At 52, Virginie had everything going for her. As the mother of two children and recently re-married, her future looked bright. But one day in February in 2013, after a routine examination, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her life fell apart. “I didn’t really understand what was happening to me,” said Virginie. But she was determined to fight even though the illness rocked her to the core.
Five years later, Virginie has learned a lot from this ordeal. No, she does not live with the memory of cancer, but yes, it was hard, and yes, the illness disrupted the life of a family that had just come together. The couple faced difficulties at the beginning of their married life: “My husband was supportive but distraught. I now know that the spouse also needs support,” said Virginie. The spouse is sometimes forgotten, side-lined, and can have trouble finding their role. “The hardest part for him was finding himself with a woman, who was no longer quite the same during the treatment."
Her relationships with her children, a boy and a girl, were also emotionally difficult and left a wound that is hard to heal. Her 16-year-old son was devastated by the news of his mother’s illness and her relationship with him ultimately broke down: “I couldn’t simultaneously handle my relationship with him and my fight against the disease. He had to go and live with his father. I didn’t see him for four years,” recalled Virginie. Mother and son both still feel guilty about their estrangement. For Virginie, it is the feeling of having “abandoned” her child and for her son of not having known how to take care of his mother. Even though the time has come to rebuild their relationship, it remains fragile.
Virginie’s relationship with her husband and friends remained strong and she was treated with compassion throughout her ordeal, because she was able to reassure her loved ones with her contagious and convincing optimism. “We have to talk about it, we can’t remain alone,” said Virginie. “I wouldn’t say that I feel lucky to have had this cancer, but I was able to turn it into something positive. I used it to better myself, and especially to improve others’ lives. Thanks to this experience, I have been able to meet wonderful people in the network I’m a part of. I’ve got to know myself better, to know that I am strong and able to assert myself.”
Virginie ran for October Rose, the global campaign to fight breast cancer, with her husband and son, a wonderful opportunity to heal their wounds as a family.