By: Dory Kashin
Dory Kashin remembers "complete shock" when she got her cancer diagnosis. At 29, she was established in a busy career as an event planner, enjoying living in Toronto, and in a committed relationship with her boyfriend of two years.
One day while getting dressed, she felt a lump on her breast. Dory had had a scare with basal cell carcinoma (most common form of skin cancer) and during a follow up with her doctor, she asked about the lump. To be safe, her doctor sent her for an ultrasound. Tests confirmed Dory had breast cancer and she was referred to medical oncologist Dr. Eitan Amir at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
"When I was told I had breast cancer I was in complete shock," Dory says. "I didn't really know how to react – it's kind of a numb feeling when you're told. I think when it really hit me hard was when they told me what would happen and that I'd need about nine to 12 months off. Things got real for me at that point – I was pretty career driven and I was in a good spot at my job, so being off for a year was just crazy to me."
Her treatment plan involved surgery – where she chose to have a double mastectomy – and reconstruction. From there, Dory would undergo both chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Dory says her introduction to the Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program at the Princess Margaret is what helped her navigate many of the personal and professional concerns that came with her diagnosis.
Dory says she remembers one of the early discussions that came with her diagnosis was around fertility, as cancer treatments can have an impact on patients' ability to have children. Prior to starting chemotherapy and radiation, she made the decision to go ahead with fertility treatment. "My boyfriend, now my husband, and I had been dating just over two years when I got diagnosed so it sparked the conversation with him kind of early on in our relationship about, 'are we going to be together long-term? As a young person there were a lot of different factors, like having a family, that I suddenly had to think about sooner than I might have planned to."
Dory met with Laura who gave her an overview of the various resources available to help support her through her cancer journey, such as Wellspring, Gilda's Club,
Rethink Breast Cancer, & Pink Pearl. "Initially my biggest concern was finances. I had never been in a position when I wasn't working, so I went to Wellspring and got some help with that. I was also concerned about my relationship with my boyfriend and what that was going to look like, so being connected to different support groups specifically for young people helped me find others who shared similar worries to mine." Dory says she even met one of her now best friends through Gilda's Club and Pink Pearl. Having that one person who has been through a similar experience and "just gets it" has been critical in her journey, she says.
Now 31, Dory has completed her treatment, but will be on hormone replacement therapy for 10 years. She is enjoying married life and she and her husband are ready to start a family. Dory says she has a different perspective on the importance of having balance in her life. "Life after active treatment was a lot harder than I thought it would be – getting back to the new normal, which I think a lot of people feel," she says. "Even having my hair now back to the spot it was before chemo - which I know is just visual – has helped because I don't look in the mirror and see cancer every second. I volunteer a lot more than I used to and I'm trying to fill my time with more positive things – finding what makes me feel good other than just my job and stressing over things. Work-life balance is really important to me now and just focusing on my health."