This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we sat down with JL McBain, aka @jlchronicles, a shining TikTok creator who shares her journey and battle against breast cancer.
“Extremely passionate, tenacious and relentless believer in human potential,” reads her TikTok bio, and after reading this interview, we’re confident you’ll agree.
Tell us more about yourself 🥰
I'm originally from Quebec City and I moved here 25 years ago and became a police officer. That really wasn't my jam. Energetically it didn't feel right to me, so I left that worked for a casino for five years. I was then headhunted by the Director of Security Services for the House of Commons who worked with me at the casino at the time. He was wanting somebody to come and implement their security system, so I worked there for 11 years and hated every single minute of it. The way I described it is my car and my body were driving to work, but my soul and my spirit were going back home. I used to say I was driving into work backwards.
When I was 43 years old, I decided that I had had enough and that I was going to try my hand at creating a fitness studio. I didn't have a clue if anybody would come to me, but I decided that taking a risk was worth it and I felt the fear inside me and the fear would lead me to know that I was making a good decision. I always tell people if there's anything that they want to do and fear is the first thing you feel, then you know you're on the right track.
12 years later I have a very successful gym in my home. I was asked many times to join other gyms but didn't want to, that's not why people came to me. People came to me because it's a private gym and that's what they like about it. I do well working for myself and I love every minute of it. Now I'm no longer swimming against the current, I'm going with the stream. It's incredible how easy life is when you're doing exactly what you're meant to be doing.
I always told my boys: find what you love to do and figure out how to make money at it.
What’s one thing about yourself that may surprise our readers?
Something that might surprise your readers is that I used to be a police officer and had a really hard time taking orders and they fired me. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was really rough back then, there was a lot of bullying and harassment — the best thing that ever happened to me was getting fired from that job.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?
In December 2020, I found a lump in my breast and showed my friends to get their opinions. Since I have had cysts in the past and am prone to them, I decided to go through with my hip operation which was scheduled for January 2021.
By the end of February 2021, after recovering from my hip operation, I went to the doctor to have my feet checked (unrelated to the cancer) and while I was there I asked them to have a look at the lump that I had found in December.
The doctor biopsied the cyst right in his office and by March 2, 2021 I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
How has fighting cancer changed your perspective on life?
You know, it's interesting because I always knew that if you don't have your health you ain't got nothing. I have always said that. Every time somebody got sick, I always turned around and told my family, well I thank the Lord that my kids are healthy and that we’re healthy. If we are healthy, we are rich beyond measure.
And then Cancer got me. So I was already very well aware of how lucky I was that I was healthy. I have to say the one thing that I realize now are the little things that really matter to me. It's really the little things that mean a lot. I also don't do anything that I don't want to do anymore. If it's not a hell yes, I'm not doing it, that's for sure. None of us know how long we're going to be here so I don't have any time to waste.
I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna live until I die not die before I get a chance to live.
What was your biggest self-discovery or revelation after you were diagnosed?
My biggest self-discovery was just how really tough I am. My biggest revelation was who my real friends are and how my family is so important to me.
What advice would you give to other women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
Advice that I would give to other women is don't fight it, don't swim against the current. Don't just try to sweep it under the carpet. Accept it, live with it, and go with it.
Acceptance is key. It is the ball that has been thrown to us, the cards that were laid and you have no choice but to accept it and make an experience of it. I would also say, don't beat yourself up when you're tired and you can’t do what you want to do. Just rest when you need to rest, eat when you need to eat, and take the time to read and do things that you wouldn't have done otherwise.
Another piece of advice is that there are so many resources in the community that you live in that are available for you. There are people that will help you with your mental health, fitness, nutrition and so much more. Just ask your oncology team and they'll point you in the right direction. Use the tools that they give you and listen to your oncologist. Don't listen to anybody on social media. Don't get on the Internet and start Google-doctoring yourself. Just listen to your oncologist.
Lastly, it's not what you ate that gave you cancer, so don't even go there. Don't beat yourself up about it because it's nothing that you did. It's just bad luck.
What advice or encouragement would you give for how to best support a loved one going through breast cancer?
I did a video about this on social media. For anyone who has somebody going through this, my advice would be: don't ask them what they need, just show up. Show up with the casserole, show up with your bucket and cleaning supplies, and just go in and take over. The last thing we want to do is to have to ask and organize who's doing what. We just need to survive and rest. So just show up.
Also, for me personally when someone said to me, “you got this” or “you're so strong” it just made me think: “Well what the **** other choice do I have? Obviously, I’ve got this!”
We have to make it through, so it is what it is. For some people going through cancer, those words might be encouraging, but for me personally, it just pissed me off. I find that people often felt like they just had to say something, but listening is so much more important. When you’re supporting someone going through cancer, just be brave and listen to them. There is going to be some dark stuff coming out of our mouths, and you just need to understand that this is a moment that we’re going through, and we just need someone to listen.
Another piece of advice is to try to keep track of their chemotherapy or their radiation schedule. Don't text them and say “so where are you landed, I'm out of the loop.” If you're really a friend, you keep track and you do the countdown with them and you show them that you're there with them. There's nothing like feeling alone with this disease. You have a team of people who are there with you and following you through it. It really means a lot when you're keeping track of stuff like that.
What made you decide to share your journey on TikTok and how has this affected your battle?
I decided to share my journey because sharing negative experiences elicits hope that there are other people out there that are going through what I'm going through. Sharing this helps me know that I'm not alone — because in this journey we really do feel alone. Nobody really understands us, because we're dealing with death everyday. Death goes through our mind thinking, “is this little cell being recreated in our body that's eventually gonna kill us one day?” So all we rely on is hope.
My videos make me feel like I am helping others that are maybe not as hopeful as me, people that are maybe struggling with their mental health and can't pull themselves out. Helping others also helps me in a way.
What are some organizations our #SmashTessFam can support, either financially or through volunteer work?
An organization that is close to my heart is the Maplesoft-Jones Centre for Cancer Survivorship at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. This organization supports and empowers cancer patients and their families throughout their cancer journeys. If you are interested in supporting the foundation, you can learn more here! https://www.ottawacancer.ca/donation/
Any final bits of wisdom to share with us?
Acceptance is key to this shitty hand we’ve been dealt. The more you fight it the more difficult life is going to be. Try to find peace and comfort in knowing that you are right where you’re supposed to be.
We are so grateful JL took a few minutes from her busy week to share her story with our #SMASHTESSFAM.
If you’re on TikTok, be sure to follow @jlchronicles where she is open about her journey and committed to passing on lessons she’s learned along the way. ❤️