Breast Cancer Cakes

breast cancer cakes - coco cake land

When the calendar flips from September to October, the first thing on my mind is Halloween candy. Or the hilarious costume I’m going to try and get my son to wear (last year he was a hot dog). Or whether I’m going to carve a Garfield pumpkin and how am I going to sneak-eat mini peanut butter cups all month. Not this year. This year I’ve got breasts on my mind – it’s breast cancer awareness month. So I thought I would share my story of how I found my breast cancer, and what the stages of treatment were like for me, in a straight up manner. Not “look at this clear blue liquid poured on a maxi pad commercial” style, but truthfully. I had just turned 38 when I was diagnosed. I wrote this for the scared and freaked out ladies, freshly diagnosed, who might be deep-googling breast cancer treatment or staying up late reading every entry of breast cancer blogs, just as I did after I found out. I wanted to know what I was in for. I wanted information. I wanted anything, something to help, soothe, encourage, or to know that there were other women out there like me.

breast cancer awareness month cakes - coco cake land

I’ve always been somewhat-aware of changes in my breasts, mostly because my maternal grandmother had breast cancer in the 1990s. For some horribly goth and macabre reason I always imagined I would get breast cancer too. What I felt was not a lump, but a thickening of flesh, right where my right breast met my rib. Was it just my rib or something weird? I kept feeling the area, wanting it to go away. I went to my family doctor and she sent me for an ultrasound and mammogram, to put my mind at ease. The mammogram showed nothing, but because I had felt something, we did the ultrasound and I still remember light-joking with the technician and asking if she saw anything. Eventually she zoomed in to the screen to show two suspicious looking ball-like shapes. I had a biopsy, then was sent home to wait a few weeks for the results. My family doctor called me and her voice was serious, she could barely whisper that it was “C.” Invasive ductal carcinoma. The shock felt palpable. I hung up the phone and hot tears burst from my eyes and my mouth hung open. I wanted to freak the eff out right there but my 2 year old was in the other room and I could hear him calling me to come and play. My mind raced and fear overcame me. Teddy’s little voice and me thinking I was going to die, to have to leave my son and my husband and my family. My husband (then a fourth year medical student) came home and set to work organizing appointments in conjunction with my family doctor. We needed to find out if it had spread to any other parts of my body. Skeletal survey, bone scan, CT scan, blood work. It was a week of unknowns as I went through all the tests. In my mind I was planning my funeral, mind-spiralling imagining Teddy asking for me and being confused, wondering if he would remember me and me feeling so sad that he might not. Had I done enough with my life? Did I do everything I wanted to? I hamster-wheeled myself into major stress.

breast cancer awareness month cakes

As the test results rolled in, they all came out negative – nothing seemed to have spread anywhere but it would only be after surgery “they” would know for sure. My happy, pretty-pictures, cake-filled life screeched to a weird halt. I felt thrown into a snake pit of unknowns, with an overwhelming laundry list of treatments laid out for me. When I first met with my surgeon, she felt the area of my breast, examining me. I’ll never forget what she said. “I can’t believe you found this. If you had waited until this was something more prominent, this would be a completely different story.” Those words chilled me. I had felt something off, then decided to investigate it, even though I wanted to plunge my head in the ground and fuggedaboutit. My family doctor also put me in touch with a fertility doctor ASAP. Not only was I given the news I had frigging cancer, I was also being told that having another child would be unlikely – the treatments would destroy my fertility. This news crushed me harder than the cancer. We ended up doing IVF to preserve embryos for implanting once all of my treatment was finished – however, we only got 3 embryos which isn’t a lot…but I’m still hopeful. For my surgery, I opted for a lumpectomy – I was given the choice of a mastectomy (removing the entire breast) or lumpectomy (cutting out a portion of the affected breast and keeping the nipple). You get the words “survival rate” thrown around when you are making these choices. I went with partial removal. I found the idea of surgery to be pretty frightening. But the surgery was successful and the surgeon got all the margins, and three lymph nodes were removed and tested – negative. The cancer had not spread.

