‘It’s a ter­ri­ble thing’

LO­CAL

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY JEREMY FRASER CAPE BRE­TON POST jeremy.fraser@cb­post.com

Glace Bay breast cancer sur­vivor shares her story.

Eileen Gil­day-Flynn was at work when she re­ceived a call ask­ing her to go to her doc­tor’s of­fice in Jan­uary 2012.

“My hus­band picked me up and we went to the of­fice and that’s when I was told the news,” said Gil­day-Flynn. “It’s a ter­ri­ble thing to hear.”

The Glace Bay na­tive had been di­ag­nosed with stage-three breast cancer, af­ter hav­ing a rou­tine mam­mo­gram. The news was not some­thing Gil­day-Flynn was ex­pect­ing.

“It was dev­as­tat­ing, ab­so­lutely dev­as­tat­ing be­cause there was no hint, there was no in­di­ca­tions, noth­ing — it wasn’t some­thing we were pre­pared to deal with,” said Gil­day-Flynn. “My hus­band was more up­set than I was at the mo­ment. Time kind of freezes when you’re try­ing to digest what was said to you.

“At the time, you don’t know what your path is, so the un­known is re­ally up­set­ting,” she said. “It’s re­ally scary not know­ing what the path is go­ing to be or who is go­ing to take care of you.”

In Fe­bru­ary 2012, Gil­day-Flynn had surgery. She then had sub­se­quent che­mother­apy as well as ra­di­a­tion treat­ment.

Gil­day-Flynn, who was 51 at the time, said she found it dif­fi­cult to re­main pos­i­tive, not know­ing what would hap­pen mov­ing for­ward.

“The first surgery was kind of let’s get it go­ing and at that mo­ment you just want to get rid of it,” she said. “Af­ter the surgery was done, be­cause it was breast cancer, then it was a very dif­fer­ent feel­ing about your­self — the re­cu­per­a­tion is quite long so you need a lot of care, and you try to re­main pos­i­tive, but it’s re­ally hard when you’re sick and hurt and ev­ery­body is sad.”

Gil­day-Flynn cred­its her fam­ily and friends with help­ing her get through ev­ery­thing.

“My sup­port sys­tem was very strong and I think that’s what makes it bet­ter. I can’t say it’s eas­ier, but it’s bet­ter when you have a strong sup­port sys­tem.”

Gil­day-Flynn con­tin­ued to re­ceive treat­ment through the fall of that year. She later had re­con­struc­tive surgery, some­thing she knew she wanted to do.

To­day, Gil­day-Flynn con­tin­ues to visit her doc­tor at the cancer cen­tre ev­ery four months as a pre­cau­tion, to make sure ev­ery­thing is OK.

The an­nual Re­lay for Life, an event hosted by the Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety, will take place on June 2 from 6 p.m.-12 a.m. at Cen­tre 200 in Syd­ney.

The Re­lay for Life is a non­com­pet­i­tive fundrais­ing event for peo­ple of any age and fit­ness level. Fam­i­lies, friends and co-work­ers raise money all year and walk the track to raise money for life-sav­ing cancer re­search and com­pas­sion­ate ser­vices.

This year, the or­ga­niz­ers se­lected Gil­day-Flynn to be sur­vivor speaker and am­bas­sador for the event.

“It was a sur­prise and an hon­our,” said Gil­day-Flynn when asked what it meant to her to be se­lected. “The re­lay is a very im­por­tant part of cancer fundrais­ing and the cancer jour­ney as far as be­ing sup­ported and com­mu­nity in­volved.

“It’s the most up­lift­ing event, it’s not a sad event, al­though there is sad­ness at­tached to it — it’s a hope­ful event, it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of life event, and that’s what I like the most about it.”

Gil­day-Flynn en­cour­ages the public to at­tend the event and to show their sup­port.

“Even if you came for 10 min­utes, you don’t have to stay for the whole thing,” said Gil­day-Flynn. “The event raises aware­ness.”

Gil­day-Flynn also en­cour­ages women to have a reg­u­lar mam­mo­gram each year.

“You have to be proac­tive,” she said. “If I didn’t get checked, I wouldn’t have known it was there and who’s to say what to­day would look like for me.”

To regis­ter for the Re­lay for Life, visit www.re­lay­for­life.ca or con­tact Rhonda Gal­lant at 902-470-2060, or email rhonda. gal­lant@ns.cancer.ca.

JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Eileen Gil­day-Flynn will be this year’s sur­vivor speaker and am­bas­sador for the Re­lay For Life, set for June 2 in Syd­ney. Gil­day-Flynn has been a breast cancer sur­vivor for five years.

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