‘It’s a terrible thing’
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. email@example.com.
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.