As a teacher and behavioural specialist, Sue Adair travels from school to school in Huron and Perth counties teaching children strategies to cope with anxiety and how to calm themselves. But in January 2015, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sue could not calm herself.
The Stratford mom of three couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t stop her mind racing to a place of doom. It took friends who were cancer survivors to get her out of bed in the morning and encourage her to arm herself for a fight rather than self-pity.
Those friends, and many others Sue would meet during her cancer journey, were her strength, her “reinforcements.” On Oct. 19, she stepped into that role for others as a speaker at Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day at St. Joseph’s Hospital. A crowd of more than 200 filled Shuttleworth Auditorium to capacity for the evening information session.
Peppered throughout Sue’s talk were the powerful words “Heroes step forward” as she expressed gratitude to all those who helped her along the breast cancer journey – family and friends, her care team and breast cancer survivors.
“Heroes step forward,” she said as she singled out each group who gave her the strength, support and the expert care she needed to reclaim her life.
When Sue attended BRA Day last year, she was awaiting a double mastectomy. “What I learned there, and what I saw in the show and tell lounge where women so graciously show their results, was so helpful. I went into my surgery with much greater understanding, knowing what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I also saw that sharing is healing.”
BRA Day is a national campaign to promote education, awareness and access for women wanting to know if breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is right for them. The evening session allows women and their loved ones to learn about the options directly from leading plastic surgeons, hear from women who have undergone the surgery, view real results first hand in the women’s only ‘show and tell lounge’, and discover the St. Joseph’s Circle of Sharing support group.
In an unusual twist, Sue was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer – it was caught early – yet it was aggressive. The risk was high of the cancer showing up in her second breast. “I lost both breasts with stage one cancer.”
After five months of chemotherapy, Sue chose to have the double mastectomy and reconstruction all at once, in a single operation. She’s thrilled with the results. In addition to speaking at BRA Day, she was among volunteers in the show and tell lounge.
“I remember choking back tears in the show and tell lounge last year as I marvelled at those women who were smiling and laughing while showing their reconstructed breasts. What a difference a year can make.”
For Sue, having breast surgery and reconstruction all done at once meant she never had to see herself without breasts. “That was huge for me. But everyone is different. Every case is unique. The important thing is that women know their options, that they have trust and confidence in their care, and that they have hope. That is what BRA Day is all about and why I’m telling my story.”
To those attending the event, Sue told them not to lose sight of the inner strength and courage they bring to their battle.
“As you meet your heroes on your own journey, please consider yourself to be one as well.”
Heroes step forward.