When I was a child, I would hear the word “cancer,” and think it was simply something my grandparents had. As I got older, it became something I donate to. But now, I have a much deeper understanding of the word. Because now, it’s become a part of my day-to-day life.
My name is Lisa MacEachern-Burns. I’m a mom, wife, sister, friend, entrepreneur and, tentatively, a cancer survivor.
Of course, I am happy to use the word “survivor,” however, not a day goes by without a thought or worry arising – Will my cancer come back? When is my next check-up? How are my children coping? And God forbid, are they genetically exposed?
I was diagnosed in July 2018, when my daughters Johanna and Pearl Jane were just 5-years and 11-months-old, respectively.
I wasn’t shocked, but very scared. See, both of my parents had been diagnosed with cancer within the two years prior to my own diagnosis. My grandmother and both grandfathers had cancer, and my aunt had lost her fight not long before.
What I want people to understand is life does not stop when you get diagnosed with cancer.
When I was first diagnosed, I was still a mom – on maternity leave, for that matter. And one of my biggest worries, of course, was my children.
I wanted to make sure they had age-appropriate information about my diagnosis, that they were learning about it from me (not overhearing from anyone else), and that we could move forward, together.
With the help of Tom MacNeil, who is a (newly retired) Medical Social Worker at the Cancer Centre and oversees the Foundation’s Cancer Patient Care Fund, a book was soon in our hands, and my husband and I were as equipped as we could be to navigate through this tough conversation with our 5-year-old. Tom and the Fund also provided coverage for me to seek counselling services, helping me to better process and cope with this major and devastating life change.
During my treatments, it was important to me to be able to take part in the day-to-day activities, play with my girls, help them get ready for school, join them for their extracurriculars, to have some comfort in normalcy, and have them see me in a strong light.
I was able to do this because the Cape Breton Cancer Centre had the proper technology to administer my chemotherapy and radiation. I was able to do this because there were doctors and nurses available at the Centre to treat me. I was able to do this because my friends and family were by my side, here at home.
I could not have gotten through my fight with cancer without fighting from home, because life still happens.
The Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation has launched the $10 million ‘Cancer Care Here at Home’ campaign in support of cancer care on our island. The campaign has a goal of raising funds for vital equipment, patient programming (like the Cancer Patient Care Fund), and research and innovation. All to take place in Cape Breton’s new, state-of-the-art cancer centre.
The people who use the Cape Breton Cancer Centre are our siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, spouses, friends, neighbours, coworkers and employees. Let’s join together and ensure that we – the people of Cape Breton – do not have to leave our island, our family and our friends, to battle against cancer.
Mom, wife, sister, friend, entrepreneur, and fellow Cape Bretoner