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Pink October

28 Oct 2022

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a cause that is very close to our hearts here at Simons. Since 2016, we have been proudly contributing to the cause by providing financial support and championing the brave survivors. This year, we want to do even more. We want to lend our voice to the cause and amplify this important discussion.

Throughout the month, in collaboration with the Breast Cancer Foundation, we will be tackling this topic from different angles to help you see this issue in a new light. Breast cancer is everyone's business, and we hope that the information and stories we share will resonate with each and every one of you.

The importance of a good support network

For anyone going through something, support is crucial. It’s comforting to know that you can count and rely on family members, friends, and people who care about the well-being of others. This sense of comfort is a bright spot in an otherwise difficult day-to-day life.

You may not know the best way to help someone or how to be there for them.

“Everyone is different. Some women with breast cancer want to talk about it, others don’t. We want to make sure we keep adapting our way of doing things and listening to their needs, says Monique Ryan, a social worker at the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation.

What to say to a woman living with this disease? What not to say? These are legitimate questions, and here are some answers.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. “It’s okay to get it wrong,” says Ryan. “Apologize and remind yourself that you’re doing your best. The right thing to do is to let women with cancer lead the conversation. If they are comfortable talking about their feelings, you should listen without judgment. Make them feel like you are there for them, and show them that they’re important. Remember that you can talk about something other than the disease, but don’t avoid the subject.”

Getting involved with the women affected

Mélanie Wilhelm, Vice-President, Administration and Donations at the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, has been involved in the community for a long time. “I have always enjoyed helping others and having a positive impact on the community. It means a lot to me. It’s part of who I am.”

The accountant and philanthropist joined the Foundation in 2017 somewhat by chance. “My office was in the same building as the Foundation. One morning I met the CEO in the elevator. I jumped at the opportunity and gave them my elevator pitch! A month later, they opened up an accounting position for me!”

Mélanie is a firm believer in the Foundation’s mission. “I love what I do; I bleed pink! The Foundation plays an important role in our society and provides concrete support for women with cancer and their families.”

To fulfill its many mandates, the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation relies on dedicated volunteers. Jocelyne Boutet is one of them. “I had breast cancer a little over 20 years ago. Once I went into remission, I wanted to get involved. I had found MY cause. Or it found me.”

Jocelyne has been volunteering her time with the Foundation for many years. She is an ambassador for the organization and a member of a cancer survivor dragonboating team. She also helped organize Journée santé mieux-être events. “The Foundation helped me meet wonderful people and fulfill ambitions I never knew I had. It made me feel confident.”

Living with Incurable Cancer

Celebrating survivors and the journey of the women who fight the disease always conjures tremendous joy. But when the diagnosis is clear and the cancer is incurable, fighting and hope take on a whole other meaning. 

A few months ago, the Simons community lost one of its own, Nalie Agustin. She was a strong, courageous, and resilient woman who contributed to the cause in an outstanding way. We wanted to pay tribute to her in our own way.

Nalie called her fight against cancer her healing journey. She documented her experience and shared it with the world, unfiltered and without embarrassment. Embracing her strength with determination, she shared it with everyone around her, spreading courage and hope in her wake. Hers is a moving, unique, and powerful story.

Nalie lost her battle with cancer on March 22 after ten years of fighting, but especially of thriving. After nearly a decade of highs and lows, but mostly highs, because that’s what Nalie chose to focus on and to celebrate every day of her life.

July 2013. A diagnosis is made. Nalie found out she had breast cancer at the young age of 24. It was shocking news. The tight knit Agustin family immediately rallied to her side. Nalie knew one thing for sure: she wouldn’t hide it.

“The moment it was confirmed, it was breast cancer, she made an important decision: to go public,” says her father, Jess. “Not only as a way to cope with the diagnosis, but also to share the importance of an early diagnosis. She wanted to encourage young women to act as soon as they felt something.” 

“Personally, I would have been more private, and that’s OK too,” says her brother, Albert. “Nalie made the conscious choice to go public. She wanted to document and share her experience. First for herself, and then she started sharing her story with others and she realized the impact it had on them.”

Nalie told her story through her personal blog, numerous talks, and her books. She shared everything: her journey, the evolution of the disease, the treatments, her hair loss, etc. Being so open about cancer helped her find acceptance while demystifying it to help others, both cancer victims and the families caring for loved ones with cancer. 

Nalie Agustin

For her two brothers, one of the best ways to help Nalie was to keep life as normal as possible. “I know that everyone is different, but Nalie loved that we continued to tease her and joke around,” says Albert. “We tried to be the same brothers that we always were. I know she really appreciated that. And when she wanted to talk about her diagnosis, she talked about it.”

