Life after cancer: all clear!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the twelfth story in an ongoing series that is following Kagawong’s Mary Buie and her brave battle with breast cancer. The series is chronicling Ms. Buie’s journey as she navigates 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. 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.

KAGAWONG—It has been one month since Kagawong’s Mary Buie finished her radiation treatment and nine months since Ms. Buie was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy treatment.

“I am now four weeks post radiation and I’ve had an MRI and CT scan and everything is clean,” Ms. Buie shared her good news with The Expositor last Friday. “I am finally back in the real world—back practicing with the Island Singers, working twice a week (as a nurse in M’Chigeeng), rehearsing with the Burns Wharf Theatre Players for our upcoming performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Ruddigore’ and working in my garden.”

After Ms. Buie finished her last radiation treatment and follow up tests, she headed to Calgary to visit her daughter and grandson, returning earlier this month and easing back into her busy lifestyle.

“Calgary was great,” said Ms. Buie. “It was wonderful to see everyone and I had a very nice time.”

Despite Ms. Buie’s clean bill of health, she said that finishing her treatment seemed bittersweet at first.

“Everyone was so happy for me,” explained Ms. Buie, “but for the first few days I felt like I had post-partum depression. I felt tired and my mood was down. I thought I would feel so elated when I finally finished all my treatments and the tests came back clear, but I still had leftover side effects and I didn’t feel 100 percent like myself yet.”

Though Ms. Buie said she still doesn’t feel 100 percent yet, she shared that her mood has improved and she is back doing the activities that make her happy.

“It’s a weird feeling,” continued Ms. Buie. “I knew that I would still experience side effects from the radiation, but I didn’t expect to feel so down. It’s something that people don’t really talk about. It’s such a long journey that after you finish your treatment you expect that everything will be normal again, but I realize now that it takes time.”

Ms. Buie said that helping lift her spirits and celebrate her health have been “the wonderful people of Manitoulin” who she said gave her strength throughout the last nine months.

“The community of Kagawong held a lunch for me at The Main Street Cafe and made me a beautiful cake,” said Ms. Buie. “Dorothy Anstice and the Island Singers also threw me a celebration and baked me a lovely cake. John (Ms. Buie’s husband) and I have been overwhelmed by all the love, care and support that everyone has given us. Manitoulin is such a wonderful, caring place and we are so thankful to live here and for all the amazing people in our lives.”

Ms. Buie said that she has been speaking with the Manitoulin Circle of Hope (a breast cancer support group) and will be arranging a meeting next month for breast cancer survivors on the topic of ‘life after cancer.’

“In addition to everything else, I’m working on eating a low fat diet, exercising and trying to keep my immune system up,” concluded Ms. Buie. “Cancer is a long journey, one that I’m learning isn’t over even when it’s over and you need to take things one day at a time and be thankful for everything positive in your life.”

Ms. Buie has a follow up with her radiologist on Thursday, May 30 and will share more information about the upcoming Circle of Hope meeting once the details are finalized.

Robin Burridge