Hope’s Path XXVII: The new year dawns with hope on the horizon and lots of good news

Mary and John Buie celebrate their golden anniversary with their grandchildren Juliette, left, and Charlotte.

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 – It is sometimes hard to tell when Mary Buie has good news to share—so upbeat is her demeanor even when facing the darkest of days. But her latest conversation with The Expositor is brimming, not only with her usual sunny disposition but with a couple of items of great news.

Those following this series will know that Ms. Buie is currently enrolled in an experimental treatment trial taking place at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto after traditional treatment regimes had not proven effective in shrinking her tumours. She began taking part in the trials 10 weeks ago at the start of November 2021.

So, to the good news. First and foremost… “So happy to have good news to report!” wrote Ms. Buie in her first email of the new year to The Expositor. “CT scan yesterday showed lung tumour shrunk from 23 mm to 16 mm in two months. Lymph nodes cancer also shrunk. So pill is working and I continue in trial. So, so happy to be able to come home and stay home. Will only have to come down once a month. Will be home Sunday. I have been at peace last week knowing that whatever the outcome God had me covered.” 

Great news indeed. But it didn’t stop there. In conversation on Monday, Ms. Buie shared that her doctor, Dr. Philippe Bedard, had taken a sample of her initial biopsy cells and sent them to be analyzed. “It turns out that there is a pill, specifically developed for my kind of cancer,” she said. “So, even if this trial didn’t work out, there is still a treatment option available.”

That other option may prove important, as there was a bit of a cloud casting a shadow on her silver lining.

“There are side effects to the pill I am taking,” she said. “The enzymes in my liver are rising too high.” She may not be able to continue in the trial should the medical team be unable to dampen that rise.

Still, the unsinkable Ms. Buie shines through with gratitude. “If I had not been part of this trial, Dr. Bedard may not have discovered the other treatment.”

Whatever the outcome, Ms. Buie said that she is at peace and offers her thanks to God.

“It might sound a bit crazy to give thanks for cancer,” she laughed, “but we know that it isn’t God who ‘gives’ you cancer.”

Ms. Buie said that she is thankful for her journey in life. “Ever since I was 11 years old, I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. 

At that young age in England, Ms. Buie needed eye surgery. “The kindness and service that I received from all of the people in the hospital, I decided right then and there what I wanted to do with my life. I said to myself, ‘I am going to be a nurse.’”

Ms. Buie still has to travel to Toronto once a month for treatment, once in mid-February and again in mid-March. “In March I will get another CT scan,” she said.

Admitting to a bit of guilt over her own good news when so many others are facing less hopeful potentials, Ms. Buie stays focused on the road ahead and continues to pray for those others and their friends and families.

Ms. Buie and her husband John celebrated a bit of a delayed golden anniversary meal in Lindsay with members of their family.

“I was scheduled for treatment on December 30, that was our golden anniversary,” she said. “But because my son Rob took me down and then got me and brought me back on Thursday, and it was before the latest restrictions set in, we were able to celebrate our golden anniversary at our favourite restaurant in Lindsay. “It worked out really well,” she said. “We will have a bigger celebration in the spring or summer when, hopefully, we will be able to gather again.”

Ms. Buie said that she was grateful to be able to share the story of her journey with others, to help provide them with hope when facing diagnosis like hers. “I have received so many messages from people who have read about my story in the newspaper,” she said. “Just the other day I was in Espanola when an acquaintance of mine came up to me and told me how inspired she was to read about my journey in The Expositor. I have had emails and letters from people who do not live on the Island, even from other countries, who have read the stories in the newspaper and contacted me. So many messages and cards, phone calls and prayers, I have been so totally blanketed in love and caring the whole time,” she said. “I am so grateful to everybody.”

When a diagnosis of life-threatening disease comes along, friends and families tend to rally round to provide support, but there are those who may not have that support system in their lives. Ms. Buie stressed how important it is to reach out to those in need of that support, even if they are not close relatives or friends.

“Things have evolved,” said Ms. Buie. “God has worked things out beyond my imagination. He is always there and I have reached out to him when I find myself depressed. There are dark days, but he is always there for us.”

Ms. Buie said she is looking forward to what 2022 will bring. “I know 2022 is going to be a good year,” she said.