breast cancer awareness month cakes

Chemo may be the worst thing that has ever happened to me, physically. I had a pretty rough time with it. You feel like you ate a poison apple. Your insides feel like they’re covered in thick syrup with a brutal headache on top. Your stomach is, as I described once, “debauched buttsanity.” Your appetite is bizarre, if you can eat at all due to raging diarrhea and nausea (although they make very strong drugs to try and counter the nausea.) Water tastes sickeningly sweet. I craved super salty potato chips. You basically feel like a pale grey dog turd. And then you don’t. I started to feel better after day 10, but my mind became very stupid and I couldn’t remember anything or concentrate at all. My hair started falling out just before my second round of chemo, so my husband shaved it. (Being bald when you don’t want to be sucks donkey balls and my self esteem plummeted. It’s hard to believe it will ever grow back when you’re bald – but it really does. I’m at 13 weeks post chemo now and my hair is extremely short but it’s there, and it’s growing in pretty thick. I’d say it’s note quite an inch long yet.) After my second round, I had a horrible allergic reaction – I broke out in huge red welts all over my body, even my crotch, all over my head, my eyelids – my hands ballooned up into the world’s itchiest puffy Mickey Mouse gloves. I got a kidney infection which landed me in Emergency – I remember feeling embarrassed and feeling so ugly and unrecognizable, I wanted to show the doctors and nurses a picture of the old “me” – this is me, see? I had to get my wedding ring sawed off too because my finger was turning purple from the puffy hands. I had a “I’m going to exercise every day of my chemo” attitude initially but then felt like such shite that it turned into “I am going to lie in bed and blind my eyes with silly TV shows and feel-good rom-coms” attitude. I will say that during chemo (I had four rounds in total, spread apart by 3 weeks) I got pretty depressed.

breast cancer awareness month cakes

Zapppppp! I had 20 rounds of radiation on my breast. They tattoo you with tiny dots to help line up the laser beams (not the technical term, ha). You lie down and a giant grey machine that looks straight out of a 1960s science fiction movie hovers over top of you and blasts the area with radiation. The actual treatment only lasts a minute or two. My skin was ok for the first three weeks, and then it started to brown, and get darker – finally my nipple was practically black and cracking open raw, and the skin around it was so dark and tender and dry. Painfully tender but I moisturized daily with Glaxal Base and used Lanolin cream for the nipple – I found it in my breastfeeding storage box, it helps with dry and cracked skin during nursing and it really helped. Currently the skin is peeling off in a very disturbing, horror-movie-ish way – my breast is all sorts of skin tones. I gotta say it’s not looking so good (charred sagging old eggplant anyone?) and I wonder if, aesthetically, a mastectomy would’ve been better – but my radiation oncologist says in 6 months it will have all peeled away and will look more normal again. Just before radiation I started running again, and hitting the gym hard. I must say that this made a big difference for me – I didn’t feel too fatigued from the radiation, but most of all, it helped boost my mood and got me out of feeling depressed – the cancer blues. I managed to work out every single day of my radiation treatment. It gave me a little sense of purpose and accomplishment. I kind of liked having somewhere to go every day, too (not that going to the cancer agency every day is fun) – I had a little routine again after so many months off of just “treatment.”

breast cancer awareness month cakes

I’ve been getting another IV drug infusion every three weeks called Herceptin, because my tumour was Her2 positive. It’s a targeted treatment which I’ll be doing 16 rounds of. At first I was depressed that I had to do all of these treatments – chemo, radiation, herceptin, tamoxifen. But now I am feeling lucky that there are targeted treatments for particular types of cancers like mine. Just stepping on to the chemo floor at the cancer agency gives me anxiety and a feeling of fear – but I am getting better at going. I go for my herceptin treatments on my own. I read gossip websites or look at pictures of my kid and listen to music or I watch an episode of the Mindy Project. Distraction, and then it’s over.

breast cancer cakes

I haven’t started Tamoxifen treatment yet but it will be an oral drug I will take for 5-10 years. Again, another targeted treatment to help prevent the recurrence of my breast cancer type. It has some yucky side effects that I’m not ready for yet in my life. It basically puts you into menopause, complete with hot flashes, slowed metabolism, dryness in the lady parts, low sex drive, fatigue. And you can’t have a baby. I’m not ready to feel like a lady in menopause yet. But I’ll do it anyway. I’ve been in talks with my oncologist about waiting to start Tamoxifen until after we try implanting a frozen embryo. I told her that if I could have a baby first, I will take Tamoxifen for the rest of my life even.

