Carrie Davison beat the odds by being diagnosed with breast cancer.
At just 33 years old, the Campbell River wife and mother of three had no family history of breast cancer, and was anything but a prime candidate for the disease when she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer almost a year ago.
Davison also doesn’t smoke, she eats well, keeps chemicals out of her home, and exercises regularly.
But despite all she had going for her, cancer found her.
With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Davison said she felt it important to share her story.
“Hopefully it touches someone’s life or gets them to the doctor,” Davison said. “Young women need to know that this is not a disease for 65-year-old women; it can happen to any one of us.”
When she was living in Hong Kong about five years ago, her doctor noticed a small lump in her right breast. Davison was sent for a mammogram and an ultrasound, and the results came back normal but the doctor told her to keep and eye on it.
Davison noticed changes and went back to her doctor, who said with her age and no history of breast cancer in the family she had nothing to worry about. Also, her lump was sore, which is not typical of breast cancer but more so of a cyst.
In January of 2009, she and her family moved to Campbell River and Davison started seeing doctors here. She said no one ordered a biopsy and they, like the doctor in Hong Kong, all said the same thing.
“They just kept saying ‘oh you’re so young, there’s no breast cancer in your family,’ that’s all I heard for the whole five years, ‘quit worrying about it,’” Davison said.
By summer 2010, the lump had grown to be quite uncomfortable for Davison, and after she was again sent home by a doctor with no biopsy, she was talking to her husband, Travis Dashkewytch, and they decided to push harder.
“He said ‘no we’re going back in there because this is so uncomfortable for you,’ because you could literally see it through my shirt,” explained Davison. “I couldn’t put my arm flat down against my side because it was pushing on this big tumour, so we went in there and we were persistent, and just said ‘no, something has to get done here.’”
With the tumour now the size of a golf ball, Davison was scheduled for an ultrasound.
“I remember the look on the technician’s face when she saw the image on the screen. She excused herself from the room and said she was going to go speak with a doctor,” said Davison. “All I was thinking was ‘wow this is not good.’”
She was told she needed a biopsy, and when that came back, Davison found out that it was indeed cancer, and she worried about her three children aged 11, 10, and 6.
“Telling our three children will haunt me for the rest of my life,” said Davison. “Carter, Kaylin and Gracie are my whole world and it breaks my heart to this day that they had to go through all of this.”
She had a full mastectomy of her right breast on Dec. 9, 2010, which happened to be on her son Carter’s birthday. And then laid in a hospital bed on New Year’s Eve hoping that a second surgery to remove her lymph nodes would get rid of the cancer for good. From January to the end of May she went through chemotherapy, then stayed in Victoria for six weeks having daily radiation treatments.
Davison said it was a “huge strain” on the whole family emotionally, physically, and financially, but pointed out that they were lucky financially, as Dashkewytch works as an airline pilot and his company gave him the entire time off work, with full pay for the majority of it.
“So my kids always had a parent here with them taking care of them,” she said. “I did not have to lift a finger through any of my treatments.”
Even so, she said the ordeal cost the family about $40,000 including child care, traveling, lost wages, and out-of-pocket medication costs, among other things. Davison said she is confident the cancer is gone now and wants to move on with her life, but first she wants to generate awareness among women.
“This can happen to you, in fact, one in eight women will have some type of breast cancer in their life time,” said Davison. “Be aware of your own body and make sure you do self breast exams. Be your own advocate, and if you find a lump then ask your doctor to take the next steps, whether they feel you fall into normal breast cancer screening criteria or not.”