, when my home caught fire and burnt to the ground. If I tell you the shock was almost too much to handle, would you believe me?

My relationship with R developed and in the summer I gave up my apt to move in with R, in his house. I was in love. We were in love. R had been married before and didn’t want to marry again, but at 40 years of age, my biological clock was ticking to beat the band and I desperately wanted to have R’s baby even on the condition that he wouldn’t marry me. So we tried, and we tried and I didn’t become pregnant. R managed a hospital, so he had easy access to all the fertility testing possible. He was tested; I was tested. Everything was normal, but still I didn’t conceive.

August 1990 — my 41st birthday — I confronted R who had been acting distant. He said I’m not sure I love you anymore. Pardon me? I stuttered. I think I’ll go away for the weekend and think things through. Um, OK, I said, if that’s what you have to do.
Two days passed, somehow. R returned. I was right, he said, I don’t love you anymore.

I don’t know to this day how I drove from the house to my hair appointment 30 miles away but I did. Sue met me and we hugged the way BFF’s do. Chrissy, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. R doesn’t love me anymore, I sobbed.

In one month, unable to live in a house with no love, I moved out to an apartment of my own, childless, yes, but finally on my own, at the tender young age of 41.

May 1999, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 10 years since that emotional upheaval. They say it takes about 10 years for a mass or tumour to become apparent.

Coincidence? God only knows.


8 responses to “What about the emotional risk factor for breast cancer ?

  1. My first thoughts when I read this post is that it’s such a sad story; however, my next thought on the back of that one is, what a strong lady! You have come through so much pain and heartache, and yet you are still such a sunny optimistic person. I am 100% behind you as you spread your message regarding breast cancer, and I wish you all the very best.

    • Thank you, Dr. Palko — Amy — I hold you in high esteem and so your support and kind wishes are very valuable to me. Someone once told me I had a strong constitution. As for the sunny optimism — I’m a Leo and my Dad always woke me up with a smile. Christine xx

  2. It’s a difficult trip down your “Memory Lane” isn’t it? I am always amazed by your resilience dear friend.

  3. As a 40 year old, single woman, who’s been living alone for 11 years (sort of left the parental nest at 19), I applaud your resilience and ability to start anew at 41.
    As far as emotional stress goes, I believe that it is a major risk factor for many illnesses…unfortunately it is hard to quantify the effect and some people are better at hiding it or dealing with it…

  4. Susan, you’ve been by my side since we were 13, a sister to me. You needn’t be amazed.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, so brave!
    I believe that emotional stress does cause trauma in our bodies. The mind/body can only take so much until it tries to find an out.
    You are a true survivor! Cheers to YOU!!!

  6. Stress is something that happens within – our interpretation of events which activate our nervous system, prepping it for flight, fight or freeze. It affects our emotional, mental and physical health; often many years or decades down the road.

    I applaud you, Christine, for your candor and willingness to look at how your thoughts and emotions influence your health.

    As far as I can tell, you’ve done it without blame – more like you have a responsibility to look after your health. Bravo!

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