Read the story of Kerry, without her this project wouldn’t be happening. She is an inspiration to WINK and to the cancer community.
When I was 20, my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember feeling scared but not truly understanding the severity of the disease. Less than one year later she had it return in her other breast, resulting in a mastectomy. I was living in Alberta at the time and had to come back and forth with Momma during her battles. In 1998, I left the father of my two angels and moved back here to Newfoundland to raise them. In 2001, Momma was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had to have yet again another major surgery. Even though cancer was rampant in my mother's family, I truly believed that I would never get it. In 2014, I looked after an elderly woman in Petty Harbour with metastatic breast cancer at home until she passed. One month after that my Momma's baby sister, Angela, was diagnosed with lung and spine cancer with an unknown primary. She was so sick they never bothered to check but we all knew it was breast. That June my Mother was diagnosed for the fourth time with beast cancer and it has since metastasized and she is now terminal with bone cancer.
Throughout all this craziness I missed my screening. I was at yoga on the beach one sunny day in August 2015 when it felt like my breast was going to break open the skin was so tight. I touched it and everything in me knew I was the first one in this generation to have the family affliction. I called my surgeon friend right away and the process started. The only way I can describe it is just feeling numb and disconnected. I had a lumpectomy first. It had spread to my sentinel lymph node. I had to have a re-excision and more lymph nodes taken the following week. I started chemotherapy in October and didn't finish until the end of February. I truly believe that chemo causes PTSD as I have never felt so isolated or trapped in my life. I literally only went to treatment every three weeks and never left my house. Chemo itself makes you feel dead inside. Makes sense as it kills all the good and bad cells in your body.
Three weeks after I finished that I had to have a bi-lateral mastectomy for prevention of recurrence. I bled out after the surgery with a hematoma and had to have blood transfusions as my hemoglobin was on death's doorstep. A week after I was discharged from all that my gallbladder obstructed and I was once again whipped back into the O.R. for an emergency cholesystectomy. Apparently one of the lovely side effects from chemo is gallstones. I have a high pain tolerance but this was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. It was so bad I really felt like I wasn't going to make it. There are just no words to describe it. A week after I was discharged yet again I stood up and the pain hit me again but worse. I really thought I was dying this time and told my Auntie who was visiting me that my will was in the closet and to make sure that Kendra and Kyle knew how much Momma loves them. It was unbearable. No amount of pain meds could even take the edge off. Finally at 10 p.m. it started to settle. I had stopped dry heaving as there was nothing in my stomach to come up.
It was March 29th and I was told that I would have to have an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) on my birthday March 30th, the next day. I had worked in health care for over 20 years and my biggest fear was the ERCP test. I remember saying that I would never want to have that done. You have to lie flat on your stomach with a gag in your mouth for the tube that they pass throughout your whole digestive system including all the common bile ducts. They have to clean out your ducts (any sludge from the gallstones) then they have to cut a pocket in your small intestine to catch any stones or sludge that might not have been seen. You have to be awake during all this as it is such a dangerous procedure. There are only two surgeons in this province that are trained in this area and mine was one of them thank god. He saved my life yet again. I got over this and was discharged ever so sick and praying that I would be able to resume a somewhat normal life.
Another stressful part of cancer is the financial piece. I was living on half my salary the whole time. Just because you are sick does not mean that the bills stop coming. I had been a single working mother since 1998 and my son was in post secondary when I got diagnosed. God bless his heart he took the winter semester off to take care of me during chemo and had to work two jobs to keep us afloat financially. It was brutal. My daughter was halfway through her schooling in Halifax so I told her to keep going and finish. She struggled so much as she wanted to be here with me but she knew Kyle would and did do his best by me. I was forced to go back to work three months after finishing aggressive chemo and five full surgeries. I was still bald and had lost 50 pounds so to say that I was in a good place mentally would be anything but the truth. I mucked through the first month only to find out in August that my Mother had been given the wrong genetic testing report in 2008 in Alberta where she lived and that I now was a BRCA2 carrier which meant ovaries were my enemy. I had to go into the O.R. right away and have my ovary cut off my bowel in five places. Yet another huge operation under my belt. I was off work for six weeks and didn't earn one penny as I wasn't back long enough to have any leave (just what every human who has endured now six full surgeries and chemo needs – absolutely no income). There were no options for me. It's such a hopeless, scary feeling but thank God for Mastercard. I went back to work when I was healed but I was still very exhausted.
The following June 2017, Momma came home for Kendra and Kyle's birthday celebration. As soon as I saw her my "spidey senses" kicked in and I knew there was something wrong with her. She went back to Alberta and within two weeks was hospitalized for aggressive bone cancer. She had tumors all down her spine and it was in every bone of her body. I was completely in shock and I jumped on a plane that day and stayed with her for 6 weeks while she was in hospital. My goodness – this pillar of strength who fought so hard to beat this was now facing her worst nightmare! My heart broke into millions of pieces. My precious Momma, my rock and hero, was told she had months to live. Leaving her in September to come back home was one of the hardest things I have ever done. My son was getting ready to go on a tour with the military outside of Canada so I had to be here for him. The plan was that when he left I was going to Alberta to take care of Momma until she departed this place. On January 2nd my angelic son took me out to dinner and a movie as he was leaving for months on January 6th. I heard a voice say "touch my neck" and when I did there it was, the monster had returned. I went to see a head and neck cancer surgeon that I had the pleasure of working with and becoming close to for ten years. He immediately booked me for a biopsy and the rest is history. The breast cancer had now metastasized in my lymph nodes in my neck and chest. I had an urgent neck dissection surgery and they found out that not only did my cancer spread but it had changed to the most aggressive form – triple negative. Boy, it wasn't bad enough that they gave me two to three years to live, but I had the dreaded type now, triple negative. So yet again, I can't work and have to live on minimal monies, I have to do chemo for six months this time.
To say I am devastated is an understatement, but I will tell you that I am strong and I am gonna kick this to the curb yet again. When I was here meditating one day I set my intention toward wanting to do something to help people actively going through cancer treatment financially and that's when BAB (Breastless and Beautiful) came to me. I wanted to do a calendar featuring breastless women to uplift them and let them know that they are beautiful with or without breasts. I have hated looking in the mirror since all this has happened and I know there are lots of women and men in the same boat. So my dream would have two purposes to empower those that have suffered this great loss and the money from the sales would go to the fund that helps people financially when they are being treated to fight this demon.
Cancer is scary and devastating. But, it also has made me the strong woman I am today. I'm going to get stronger and I'm happier now knowing that my dream is becoming a reality. Thank you so much for helping with all of this. There are no words to express how truly touched I am by all the love and support.
Sending you tons of light and love. NAMASTE,