Chemo Secrets: un-edited experiences from young breast cancer survivors

On World Cancer Day, survivor Nalie Agustin is giving some raw, unedited advice to women in their 20s.
Nalie Agustin holds up a paper copy of her e-guide "Chemo Secrets," Monday, February 1, 2016. Nalie Agustin/Facebook

MONTREAL – When Nalie Agustin was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24, she felt like her world was crumbling around her.

“Like everyone else, I went online to read everything I could,” Agustin told Global News.

But, she soon realized there wasn’t much online to help young women — and almost no information to help someone in their 20s.

“You try to find anyone who’s like you, you click on all the hashtags of women living with breast cancer,” she said.

Now, Agustin is two years into her remission, and with the hardest battle she could ever face finally over, she’s said she’s ready to move on.

She started an e-journal, Chemo Secrets, that compiles tips and stories from 50 cancer survivors between the ages of 24 and 42.

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The raw, unedited how-to guide describes everything from chemotherapy side-effects (like chemo brain) to discussing infertility and “how to rock the bald head.”

READ MORE: Breaking the silence on unspoken impacts of cancer

“Often, the hardest part is the emotion that comes with it, everything that’s a bit more psychological, not just the nausea and the pain,” Agustin said.

“It’s different when a 75-year-old woman — I’m sure it’s still very difficult — but it’s difficult when you’re 24, 25, when you lose your breast and your hair.”

Agustin reached out on her Facebook and Instagram accounts to find young cancer survivors from around the world to take part in her guide.

“I received hundreds of comments from people saying ‘hi, I’m 24 and I was diagnosed in 2013,’ ‘this is my last chemo, I’d like to help’ and it just went on and on. It was insane,” she told Global News, adding that she’s named the women “Nalie’s Angels.”

“I wanted to create something that was authentic, kind of like when you talk to a friend who’s been through it,” she told Global News.

“It’s 100 per cent real-life experience, with no fluff.”

Agustin insisted she doesn’t want other women to go through chemotherapy feeling alone or lost.

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“I have something really valuable here and personally, the best advice I ever received was from other women in treatment — better than my oncologist,” she said.

“This guide is really stuff that I wish I knew when I started chemo.”

The 50-page journal comes from Agustin’s blog, which she started as a personal journal to document her daily experiences in the hospital.

“As I was completing more therapy, I was adding more valuable information on my treatment online,” she explained.

“My blog then became not just a personal diary, but a resource for other women.”

Chemo Secrets is the latest in Agustin’s campaign to bring awareness to breast cancer.

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She also founded the Feel It On The First campaign, which encourages women to examine their breasts on the first of every month.

“After everything I’ve been through, I found my purpose and my passion,” she told Global News.

“I want to give back to women.”

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