In Loving Memory of Pauline
(Louise, Pauline’s twin sister)

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Pauline’s twin sister, Louise, is sharing Pauline’s story to help raise awareness and share the perspective of seeing a loved one’s journey with mBC.

This is Pauline’s story.

Diagnosis: The diagnosis hit us in 2010. My twin sister, Pauline, had stage 4 breast cancer. When news like that hits you, it’s a shock for everyone. It certainly was for her, and also for us, her family.

And yet there had been signs, for several months, signs that something wasn’t right. Even so, Pauline ignored them. Out of denial and out of fear for sure. Fear can paralyze us. When she finally consulted her doctor, it was too late. The cancer was already well established.

Treatment: What do you do when your twin sister is struck down with stage 4 breast cancer, an incurable cancer? How do you react? First of all, you want to help her. It was important for me, but also for my brother and sisters, that she be well supported, that we would take care of her and that we would do everything possible so that she was not alone in this terrible situation.

Initially, once we got the diagnosis, Pauline wanted to fight. She had chemotherapy to try to slow the cancer down. Unfortunately, a scan showed us that the cancer had a number of metastases in her brain. Like the holes you find in Swiss cheese, the cancer had spread into her head. From that time on, Pauline did not want to take on extensive treatments, which would not change the inevitable. She refused radiation therapy. As her brother and sisters, this was a difficult decision. We wanted to respect our sister’s choices but at the same time, we also wanted to keep her with us for as long as possible.

Living with mBC: Supporting a person at the end of their life is a challenge that can test our limits. Nobody reacts the same way when faced with death. We want to feel useful. We want to help. We want the end-of-life experience for this person we love so much to be a calm one. But we also felt so helpless. What we learned was that it’s important to respect the person, to be there for them and to listen without judgement. And that’s what we did, my family and I. We surrounded Pauline with our presence, our affection and our love, supporting her throughout her journey with this disease.

Eight months after receiving this terrible diagnosis, after putting up a hard fight, Pauline left us. My sister, my twin for 60 years was gone. I felt a permanent absence, a feeling of emptiness and immense solitude. The only consolation was knowing that Pauline was supported by our family throughout her illness.

Today and every day for the past 6 years, I light a candle in her memory.

We should never ignore a doubt, a concern, or the appearance of an abnormality in our breast. When caught early, breast cancer can be treated. When it reaches stage 4, as with Pauline, the diagnosis is terminal. That is why the public needs to be aware of this harsh reality – breast cancer still kills. We need to talk about it and help women obtain treatment options that meet their needs. This may be the only thing we can do in memory of the ones who have left us.

That is why I’m adding my voice to this campaign, to finally bring the realities of other sisters, mothers or girlfriends out of the shadows.
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