Alberta Cancer Foundation

With Open Arms

Photograph of Jamila Moloo by Bluefish Studios.

In March 2018, 41-year-old Jamila Moloo of Edmonton was diagnosed with breast cancer. The traumatic news was a complete shock, but she faced it head-on with the help of her supportive family and friends, as well as her care team at the Cross Cancer Institute. Throughout 2018, Moloo underwent chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy and radiation. Today, the mom of three is grateful for the return of her health and shares her story here:

as told to Colleen Biondi

“I was taking a shower and noticed a bump in my left breast. I knew that wasn’t right. You could actually see it protruding from my skin. I got a requisition for a mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist was kind and calm but said he didn’t like what he saw. Things started moving quickly after that.

“I [was diagnosed with] stage 3 breast cancer. I took chemotherapy — a session every three weeks for a total of six sessions. On Sept. 24, I had a bilateral mastectomy. My surgeon didn’t want to remove both breasts, but I convinced him, as we have strong cancer histories on both sides of our families. Four weeks later, I started radiation.

“It wasn’t easy. I lost my hair with the chemo, had lower body pain and couldn’t eat due to that metallic taste in my mouth. I was weak. Recovering from surgery took some time. And the follow-up to the radiation treatment was surprisingly tough. The sessions don’t hurt, you would think it would be easy-peasy. But after the series was over, the skin over my breasts started blistering and peeling. I developed open sores. It was very painful.

“What got me through was the support of my husband, our extended families and the mothers from my kids’ school. My husband took the kids to school, picked them up every day and took them to their extracurricular activities. He never once complained. He was my rock. His mother and brother and my mom made meals, stayed for dinner and helped with bedtime routines. The school moms dropped off food after chemo sessions. It was hard for me to accept help — I am usually the one helping — but these people were truly angels. There is no way I could’ve looked after my children alone.

“And the staff at the Cross were there from beginning to end. They are specialists and shared information, advice and support. I was frequently on the phone to my oncologist or nurses from the triage line. They helped me trust the journey and the process. I decided I would do what I could do and leave the rest up to their healing hands.

“I heard my husband say to a friend recently that this experience was hell for our family. I actually didn’t feel that way. I just got down to business and knew it was a temporary situation. But now that he is relieved that all is well and moving on, I’m still struggling with processing the emotional side of a cancer diagnosis. I am going to reach out to [my health-care team] for support to work on this.

“There was a silver lining to this experience — we learned that we have people in our circle who care deeply about us and are there for us. I also live more in the moment now and appreciate every day.”