October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and one local survivor is sharing her story to help provide hope for others.
Beverly Smith, 79, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
“I discovered a lump under my right arm. The lump was about the size of a small plum and it just suddenly appeared. I went right to my doctor and he sent me to a surgeon and they did a biopsy,” she said. “I had a mastectomy and that was the best choice for me.”
Smith added the surgeon checked 23 lymph nodes and eight of them were involved.
“After my surgery I had four months of chemo – the most aggressive type. I went through the chemo without severe sickness like some people have. Of course I wasn’t feeling well at all, but I felt quite lucky to not be really sick.
“I took the best care of myself as I could. I got lots of rest and avoided places where there were a lot of crowds. I was careful about all of those things.”
Smith said she lost her hair before the second treatment and that was one of the hardest things she had to deal with along her journey. “I knew I was going to lose my hair, but it was really hard. It changes your look.”
After finishing her chemotherapy, Smith went for regular check ups to make sure the cancer had not come back.
“There is so much unknown about cancer. They can’t tell you that you are free of cancer because they don’t know. Every time you go for a check up you are nervous until you know the outcome.”
She added when she first heard the words from her doctor confirming she had breast cancer, she was shocked.
“I felt kind of numb in that moment. I didn’t get hysterical. It was kind of matter of fact and I was ready to do whatever needed to be done,” she said. “You go through your tears and fears wondering what is going to happen. Life took on a different meaning for me. You look at the future and wonder what that will look like.”
Smith said there was also concern for her family during her battle with breast cancer. “It was hard on them. You think of yourself but you are kind of in shock and you wonder what does this mean and who is this affecting?”
Smith added support from family and friends was critical during her journey and encourages others going through the same thing to reach out for help.
“I was so thankful for my family and for my friends. I had so many friends and colleagues who would check on me. My church family was also very important to me too and the prayers that I know went up for me – it meant a lot.”
During the course of her journey battling breast cancer, Smith said there were times when she was positive, knowing that she could beat it. However, there were also times that were very tough.
“During those times I prayed a lot and read the Bible. I got scripture that gave me hope. I also did some journaling, too and I think that was good. I would put down my feelings and personal thoughts,” she said. “And of course my husband was wonderful and he took care of me so well.”
In addition, for those going through cancer treatments and for those who have been newly diagnosed, Smith encourages them to be open.
“It’s really important to share with others – with close friends – and get their help. Everyone is different, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to hide it and go into a corner. There are others who don’t want to ask for the help, but it’s important to,” she said. “I think it’s also important to have an optimistic approach and to want to do whatever possible to get well.”
Today, Smith is doing well and she volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society during their annual daffodil campaign in the spring.
“Everything was covered – I didn’t pay a thing for all of this treatment and the caring people who looked after me at the cancer centre. I had a really good experience overall. I feel really indebted so I enjoy giving back.”