Suzanne credits WCH with catching her breast cancer early – and ultimately, saving her life.
Suzanne Lima says the hardest part of her journey with breast cancer was telling her parents about her diagnosis. As a single woman and an only child, she knew they would be devastated. But sharing her news with them had another side effect: for Suzanne, it drove home the severity of her diagnosis.
Although she was terrified, Suzanne says she found incredible comfort in the warmth and expertise of her care team at Women’s College Hospital. She also credits them with catching her breast cancer early – and saving her life.
Suzanne’s journey to becoming a breast cancer survivor began with a routine physical at WCH’s Family Practice Health Centre in 2008. Her family doctor, Dr. Ruth Heisey, was reviewing the results of Suzanne’s annual mammogram and suspected that something wasn’t quite right. Dr. Heisey recommended a right breast ultrasound.
Following a number of screening tests, an MRI and a biopsy, Suzanne’s care team found that she had developed stage 1 breast cancer in her right breast. Shocked, Suzanne began preparing herself for a lumpectomy and radiation – but was soon confronted with more bad news. The MRI had detected two spots on her left breast as well, and a second biopsy confirmed cancer.
Leaning on her friends and her WCH care team for advice and support, Suzanne elected to ultimately have both breasts removed, followed by an oophorectomy to eliminate her risk of developing ovarian cancer.
“What struck me throughout my cancer journey was the people that helped me, and the information and resources available to me,” says Suzanne.
“From Dr. Heisey to Dr. Tulin Cil, who performed by mastectomies, and Dr. John Semple, who performed my breast reconstruction surgery, at each step I had a wonderful team of healthcare professionals who are truly blessed with the gift of healing.”
Suzanne’s journey did not end with her surgeries. Finding herself struggling with negative body image after her mastectomies, she sought counselling at WCH and participated in an exercise program at Wellspring, a community-based centre providing support for people facing cancer.
As she began healing, Suzanne realized that she wanted to help others through their journey. She now volunteers at WCH in the surgical unit and occasionally at the Henrietta Banting Breast Centre, and sits on a special advisory panel committed to further improving care pathways at WCH for women at risk of or facing a cancer diagnosis through the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at Women’s College Hospital, a ground breaking partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society.
She also has advice to share with other women who may be at the start of their own journey: “Listen to and trust your doctor, but while you’re waiting – for test results or surgeries, sometimes weeks at a time – surround yourself with positive distractions. Go for walks, attend classes or support groups.”
Today, Suzanne is cancer-free and getting back to her life. And she’s grateful to WCH, every step of the way.
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