HOLLY HURST as tough as they come at McMahon Stadium
With all due respect to the players who will take the field for the Calgary Stampeders and B.C. Lions on Saturday evening, there might not be anyone tougher at McMahon Stadium than Holly Hurst.
Sure, the football players will be tackling and hitting and putting their bodies on the line, but Hurst has been fighting breast cancer for 21 years.
There’s tough, and then there’s Hurst.
With the Stampeders holding their annual Pink Power game to raise money and awareness of women’s cancers, it’s as good a time as any to tell Hurst’s story.
“I told my doctors from
Day 1 that I was going to watch my daughters grow up,” Hurst said. “I’ve had my ups and I’ve certainly had my downs. One of the things I have learned, or that I taught myself, is it’s mind over matter. I’ve been doing this for 21 years and I think it’s because I tell myself that (the cancer) is not going to win. I’m going to win. I have grandchildren now that I want to see grow up.” Hurst is a regular face during Stampeders games at McMahon Stadium, and has been for the last 13 seasons. She first started working at the South East Pass Gate, but can now be found by the gate that visiting teams come out of, right down on the field.
It’s prime real estate, as she calls it, and Hurst takes her responsibilities seriously. If you don’t have the right credentials, good luck getting past her.
“Anybody that’s not supposed to be there, doesn’t get in,” Hurst said.
This weekend, Hurst will be talking with the Stampeders Outriders about her long fight with breast cancer.
It began in 1997.
She was playing with her daughters at the time and one of them accidentally kicked her in the chest. It left an unusual mark, and a couple weeks later she got it checked out.
Within weeks, she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing surgery. That was only the beginning of a difficult journey.
In March 1999, a tumour was found in the scar tissue from her original surgery.
In 2001, doctors found that her breast cancer had spread into her bones.
In 2002, she had radiation on a tumour in her scapula.
A hysterectomy followed in 2003.
In 2009, she had an incredibly painful reconstructive surgery that involved more than 300 stitches. It was “worth every minute of it,” though.
In 2013, Hurst started having pain again in her scapula and had three treatments of radiation.
Two years later, five more treatments, and in 2016 “all hell broke loose” as a bone scan revealed metastatic cancer in her spine, hip, shoulder, breast bone and ribs.
Hurst has been through just about every treatment imaginable and has always kept fighting.
But she’s also had support, and that’s something she’ll emphasize when she speaks with the Outriders on Saturday.
“First thing, I strongly believe in talking about it,” Hurst said. “A lot of women just don’t even tell people they have (cancer), and I don’t know, I guess for some people that might work, but there are a lot of support group and there’s a lot of help out there for you, and it’s all women that are in the same place you are.
“We’re all on a journey, just at different places.”
Speaking with Hurst, it quickly becomes clear that she’s got a story that everybody could learn from.
A mother to two daughters and two step-daughters and a grandmother to five children, she’s eager to share her story to help others who have to fight cancer themselves.
“I’ve found over the years that sharing really makes a difference, because then you don’t feel like you’re carrying the entire burden,” Hurst said. “You feel like you have friends who understand, even if they’re not at the same part of their journey.”