It was Thanksgiving Day when I first found a lump. I had recently finished breastfeeding my daughter, Emma, and thought it was common for women to have cysts appear afterwards, so it was likely no big deal. I went about my day and my husband, Jody, and I continued to cook turkey dinner for my family.
By January, the lump had grown significantly. After an ultrasound and mammogram, I was told it was not simply a cyst. It was, in fact, cancer.
My name is Erin MacEachen, and in January 2014, at the age of 30, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At the time, I was a new mom navigating parenthood, I was transitioning back to work after maternity leave, and ready to start this new chapter with my family – me, Emma, and Jody.
The worst part of getting diagnosed, for me, was the waiting period between hearing the shocking words “you have cancer,” and meeting with my oncology team to discuss our treatment plan.
That night, I remember holding Emma, rocking her to sleep, and sobbing. I was terrified of all the unknowns in our future.
Luckily, this fear only lasted one night. The following day, I met with my oncology team where, together, we planned for chemotherapy, followed by a bilateral mastectomy, radiation, and Herceptin. From this point on, I knew I was in great care, and that I could beat this disease.
The care I received from the oncology experts in the Cape Breton Cancer Centre was truly tremendous. I was given all the information I needed, in a clear and digestible way, and I felt incredibly supported in my fight. Will you join me in supporting the Cape Breton Cancer Centre so our healthcare experts can continue to give world-class care to current and future cancer patients in our community?
After surgery, when my treatments began, I was really sick. My skin broke out in a rash and was constantly itchy. I lost my hair, my taste and my appetite, and at times, I didn’t want to move from my bed.
I am so thankful that, during these uncomfortable days, I was able to be at home with my loving family and friends by my side. My husband and my mother, who lives nearby, were able to encourage me to go for short walks on my tough days. And, when I was feeling up to it, I continued to work, attend family gatherings and weddings, go to the beach…and simply live.
Living and receiving treatments at home, surrounded by the people you really know and trust, is a big deal. Without having these services at home, I know my battle with cancer would have been a much bigger challenge. The Cancer Care Here at Home campaign aims to ensure Cape Bretoners can access the best possible cancer care without driving for five or more hours and leaving their networks of love and support. Will you support the campaign, and the more than 3,000 cancer patients who make more than 45,000 visits to the Cancer Centre annually?
The oncology experts here in our community truly put their patients first and understand the importance of receiving cancer care close to home. In fact, they’ve worked to provide clinics across Nova Scotia Health’s Eastern Zone for people like me – I live in Port Hood – who need to travel within Cape Breton to the Cancer Centre. With their flexibility and support, and Dr. Ron MacCormick’s willingness to travel, I was able to receive most of my treatments at St. Martha’s Hospital.
And, when my mother – who is also a breast cancer survivor – was having surgery at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, I was able to switch my scheduled treatments to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre so I could travel with her and be by her side.
The Cancer Care Here at Home campaign has a goal of raising $10 million to support patient programming, the purchase of vital equipment, and research and innovation for the Cape Breton Cancer Centre and cancer care on-island.
I don’t like to think of what my situation would be like if I had to travel far from my home and family to battle cancer. I’d like to imagine that my physical outcome would be the same, and that I’d be cancer free, but I’m not sure what my mental outcome would be.
Please consider joining me today to support the Cancer Care Here at Home campaign and patients like me, who need their friends, family and loved ones by their side during the biggest fight of, and for, their life.
Director of Finance, Town of Port Hawkesbury
Mother, daughter, wife, friend
Fellow Cape Bretoner