Paxman’s Regional Manager for Scandinavia shares her experience during Breast Cancer Awareness Month
The breast cancer experience of Camilla Magnusson, Paxman’s Regional Manager for Scandinavia has been included in an advertising campaign by The Swedish Lottery this Breast Cancer Awareness Month in aid of Breast Cancer Foundation.
Camilla Magnusson was 30 years old and expecting her first child when her life was suddenly turned upside down with a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer.
According to information from the Swedish Breast Cancer Association every day, 20 women in Sweden fall ill with breast cancer, with more than 8,000 women and 60 men diagnosed each year.
For Camilla the clinicians indicated that the cancer had been in her breast for between two and five years. “Everything turned black and it was difficult to accept that I had cancer. Will my baby and I die? Will I lose my hair? I was pregnant and finally able to become a Mum, I could not get sick now,” she says.
Triple-negative breast cancer is a collective name for breast cancers where the tumour cells lack three types of receptors on the cell surface (oestrogen, progesterone and HER2). Because the tumour lacks receptors, it is not possible to target the cancer cells with drugs in the same way as other breast cancer diagnoses. In triple-negative breast cancer, the cancer cells divide faster, which also makes the cells more sensitive and therefore chemotherapy drugs often have a better effect during treatment.
For Camilla, surgery was immediate and then came three cycles of chemotherapy – a regimen that would not harm her baby in the womb. “Everything went so fast and it felt like they had planned every second. I was too far along in the pregnancy for an abortion and at the same time, it was too early to give birth.”
Camilla remembers how it felt to be pregnant with her first child and then to discover all the treatments required to get rid of the cancer, “There was a lot of anxiety. When I received my second chemotherapy treatment, the birth pains started too early and I was hospitalized for a couple of weeks to stop it.”
The idea that being a Mum would not really turn out as Camilla had hoped and imagined was ever-present. “I did not think the pregnancy would go full term, but then I got to meet a woman the same age as me and who had gone through everything. She had given birth to her child. It was reassuring, but in spite of that, I did not really trust that everything would go well, I almost wanted to see my son before I could believe it,” says Camilla.
After finishing treatment, Camilla decided to have surgery to remove both breasts and even though she is scarred for life, she is proud. “I can never get rid of the thought that I have had cancer, but at the same time I feel such enormous gratitude, in a strange way I do not want to be without this experience. It is special.”
One of the worst things for Camilla was losing her long hair.
“It was terrible. Before that, no one could tell I was sick, but when my hair, eyebrows and lashes were gone, I looked really sick,” says Camilla.
During the birth, which went as planned, Camilla wore a headscarf so as not to feel completely naked. “Of course it’s weird. You lie there as a woman to give birth to a child and I felt that I did not want to show my head, I did not want to be so naked. After the birth when I took my first shower, I just wanted the nurse to leave me alone in the bathroom so that I could take off my scarf,” says Camilla.
It is not just one person who is affected by a cancer diagnosis – entire families are put face to face with death. For Camilla, she received a lot of support from her partner, siblings, mother and mother-in-law. “I noticed that many around me got a little scared and almost did not know what to do or say – they were afraid that they were in the way. I had an enormous amount of support from my mother and mother-in-law who lived with us for long periods. I could not be a full-time mother either, so I needed a lot of support,” says Camilla.
Just a couple of years after Camilla was diagnosed; her mother Yvonne also received a cancer diagnosis. “She helped me incredibly when I was sick and then we followed that same path again – but this time without a baby. I shaved her head and she fought so well. For a while, we thought she was healthy, but after a few years, she had a relapse. Unfortunately, it ended with her falling asleep on New Year’s Eve almost four years ago,” says Camilla.
Before that, Camilla and her mother had time to record a podcast for the Cancer Foundation about what it is like to be a mother and daughter, both diagnosed with cancer. “I will be honest and say that I have not had the strength to listen to it yet, it is probably three years since it was released. It still hurts too much, but someday I will listen.”
It is now 15 years since Camilla was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and today she is free from cancer and works at a company that provides scalp cooling to prevent hair loss caused by various types of cancer treatments. Camilla felt, like many others in a similar situation, that much of the identity and self-esteem is in her hair. “I think it is important to talk about cancer and I am open with my own story. In the middle of my worst hell, little Noel came and gilded our lives. It was amazing in the middle of all the misery. It shows that there is light beyond the darkness,” Camilla concludes.
2021 is the eighth year that the Swedish lottery and the Breast Cancer Association are conducting a campaign where for every pink Swedish lottery ticket sold, the profit goes to the fight against breast cancer. In total, the pink Sweden lottery has raised SEK 3,994,880 over the years and last year alone the SEK 601,914 was raised.
By buying a Swedish lottery ticket, you support the Breast Cancer Association – and the fight against breast cancer, with a chance to win millions!