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Embracing Support

28 October 2016

Charlottetown, PE -

Embracing support

Bonnie MacLean says the Cancer Society guided her through the battle with breast cancer

By Ancelene MacKinnon

When you need help, ask for it; when people offer help, accept it.

This was the advice a Canadian Cancer Society volunteer offered to Bonnie MacLean after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Bonnie had agreed to be referred to the Society for support during her pre-surgery consultation and this allowed them to provide her support throughout the remainder of her cancer experience.

“Even as a child I was independent,” MacLean explained. “I do things on my own, and I take pride in that. But I needed to change my ways.”

Volunteers had visited MacLean at home to discuss her needs, which she found to be significantly beneficial.

“The lady I spoke to had breast cancer. Not only was she helpful in telling me about her experience, she was also quite knowledgeable in different types of breast cancer and what to expect.

“She said, ‘Remember, don’t feel you’re being a nuisance. They know you’re suffering, and it makes them feel good to help.’”

MacLean suspected she had cancer when she found a lump in her right breast. On Feb. 29, 2016 her suspicions were confirmed in Dr. Flemming’s office, hearing the words “cancer” and “invasive carcinoma” coming out of his mouth. Her sister Mary Beth was sitting close at her side.

The doctor gave her a package put together by the PEI Breast Cancer Information Partnership. “It was a small box, and in it was a number of pamphlets and a book on breast cancer written by Canadian doctors,” said MacLean. “I was flooded with information right off the hop.”

MacLean was introduced to the multitude of programs the society provides, such as Look Good Feel Better and Reach to Recovery.

Fatigue from chemotherapy proved to be the most arduous part of her battle, as she has always been a “workaholic and an active person.”

Her family and friends were there for assistance, such as walking her dogs, Willy and Digger, when even one flight of stairs seemed to be an impossible task.

“Perhaps older people wouldn’t have that, and it doesn’t matter because you’re going to get that support even if you’re not good at asking – the Cancer Society is there,” said MacLean. “If they weren’t there, it would have been an even tougher battle to go through.”

She considers herself to be a positive person, believing nothing is insurmountable.

“Things have changed in that I’m now more aware of time. I enjoy my energy when I have it, but if I have a really good book in front of me or I could do the dishes, I’ll now read the book a lot more.”

Another woman from the society regularly calls MacLean to check on her, and she appreciates the reassuring smiles from mentors and volunteers at the Cancer Treatment Centre.

“Without them you would feel alone and abandoned,” she said. “The Cancer Society is necessary to get through this and come out the other side still intact. You’re a person who people care about, people who don’t even know you.”

MacLean sees the significance in the saying that cancer is a word and not a sentence.

“Cancer is just a blip, and when I get over the blip, I’ll be back to normal; I don’t know I would be fine if it wasn’t for the advice from the Canadian Cancer Society.”

In 2016, it is estimated that 120 Island women will be diagnoses with breast cancer and 25 will die from breast cancer.

Breast cancer death rates in women have gone down in every age group since the mid-1980s. This reduction in death rates likely reflects the impact of screening and improvements in treatment for breast cancer since then.

More than 80% of breast cancers occur in women who are 50 and over.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.