Published Monday, April 10, 2023
By Samantha Morris, Health Promotion Project Assistant
The year 2022 had a lot to offer Suzan. She celebrated the 15-year anniversary of her business, she finished an exercise and wellness program, and she rang the bell at the Cancer Centre at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, indicating she completed her cancer treatment.
Back in 2020, Suzan had her routine breast screening mammogram. When she received the results, she was informed that her breast tissue was more dense than normal and that she would have to have another mammogram in a year. In 2021, her mammogram results indicated there was a suspicious spot in one of her breasts. After further testing, she received a phone call - she had stage 1 breast cancer. Her treatment began shortly thereafter with chemotherapy, followed by surgery and then radiation.
“It seemed ironic in a way; I was a bra lady, who owns a specialty lingerie shop often helping individuals that were going through cancer treatment,” explained Suzan. “I never thought it would happen to me.”
Throughout her treatment, she continued to work. She would take days off when she was feeling unwell, but she tried to fill her days with her regular activities. Suzan had great support from family and friends, and her positivity helped push through the hard days. She liked to surround herself with positive people and made it known to others that she did not want to hear any sad stories. She tried to be optimistic and looking for humour in each situation. For instance, if it wasn’t for her cancer, she wouldn’t be able to embrace the perks of wearing a wig. “I couldn’t be around hot steam or extreme heat when wearing my wig. It was the perfect excuse to get away from cooking and doing dishes,” Suzan joked. “Also, I had coloured my hair dark brown for years and thanks to my wig, I didn’t have to go through the process of growing out white roots. I wore a wig for almost a year, took it off and presto - all white hair!”
When going for treatment, Suzan would get dressed up and do her make-up as if she was going into work. For Suzan, her treatment appointment was another task to check off on her ‘to do’ list for the day. She would bring her iPad with her favourite Netflix shows and sit in her chemo chair with her heated blanket, coffee and social cookies. When her friends would ask what she was doing, she would tell them that she was just at the spa for the day. “In my mind, I had to put myself in a place that was calm and relaxing,” shared Suzan. “That really helped me get through the treatment sessions.”
Although she admits that like many people, she still worries about her cancer reoccurring, she uses her lived experiences to help support others. Whether it is helping one of her customers pick out a post-surgical bra or just listening to her clients, she ensures that she takes the time to be her best self every day and continues to have a positive outlook on life.
Please consider giving a donation to the Northern Cancer Fund and support better local and regional cancer care. Make your donation online at healthsciencesfoundation.ca/donate or call our Donation Centre at (807) 345-HOPE (4673). Together, we are making time and saving lives!