breast cancer cakes - coco cake land

So that’s where I’m at now. An eight month blur of mind fuckery, body changes, depression, anxiety and happy days, too. I’ve slogged through a lot this year so far. But I’m still here. If you are reading this and you are newly diagnosed, things I would suggest: lean on your friends and family for support. It’s one of those times in life you really need their help. Seek professional support if it’s available to you (counselling, therapy). Treat your mind, body and spirit right if you can – going out for a walk, trying alternative healing treatments, going for a massage or even a pedicure – treat yo self if you can. I guess there have been a few amazing parts of my having cancer: Life. I get to celebrate another birthday and not be sad and annoying about getting older and looking old – but I get to be stoked on living. Live and let live, love harder. Feeling cared for, feeling loved by family, friends. Beautiful gestures of letters in the mail or home cooked meals and sweet cards. Words of love and caring, silly sweet gifts, thoughtful presents. Those small things would make an entire day of crap (literally and figuratively) feel better instantly. Appreciate life more. Who gives a flying dog shit about the small stuff – don’t sweat the small stuff as much. Finding exercise again to help with my mind, body and spirit. Loving on my sweet sweet little boy and snuggling and laughing with him so deeply, daily, whenever (while still being driven crazy by him sometimes – toddler alert). The love and deep pride I feel for my husband, lifting me up through my continued treatment, deciphering medical talk, bringing me flowers, loving me through my darkest and ugliest moments and most morbid jokes. My family – my parents and my sisters, especially – life is nothing without family and friends. I will leave you with this image, because it seems to have worked for me thusfar, fingers crossed. xo Lyndsay 

cop a feel save your life cakes

61 Responses to “Breast Cancer Cakes”

  1. gyoza*girl

    no words. just tears + love + nervous relief. you have always been an incredible writer. so generous of you to share this with the newly-diagnosed and the rest of the world. and those boob cakes! love you forever mb! xo

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      oh geez. thank you my dear sis. love ya lots!!!! XO

  2. Michelle @ Hummingbird High

    Oh Lyndsay; you are so brave and wonderful for sharing your difficult journey. And I love how, despite everything, you were still able to inject a little bit of your joy and wonderful personality with these crazy boob cakes. Lots of hugs and kisses.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you so much michelle… i wasn’t sure if the boob cake idea was a little macabre (i almost had a picture of the sliced cake with a plate and fork but thought, nahhhh) … thanks as always for your comments and support!! xo

  3. tieghan

    Lindsay, you are so brave and these cakes show that in so many ways! Thanks for sharing your journey and these cakes!! XO

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      tieghan you sweet girl – thank YOU.

  4. Julian

    Hi Lyndsay,
    I’m so glad to hear that the worst parts of treatment are over for you too! I think about you a lot and wonder how you and your family are doing. Reading about your thoughts and fears helps me to know that I’m not the only one. Onwards and upwards! Good luck with the implantation.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      julian, i am so happy to hear from you – i think of you often too! hoping you are doing ok. XO

  5. danielle @ this picture book life

    You are so true, so badass. I f-ing love these cakes and their truth and badassery too. Hugs.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      “have i told you lately that i love you…?” thank you danielle… XO

  6. Abby @ The Frosted Vegan

    I can’t tell you how amazing you are for sharing this journey. Just reading about it makes me ache to send all the love and hugs your way. If you can get through this with boob cakes, you are one bad ass lady :) xo

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you so much, abby… xo

  7. Cindy

    Lyndsay, I don’t even know what to say! I’m over here both crying, chuckling over those cakes, and definitely copping a feel. I’m sharing this with all of my people. Thank you for sharing this, it is truly generous.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      oh Cindy! you are great. thoughtful, sweet and damn cool. thank you. xo

  8. Anna

    YOU are my hero. Seriously. Those cakes are genius and this post is so informative, so well-written, heart felt…I could go on and on. You are saving lives and raising awareness and are pretty much the coolest/most badass person I know!

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      oh man thank you so much Anna… XO

  9. Bridget

    I am in the finished chemo, have to start hormone blocking drugs within the next month. 26, thought by this time I’d be starting a family. Not being on something for the next five years that will push my uterus and body to hate me.
    I absolutely love this entry. The cakes cracked my up. Your honesty was heartfelt. Thank you, because as I’m going into my next journey, I’m a little nervous.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      Agh Bridget I am sorry … i hear ya re: tamoxifen …. you are very young though so let’s pray that your fertility comes back with a beautiful vengeance! thanks so much for the kind words and i am glad i could make you laugh a little too. good luck and all the best to you in everything. XO

  10. Ashlae

    Welp, I’m a sobbing mess. And you? You are a straight up badass. But you knew that already.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      Ashlae! i like the term badass because it implies tough … i do think of myself as a pretty tough cookie sometimes, though other times i feel like a weak little bird. thank you for stopping by … XO

  11. Erin

    You are truly amazing, and honest, and brave! I love that you’re continuing to tell your story through cake.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you so much erin, fellow cake lady! xo

  12. Courtney | Fork to Belly

    This is so inspirational, Lyndsay. This post needs to be shared with the world! I can’t imagine how many peoples’ lives you’ve touched with your words and photos.
    You are so incredibly strong and amazing xx

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      aw thank you courtney! hopefully it is shared with those who might need it especially, or who just need a laugh (boob cakes!?) or a “wtf”… haha… xo

  13. Julie

    Lyndsay, thank you for documenting your experience, both for yourself and for others. So glad you’re made of tough stuff!
    Your cake illustrations are enlightening, and it’d be cool if they could be made into an awareness pamphlet for the cancer agencies to distribute!

