Pa­tient’s cal­en­dars rais­ing money for can­cer cen­tre

Bob­bie John­ston is on a mis­sion to pay for­ward the kind­ness she re­ceived dur­ing her treat­ment

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Local - BETH AUDET

A Ni­a­gara Falls woman is us­ing her pho­tog­ra­phy to make and sell cal­en­dars to ben­e­fit Walker Fam­ily Can­cer Cen­tre in St. Catharines — the same cen­tre where she’s been un­der­go­ing treat­ment. Ev­ery penny Bob­bie John­ston raises will be do­nated and what­ever money she spends mak­ing the cal­en­dars will be her own con­tri­bu­tion. “I don’t know how to make crafts and I don’t paint and I’m not real swift about do­ing any­thing, but I have all these pic­tures and I thought, I’m go­ing to make cal­en­dars.” The 72-year-old woman has long been cap­tur­ing the beau­ti­ful scenery on Duf­ferin Is­land and around the falls. “It saves my san­ity.” Now, she can use her pho­tos for good, she said: “So I feel like I ac­tu­ally did some­thing use­ful with all these pic­tures I take.” John­ston’s jour­ney at the Walker cen­tre be­gan in De­cem­ber 2018, when she felt a lump on her left breast. Tests re­vealed she had HER2-pos­i­tive breast can­cer, ini­tially di­ag­nosed at Stage 2 but up­graded to Stage 4 be­cause of its ag­gres­sive onset. “It’s pretty scary when you think it came that fast,” John­ston said, not­ing she’d had a mam­mo­gram one year prior that came up clear. She had a mas­tec­tomy fol­lowed by eight rounds of chemo­ther­apy so ag­gres­sive, she said, she had to give her­self a shot in the stomach for eight days fol­low­ing the treat­ment to stim­u­late the pro­duc­tion of red blood cells. She had started 14 rounds of Her­ceptin in­fu­sions to tar­get any float­ing can­cer cells but said that had to be put on hold as she is now be­ing treated for con­ges­tive heart fail­ure. “I try to think pos­i­tive … it’s either that or drop dead,” she said, which is not an op­tion con­sid­er­ing she has a 26-year-old son with autism un­der her care. Her cal­en­dars are her way to say thank you to the doc­tors and nurses at the cen­tre and other pa­tients she’s met through Face­book who have been kind dur­ing her dif­fi­cult time. Jan­ice Gies­brecht, chief of on­col­ogy at Ni­a­gara Health and med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the Walker Fam­ily Can­cer Cen­tre, praised John­ston for her cal­en­dar idea. “Ev­ery­body has a dif­fer­ent way of want­ing to be in­volved, dif­fer­ent skills and dif­fer­ent con­nec­tions in the com­mu­nity.” She said it’s com­mon for a pa­tient or a pa­tient’s fam­ily to give back to the peo­ple who have cared for them — either by par­tic­i­pat­ing in big fundrais­ers such as the Rankin Run or the Big Move Can­cer Ride, or through in­di­vid­ual ini­tia­tives. “It’s just one of the huge re­wards that we see and it speaks to part of the lived ex­pe­ri­ence and how pa­tients ac­tu­ally cre­ate pos­i­tive things from an ex­pe­ri­ence that can be dif­fi­cult.” For some peo­ple, giv­ing back can be part of the heal­ing process. Gies­brecht said it’s amaz­ing see­ing peo­ple rec­og­niz­ing their chal­lenges and tak­ing steps to make the best of their sit­u­a­tion, much like John­ston is do­ing. In just the first two days of sell­ing her cal­en­dars on Face­book, John­ston said she al­ready had $900 in sales, a re­sponse she said she wasn’t ex­pect­ing but is thrilled with. “It’s mak­ing me feel like I’m pay­ing it for­ward be­cause so many peo­ple were nice to me.” Her cal­en­dars can be pur­chased as an 8x10 for $5 or a 5x7 for $3. They come in three themes — with pho­tos of Ni­a­gara Falls, na­ture scenes or cardinals. To or­der a cal­en­dar, email John­ston at is­land­roots47@ya­hoo.ca.

BETH AUDET TORSTAR

Bob­bie John­ston, a Ni­a­gara Falls woman who has been un­der­go­ing can­cer treat­ment, is sell­ing cal­en­dars to give back to the Walker Fam­ily Can­cer Cen­tre.

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