She spent a life­time help­ing oth­ers

The Compass - - OPINION - BY TERRYROBERTS

A nurse from North­ern Bay who be­came a voice for breast can­cer pa­tients dur­ing the con­tro­ver­sial Cameron in­quiry on hor­mone re­cep­tor test­ing and spent a life­time help­ing oth­ers passed away ear­lier this month.

And iron­i­cally, it was breast can­cer that claimed the life of Mercedes Sel­lars ( John­son) on Sept. 2. She was 49.

“She was one-of-a-kind,” said her sis­ter, Ber­nice John­son, who still re­sides in North­ern Bay.

Sel­lars was first di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer about five years ago, and felt she had beaten the dis­ease. In fact, she was cel­e­brat­ing her good health on a vacation to Cuba with friends in April.

Dur­ing the flight back, Sel­lars came to the aid of an­other male pas­sen­ger who had gone into car­diac ar­rest. She saved his life, Ber­nice said.

But just days af­ter re­turn­ing home, she feel ill. The can­cer was back, and it had spread.

“It was dev­as­tat­ing for the whole fam­ily,” Ber­nice stated.

Sel­lars was an out­reach nurse with the Cri­sis Cen­tre in St. John’s, and part of her job in­volved in­ter­act­ing and sup­port­ing those who are less for­tu­nate and in need of help.

She was even known to bring her quitar and play mu­sic for those en­joy­ing a meal at the Gath­er­ing Place, which is run by the Pre­sen­ta­tion Sis­ters, Ber­nice added.

She was well-suited to pub­lic health nurs­ing, say col­leagues and friends, and she gave a lot to her com­mu­nity and work.

Sel­lars was di­rec­tor of the New­found­land branch of the Cana­dian Breast Can­cer Net­work, which was a vol­un­teer po­si­tion. It was in this ca­pac­ity that she be­gan speak­ing out dur­ing the breast can­cer test­ing scan­dal, and the sub­se­quent in­quiry. She reg­u­larly spoke out in the me­dia and made pre­sen­ta­tions to govern­ment of­fi­cials in re­sponse to the find­ings of the in­quiry.

She was the ninth of 11 chil­dren born to John and Brid­get John­son of North­ern Bay. Her fa­ther is de­ceased, but her 90-year-old mother re­sides in a nurs­ing home in St. John’s.

“Mercedes spent a life­time serv­ing the com­mu­nity and she made so many friends,” Ber­nice noted.

While work­ing in Gan­der in the 1990s, it was her ef­forts that saved a child af­ter the boy was hit by a ve­hi­cle.

“The paramedics had pro­nounced him dead. But she kept work­ing on him and he sur­vived,” Ber­nice said.

As as a young per­son, she re­ceived the Gover­nor-Gen­eral’s Award for her part in the res­cue of two girls who were in dan­ger of drown­ing.

“ That was Mercedes. Al­ways there for other peo­ple,” said Ber­nice.

Sel­lars is sur­vived by her hus­band, Barry Sel­lars, and their two sons, ages 11 and 20.

Mercedes Sel­lars ( John­son), orig­i­nally from North­ern Bay, passed away ear­lier this month fol­low­ing com­pli­ca­tions from breast can­cer.

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