Visiting the past and rejoicing in the future

EDITOR’S NOTE—This is the seventeenth story in an ongoing series that followed Kagawong’s Mary Buie and her brave battle with breast cancer and now her life after cancer. The series chronicled Ms. Buie’s journey as she navigated through doctors’ appointments, surgery, chemotherapy and recovery as well as exploring the various groups and resources that exist on Manitoulin for women fighting the disease. In 2013, Ms. Buie learned that she was officially cancer free and began to regain her health and energy after recovering from a modified radical mastectomy and undergoing chemotherapy treatment. She is now back to living life to the fullest and sharing her cancer journey with other Island women battling the disease. No stranger to uphill battles, Ms. Buie, an English-trained nurse, pushed emphatically for Ontario to recognize midwifery as a medical discipline and then returned to university to re-qualify as a midwife before founding Manitoulin Midwifery. 

CALGARY—The Expositor caught up with Manitoulin’s Mary Buie in Calgary during a trip to visit her newest granddaughter Brooke via phone interview last week. Ms. Buie had just returned from another trip to her mother country of England to take a stroll down memory lane, visiting old nursing and midwife friends, childhood friends and family.

“It’s really nice to be here with Brooke and my other grandchildren,” said Ms. Buie. “Brooke is only 11-days-old and very sweet.”

Ms. Buie said this spring has been a whirlwind of travel for her, but that she is doing well and enjoying life.

“I really missed the English spring which is why I decided to visit England at the end of March,” said Ms. Buie. “I haven’t been back in seven years, and I hadn’t seen my nursing friends or midwifery friends in over 50 years.”

Mary and her nursing friends. The ladies were nursing students together from 1963 to 1967 at St. George's Hospital in London.
Mary and her nursing friends. The ladies were nursing students together from 1963 to 1967 at St. George’s Hospital in London.

“It was the perfect holiday and the weather was perfect,” continued Ms. Buie. “I love seeing all the primroses and bluebells in bloom.”

During her trip Ms. Buie visited her hometown of Horley.

“Horley is 25 miles from London and whenever I go back, I visit my family home,” shared Ms. Buie. “I knocked on the door this time and a teenage boy answered. I told him that my mom and dad moved into the house in 1938 and lived there all their lives. The bat box my dad put on the side of the house was still there which was really neat.”

While in Horley, Ms. Buie stayed with her cousin and walked the town visiting not only her childhood home, but also the church which dates back to 1400 where both her parents and she and her husband John were married, her favourite pub, the Empire Hall where Ms. Buie attended Girl Guides, her school, and strolled the countryside outside the town. She also visited her 87-year-old aunt, her last relative on her mother’s side of the family. “I hadn’t seen her in 30 to 40 years and she filled me in on some things I didn’t know about my family’s history. It was very special.”

From Horley, Ms. Buie travelled to Devon, taking in the beautiful countryside on her way to see her childhood friend Jill on her and her husband’s farm.

Throughout her visit, Ms. Buie also connected with her nursing friends with whom Ms. Buie was a student from 1963 to 1967 at St. George’s Hospital in London and midwifery friends Ms. Buie trained with at Epsom Surrey in 1968.

While in London, Ms. Buie visited Buckingham Palace, walked through St. James Park and attended a Choral Evensong at Saint Paul’s Cathedral where she sat in the choir stalls with fellow Islander Esther Anstice (and former Expositor staffer),  who works at the cathedral as the liturgical assistant, arranging marriages and other events.

A selfie at Buckingham Palace.
A selfie at Buckingham Palace.

Ms. Buie also visited her great niece Eva, the one-and-a-half-year-old daughter of Ms. Buie’s nephew.

“To me it is really important that families know each other,” said Ms. Buie. “It is important to cement relationships with  family when you have been touched by cancer.  You just never know what each day will bring and I wanted to see everyone. Next time I go back I’m going to bring my grandchildren and show them our heritage.”

Ms. Buie postponed her doctor check-in recently in order to travel to Calgary, but has rescheduled for July.

“I’m doing really well,” concluded Ms. Buie. “Life is good.”