Julie MacKinnon

Julie MacKinnon

On my 50th birthday, I received the most devastating news. They had found a mass: My husband of 27 years, Brent, had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

“I’m so sorry I have this now and you have to go through it again,” he said. My response was, “I’m here. I’ve been through this. I know what to do.”

I held it together for him. But, when I had the chance, I went to the basement and I cried.

My name is Julie MacKinnon. And, like I said, I’ve been through this before. When my mother was also 50, her husband – my father – was diagnosed and died with cancer. Ten years later, she, too, was diagnosed, and five years after that, died with cancer.

I’m sharing my story, as I’ve supported my loved ones through cancer care both in Halifax and here at home. Trust me when I say that cancer care at home is much preferred.

When my father was diagnosed in 1985, there wasn’t a Cancer Centre or specialized cancer care here in Cape Breton. Determined to fight, he requested to see a specialist in Halifax.

At this time, my father was not working. My mother was working as a cleaner, and had four children at home to raise and support. So, it was up to me to accompany my dad off-Island.

In Halifax I sat by my father’s side, alone, from morning until night. One day, I learned my dad had taken a heart attack. The doctors told me if he had another, he wouldn’t be revived. I called my mom and, in between tears, asked, “If dad dies here, how do I get him home?”

No one should ever have to ask that question. Will you help support cancer care, here at home, to help ensure that they don’t? Many Cape Bretoners cannot afford such a cost, especially during cancer care.

When my mom was diagnosed, the Cape Breton Cancer Centre was newly opened and my siblings and I were able to be by her side each step of her treatment. Although my mother lost her battle with cancer, the amazing staff at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre saved her life for four years, for which I am so grateful.

So, although I was terrified when my husband Brent was diagnosed, I remember thinking, “thank goodness for the Cancer Centre, and that we can stay home while we fight this.” And fight we did.

Today, I’m happy to say that Brent is doing well. I cannot thank the staff at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre enough for saving my husband’s life.

I know first-hand how fortunate we are to have a Cancer Centre in our community. But, unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to accommodate all of our needs, as diagnoses on our Island have increased by 135 percent. To ensure Cape Bretoners receive the care they need, a new, state-of-the-art Cancer Centre, more than doubled in size, is being built. To make this dream a reality, we’ve launched a capital campaign and we need your support. Will you help to support updated cancer care, right here at home?

The Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation has a goal of providing $10 million in support for cancer care here at home. We want to ensure that the 150 – 200 daily patients have access to the care they need, when they need it most, where they need it most– and that is here at home.

Please join me in giving to cancer care in Cape Breton so our fellow Cape Bretoners will get the same comforts my mother and Brent did, here at home, during some of the scariest moments of their lives.


Julie MacKinnon
Wife of a Cancer Survivor
Daughter of Frank MacKinnon (1932-1985) and Jennie MacKinnon (1935-2000)
Fellow Cape Bretoner

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