Following Hope’s Path: Part XXXII

Hope's Path- Mary and John Buie
Mary and John Buie hang out during John’s visit home from Gore Bay Lodge. Mr. Buie moved into the Lodge recently as Ms. Buie’s health now prevents her from being able to look after her husband.

Navigating new crossroads on the cancer journey

EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2013 retired nurse and midwife Mary Buie approached The Expositor with a mission. She had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and was wondering whether this newspaper would be interested in following her journey as she battled the disease. It was with some trepidation that this paper agreed as the eventual outcome was far from certain to be positive. What followed was an engaging series that leavened a very serious health issue with Ms. Buie’s irrepressible personality. Ms. Buie recently informed The Expositor that she would once again be facing down cancer. The Expositor continues the series ‘Following Hope’s Path’ to relay the ongoing story of her journey.

KAGAWONG—The end of Mary Buie’s enrollment in an experimental drug therapy has finally come about as the trial drug AMG has stopped working its magic. Ms. Buie was philosophical about the news once she regained her momentum, but she admits there were some dark moments.

“I am now at a crossroads on my cancer journey and not sure how much longer the road will be,” she said shortly after hearing the news. “AMG worked well for 11 months and then my platelets went down and the cancer is getting more of a hold in my lungs. But that is quite often the case with cancer—a treatment works well for a year and then needs to be replaced.”

It was a week of less-than-upbeat news.

“I now have cancer in the lymphatic system in my lungs and this is giving me an irritating chronic cough,” reported Ms. Buie. “I am exhausted from it all the time. I am on new hormone pills for my cancer, but I think I am getting side effects from them.”

Still, Ms. Buie’s faith sustains her in these darker hours. “I am at peace as I know my Lord has got me tight in his loving arms and all is well,” she said. “But when we who have cancer are in this predicament we need to know what to tell our families… and when.”

Like mothers everywhere, Ms. Buie’s thoughts are more on her children than her own footsteps.

“We do not want to alarm our children who are busy with their work, but we need to be honest,” she said. “But it is so hard to know what to say when—I rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me. We need to know when we need to go to the hospital to get checked. We need to know when to call our families home to be with us.”

“So this is where I am at right now, with a good friend staying with me, exhausted and weak, but safe when I am cozy and warm in bed,” she said. “I have been on my cancer journey for 10 years and they have been a very good 10 years. I am so glad that I have been able to share with all you readers. As my story is yours as well and we get comfort and support from each other. I am so very thankful for my many prayer warriors and my family and friends who have been holding my hand and are right beside me. Love, caring, faith, strength, peace and hope. We all need these. But the greatest of these is love.”

Ms. Buie credits her state of exhaustion with colouring her outlook an uncharacteristic shade of grey earlier in the week. “I had basically pushed myself too much,” she said. Flu shots and a new drug regimen have left her somewhat short of breath along with the progression of the cancer into her lungs.

There have been many changes in Ms. Buie’s life. In addition to following her own path with cancer, age has thrown its own crossroads into the mix.

Husband John is no longer able to stay at home as Mary’s change in energy levels and the physical challenges brought on by her cancer mean that she is now unable to look after her beloved spouse. John has taken up residence at the Manitoulin Lodge long-term care facility in Gore Bay.

“He is making the best of it,” laughed Ms. Buie. “He has always been very social. Now he visits every room in the Lodge to see old friends and making some new ones.” Ms. Buie makes regular trips to spend time with John and catch up with all the news from the divergent paths life has placed them on.

Ms. Buie ended her week of doctor’s visits and tests on a decidedly upbeat note.

“I am now on a new drug,” she said. “My oncologist has never tried this drug to treat my form of cancer, so I am now in another experimental trial, of sorts—I’m really thrilled.”

She is currently on a drug commonly used to tackle prostate cancer, but with a twist. “I am on three times the normal dose,” she said. “Nobody has ever used it this way.”

But being an experimental regimen, there is a caveat. More x-rays, a cat scan at the end of the month to set the baseline and a lot of close monitoring.

Ms. Buie’s daughter Jenn came to stay with her for a couple of weeks, extended to three at Ms. Buie’s urging. But as things settled in and Ms. Buie stabilized her daughter was able to go back to her own home and life. Ms. Buie is looking forward to a visit from her cousin who will be arriving from England shortly.

Hope's Path - Mary Buie and Jenn
Daughter Jenn came home to visit for a couple of weeks and stayed for three until Mary Buie stabilized from the change in her medications and the advance of her aggressive form of cancer. Ms. Buie is now looking forward to the arrival of her cousin from England.

Ms. Buie said that although her energy levels and physical state are placing limits on her ability to get around, she is far from helpless. “I can still drive, not very far, of course, but far enough to be able to go and visit John in the Lodge,” she said. “I am extremely happy with my life. I may not be able to get out to see people as much as I used to, but I am still connected with my faith family through emails and phone calls.”

Ms. Buie is also still able to fulfill her role as a lay reader in church every two weeks. “I can do it because I am able to sit,” she said. 

“I am still able to make tea biscuits and jelly, in my limited capacity,” she chuckled. “I am grateful for every day.”

In one of life’s major U-turns, Ms. Buie finds herself in the position of having other people look after her needs, receiving rather than giving, but she is at peace with that too.

“And I am happy to be a guinea pig for my oncologist too,” she said. 

The start of a whole new adventure down Hope’s Path.