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thanks for stopping by julie… ha, that’s a cool idea! thanks! ^__^

  14. Amy

    Amazing way to tell your story, Frosty! You and your creativity and strength are truly an inspiration to us all! :)

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      Burger!! thank you my dear friend XOXO

  15. Camille

    whoa Lyndsay… what an insanely meaningful share. Your words and emotion and artistry made the tears flow and made my heart burst. You’re one special lady.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you so much camille… and thank you for being my friend! XO

  16. Nicole

    Lyndsay you are amazing! This post had me in tears and laughing all at the same time. Now whenever I cop a feel I’ll be visualizing these round cakes.

    Thanks for being so open and honest about your experience. You are such an inspiration filled with so much strength!

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you nicole for the kind words and all of your support!!

  17. kickpleat

    Welp, Lyndsay, this is such a heartfelt and honest cake-illustrated play by play of the past year. You are inspiring and a totally RAD lady! xoxo

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you jeannette!! i am glad to know you!

  18. Helena Rose

    WOW! Everything about this post is truly amazing and inspiring, your story, you cakes and your photos – I LOVE IT! You’re awesome I’m so glad I found this blog!! :) xo

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      i am glad you found me also, helena… thank you for stopping by and for the sweet words. xo

  19. steph

    only you could make me laugh, cry, and feel myself up in one blog post. you are brave af and i am so proud to call you friend. xoxo and magic baby dust for those three embryos.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      i had to think about “af” for a few seconds and then i LAUGHED. first swirlie and now af… you teach me things!! lots of love to you and thank you always for your support in everything!! i’m blessed to be friends with you. xo

  20. jaime / the briny

    you are so brave and so so admirably open and articulate with your experience. you’re a beautiful soul and i wish you the very best in your recovery and beyond. those cakes were a brilliant and charming way to walk us through your story. and i lost my shit crying when you said “I guess there have been a few amazing parts of my having cancer: Life.”

    so thanks so much for sharing that.

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      thank you sweet jaime for your comment and support xo

  21. Andrea Joe

    I love cake, candles and birthday celebrations because it’s these types of life happenings that make us appreciate the life that has been given to us. Your raw description is inspiring and hopeful. You are brave and courageous. I’m cheering for you from Cali. Xo Andrea

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      Andrea it’s so very very true – cakes, candles and birthdays mean so much more. Thank you for all of your support this past year, lots of love to you! xo

  22. Sara @ Cake Over Steak

    Oh my goodness, Lyndsay. What an amazing post. I’m so glad you wrote this (and that you made those cakes!). I did share this with my mom yesterday (a survivor), and she texted me to thank me for sharing it with her. When I hear stories like yours I realize how lucky my Mom really was. I think she had what you had, but it was like stage 0 (still in the ducts). She opted to get a mastectomy with reconstruction, but fortunately did not have to go through the chemo and radiation like you did. Her recovery was difficult enough, so I can’t imagine if she also had to go through everything else like you did. It breaks my heart to hear you talk about the thoughts going through your head as you were diagnosed, and now having to deal with infertility on top of everything else. Thank you for sharing so openly; I’m sure this means a lot to someone who is going through the early stages of this (or any stage). It’s so brave of you. You’re amazing!! Wishing you the best of luck with everything and I’ll be thinking of you. xoxoxoxo

    Reply
  23. Tessa Huff

    This post! What can I even say? Such bravery and brilliance. You have been so graceful yet honest through such a difficult time. Thank you for sharing. You are truly one amazing, super-rad lady xoxoxo

    Reply
  24. Taylor

    Thanks for sharing Lyndsay. I love the honesty and the realness that you bring to such a tough topic. Good healing vibes to you and your fam! Hugs xo T

    Reply
  25. Sarah

    Amazing photos and super strong words. You’re the best! I never wanted to mention while you were in treatment but I lost my dad to cancer as a teen and reading your posts is very emotional. So so so glad you’re feeling better. xo

    Reply
  26. JayRo

    Hey Lyndsay –
    I feel honoured to be able to say that I know such a strong, creative, spirited, badass woman! Thanks for these illustrated posts – a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words. Nicole passed your blog to me and I’ll pass it on to others. You are amazing and I’ll be cheering for you every day :)

    Reply
  27. Emily

    Lyndsay, thank you for taking us through a dark and scary time, that most people keep isolated. I have been really happy to have updates, and to hear honestly from you throughout this. But the way you face this all with humour, and boobie cakes, you’re just such a special human, you bring so much light to the world. I hope you are doing well, and having some giddy family times, happy Thanksgiving. Love your Torontonian sandwich pal.