“We just went with the flow,” says her mother, Tess. “We respected what she wanted. We tried to listen to her, we made ourselves available for her.”

Tess particularly misses Wednesdays with her daughter. Each week, Jess and Tess took Nalie to her treatment, had lunch with her, and then put on a movie or TV show while Jess massaged his daughter’s aching body. They have kept their tradition alive: Every Wednesday, Tess watches a movie or TV show.

Albert, on the other hand, has fond memories of a spur-of-the-moment afternoon on the Lachine Canal, when they decided to rent a boat. The Agustins all agree: these small moments spent together are what they cherish the most. The happy memories eclipse all the hard times they went through over the years.

Nalie always refused to be a victim. Even in 2017, when, after having been cancer-free for three years, she found out that the disease was back. An incurable stage 4 cancer with metastases. And even in 2020, when the disease started spreading to her liver and brain. Her reaction to this fatal news?  

“I’m Nalie, I can't let that stop me!”  

Her fiercely positive nature helped her thrive on her journey, cultivate happiness, nurture her passions, and be the caring and dedicated woman she had always been. The woman who had always, from a very young age, shown exceptional strength of character. The women who stood up for herself and defended women’s rights before she was even old enough to know the meaning of the word feminism. The woman who made the Alicia Keys song “Girl on Fire” her anthem. She never forgot a birthday and she went out of her way to celebrate her loved ones—she would write songs, create dance routines, or recite poems in honour of the birthday person. 

Ultimately, she’s the one who gave her family the strength they needed to overcome this ordeal. 

“At the beginning, it was all about her,” says Albert. “She was my baby sister, I tried to be there for her. I was there for every chemo. But there was a moment when it kind of flipped—she became the strong one. She started taking care of the people around her.”

“She learned from us,” says Jess, “but at the end of the day, we learned from her. Particularly in that journey, ironically, we got a lot of strength from her. She helped us live our lives. You could look at this whole ordeal and remember only the pain and suffering, but in fact in was a beautiful journey that she gave us.”

Nalie's journey has changed, and it lives on in a different form. Like the roots of a blazing red maple, a true force of nature, her story will continue to grow, and inspire and amaze generations to come.

Nalie joined the Simons family as a sales associate at our store in downtown Montreal. She worked there for five years, a few years after her brother Albert. Her time with us was greatly noted and appreciated. In 2015 and again in 2018, we reconnected with this exceptional woman for two breast cancer-related projects. 

We would like to thank her family for their great generosity and for so warmly agreeing to tell us about their extraordinary daughter and sister.

Breast Self-Exams: Important at Any Age

Although it is often associated with women over 50, breast cancer also affects younger people. In fact, it is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in adults ages 30 to 49. Younger people may take longer to detect the symptoms of breast cancer because they are less attuned to the warning signs. Since cancers that are discovered early have a better chance of being cured, it is important to perform self-exams, regardless of your age.

There is no one right way to perform a self-exam. The important thing is to be familiar with your entire breast area—including the nipples, collarbone, and underarms—so that you know what is normal and what is not. By paying attention to your body, you can spot any recent and lasting changes.

Signs to look for

• Lumps or swelling without pain
• Dimples or folds in the skin
• Increased redness, swelling, or localized heat
• Persistent itchiness
• Inverted nipple (turned inward)
• Crusting or peeling (small flakes of skin that come off) of the nipple
• Change in breast shape or size

Learn more about detection

Émilie's Story

When she was 27, Émilie Jubinville noticed an unusual lump on her breast. After talking to her doctor and a specialist, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer called triple-negative breast cancer. Fortunately, the doctors caught it early because Émilie acted quickly, and she is still with us today. 

“You can't assume it only happens to other people! The younger you are, the more aggressive it is, and the more important it is to catch it early. Taking two minutes out of your week could save your life.”

Read the whole story

Compelling Data

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that breast cancer was the most diagnosed cancer in the world. 

Current statistics indicate that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

The five-year survival rate after treatment for cancer detected at an early stage is 99%.

Data provided by the Breast Cancer Foundation

The Breast Cancer Foundation is a charitable organization that has been dedicated to fighting breast cancer for over 25 years. Its mission is to save lives and improve the quality of life of people living with breast cancer, as well as to raise awareness of the disease. The Foundation focuses its efforts on four major areas: research, support, education, and advocacy. 

We're supporting the Foundation again this season with T-shirts designed specifically for the occasion.

3 Inspiring Graphics,
1 Important Cause

For every T-shirt sold, we will donate $10 to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Get your T-shirt here

Keep an eye on our blog in the coming weeks! We'll be updating it with touching stories and useful information about breast cancer.