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 is restarting the series ‘Following Hope’s Path’ to continue relaying the story of her journey. This edition of ‘Following Hope’s Path’ chats with Ms. Buie following her final round of chemotherapy.
KAGAWONG – It has become tradition for those receiving their final chemotherapy treatment to ring a bell as they leave, but the Mindemoya chemotherapy room is in the process of sourcing its own bell, so when Mary Buie headed into her final course of treatments, she decided to take things into her own hands, quite literally.
“I used to have a ‘Dr. Zhivago’ sleigh,” she explained. “I knew they didn’t have a bell in Mindemoya yet, so I brought the sleigh bells in.”
So how did it feel to ring those bells? “It felt so good it put them to use again,” laughed Ms. Buie.
Ms. Buie said that she has a lot to celebrate these days. Not only has she completed her rounds of chemotherapy treatment, with some positive signs apparent, but the side effects that come with those treatments have been relatively light.
“And I still have my hair!” she enthused. While the unflappable former nurse and twice over cancer survivor had stopped by The Expositor for the last installment of Hope’s Path to show off what she christened her “baby bird hair,” wispy remnants of which usually lay hidden beneath cheerful scarves, in the end “my hair never really all fell out—it didn’t completely go. It has come back in straight and white, but coming back strong.”
Her current side effects include tingling in her hands and feet, a result of the peripheral neuropathy that comes with the use of Taxol. “The Taxol destroys the nerve endings,” she explained. Although she experienced some tingling in her extremities following her last bout with cancer treatments, this second time around the tingling is more pronounced and is lasting longer. “My left side is okay, but the right is not settling down yet,” she said. But it isn’t the tingling going away that she is anticipating the most.
“I still don’t have all of my tastebuds back,” she said. “I am hoping that, now that we can go out to eat again, I will be able to enjoy a nice juicy steak at The Keg. I also really miss fish and chips.”
Ms. Buie said that she was almost going to miss her “spa days” at the chemotherapy room in Mindemoya. “I really liked going to my Thursday, Friday ‘spa’.” Ms. Buie explained that having worked at the Mindemoya site she has a lot of friends among the staff.
“I first started as a nurse there in 1969,” she said, “so I know the older ones. It always felt like going home. I appreciate all of them very much.”
So other than waiting for the side effects to subside, what is Ms. Buie up to now—other than visiting family and friends?
“Next thing is running in the Run for the Cure on October 3 to beat cancer,” she said. “This will be my 10th year. The run is based in Sudbury, this is the second year we will be doing it virtually. I will be doing my five kilometres around Kagawong with my son Neil.”
Ms. Buie knows first-hand the importance of research, given the advances that have taken place since her first bout eight-and-a-half years ago.”
So letters will soon be going out to friends and family seeking sponsors to donate on behalf of cancer research.
Ms. Buie will be undergoing another CAT scan on September 27 and that will indicate if the cancer in her bones has continued to stabilize and where things are at with the cancer in her three lymph nodes.
A couple of days after her tests, Ms. Buie has the results sent to her—there are some bonuses to having spent a career in nursing—she can read the results. Her white blood cell count has been low, and her hemoglobin is down (“I want it up,” she shares).
And, of course, there is church. Ms. Buie credits her spirituality and faith for much of her success in weathering the cancer storm. She will be a delegate at the Algoma Anglican church synod, which is taking place virtually again this year and she is a lay reader for the in-person church services in Kagawong.
“Things have changed,” said Ms. Buie, “but the one thing we learn as we go through life is that things do change. We try to live by the Holy Spirit within us.”
Ms. Buie said that she has been very grateful for all of the messages of support she has received, the letters and the cards. “I have them all up on my wall,” she said. “They are an inspiration of strength and hope.”
A fitting description, we purpose, is fitting of Ms. Buie herself as she travels down hope’s path.