    Reply
  28. Georgie @ Meandering Foodies

    I absolutely love this post! It is so incredibly well done and is something that really needs to be said! I’m so happy I found this blog :)

    Reply
  29. Calida Brown

    Hi Lyndsay, thanks for an amazing post. I was also diagnosed this year and I am just finishing my chemo after a mastectomy in July. The emotional roller-coaster is hard to explain to people, especially the lightness you feel when you know you’ll be okay. My friends were great and agreed to a Goodbye Cleavage party to celebrate my boobs before surgery. It made everything much easier to handle. Good luck on the rest of your recovery.

    Reply
  30. janice

    Thank you for sharing this in this powerful way, Lyndsay! I have a better understanding now. Your words and cakes really show something here, that I just did not realize. As a woman, I deeply appreciate it. Your vulnerability and creativity inspires… Wishing and praying all good things for you! Xo

    Reply
  31. Melissa Philipchalk

    Lyndsay, this blogpost is so honest! (It’s Melissa from @theprettiestbow) I felt like crying, being sad, and joyful all in this one post you wrote. I cant imagine what you’ve gone through – you are an amazingly strong woman and so so brave. Your cake pics are the cherry on top of this post! Thanks so much for sharing xoxo

    Reply
  32. J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats

    Holy eff this was an incredible read. Equal parts brave, vulnerable, scary, positive, lighthearted but so very real. I had no idea all the battles you have to continually fight to wage this war. This was super informative and inspiring, something I hope to never have to need to read again but that I will bookmark to pass on as I think it can really help someone who finds themselves at the beginning of this ‘fuckery’

    xoxoxo all the positive vibes, you are amazing!

    Reply
  33. Jenn (Cookies Cupcakes and Cardio)

    Wow. Amazingly powerful post Lyndsay. You are a brave woman!

    Reply
  34. Amanda

    Lyndsay, I haven’t visited your blog in quite some time but just came across this post and I have tears in my eyes. I just read past posts and feel caught up now, but I had no idea you went through all of this. You’re so amazing and even though I’m 27, I just reached out to a doctor about getting my breasts looked at because I know how important it is and I don’t think I’m too young to be thinking about it. It’s something that crosses my mind often, and my stomach tightened when you said you found thick flesh near your breast and ribs because I recently feel that I have something similar in that area. I’m a tad freaked out now, but this post has pushed me to finally make an appointment, so we will see. Thanks for opening up about this and for being so honest and real about what you went through. <3

    Reply
  35. Natasha

    Lyndsay, you are so awesome for posting this! I love that you are able to bring some humor to a not so humorous situation, and that you are sharing your story through cake.

    Reply
  36. Patty K

    This post is a work of art. Seriously. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to tell your experience. Brutal and inspiring. Sending positive vibes across the continent to you!

    Reply
  37. molly

    Reading this was surreal. I was diagnosed at the very beginning of February, also at age 38. I had 12 weekly chemo doses and have already started Tamoxifen, but otherwise our treatment plans are the very same. For what it’s worth, I’ve not had a single side effect of Tamoxifen that’s severe enough to have impacted my life. We hear the horror stories but many people get through it with no drama at all. You made me laugh with your offer to take it for life – I’ve (jokingly) asked if I can maybe have an annual chemo booster. Just a little bit, once a year!

    It sucks that we’re both in this club, but I’m so glad you’re here posting about it. Thank you.

    Reply
  38. Jessica

    Lyndsay, I finally found my way to this brave, honest, and super creative post. I hate to know other people with cancer because nobody should have to go through this crap, but it’s nice to have another food friend who I can relate to on this level. Let’s hope that we can both get some saggy faces and varicose veins together ;) xox

    Reply
  39. Phyllis Anderson

    Dear Lyndsay,
    Your mother in law (my friend and neighbour)shared this post with me. I have not had breast cancer, but many friends have, so I find myself tearing up and anxious to share this creative gem. Teddy is lucky to have such a sharp mom.
    Phyllis Anderson

    Reply
    1. Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land

      Thank you so much for leaving a comment, Phyllis, it is appreciated! xo

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