Helen’s bio

Born in a small town in northern Quebec, I was raised by a strong willed French Canadian mother and a conservative islander from PEI. The last of 5 children, I made a lot of noise to be noticed and still carry that spirit today. Coming from a large family, friends and relations are pivotal in my life.
I left home at19 to attend John Abbott College and McGill University completing a degree in Social Work. Big city life quickly lost its appeal for me and I moved to the Laurentians where nature has always been a saving grace. I still reside there today. Over the past 31 years I have worked as a Health Consultant for the CISSS in Laval supporting health initiatives in schools. My proudest accomplishment is being the mother of 3 beautiful beings.

In 2010 I consulted my doctor with a recurring pain in my left breast. I was sent for a biopsy on my right breast. I clearly remember the call from the hospital requesting an appointment stat. Not feeling any sense of urgency, I did agree to go to the hospital that morning. My then husband had left for work, but turned around to accompany me. Had he known or sensed something that I had not?

I was met by my doctor and an intern who explained to me in a very matter a fact fashion that I had invasive breast cancer. I was diagnosed with stage 2/3 invasive carcinoma breast cancer.

My only thought was, “Who will take care of my children?” The doctor was quick to explain that I was not going anywhere and that I would continue to care for my children. I cried most of the way home, but then my survival instinct took over as I tried to focus on what needed to be done to prepare for what lay ahead. I met my surgeon a few days later fully expecting to be placed on a leave from work, however he candidly told me that continuing to work would be good and so it was. I learned that there comes a time when you must simply trust, refuse to question and let everyone else do the thinking.

I waited three months before having my first lumpectomy. This came with a mixture of good and bad news, my lymph nodes were clear but the margins were not. This meant a subsequent surgery which confirmed the gravity and degree of the cancer and thus the need for chemotherapy and radiation. In essence, once diagnosed, one does not know the gravity or full extent of the situation until the surgeries are done. Each bit of new information comes as a blow, but small bits at a time are better than crushing news from the onset.

Numerous phone calls, visits and support from family and friends helped me make it to the finish line. I felt protected by the doctors and nurses who cared for me and like a child learning to walk, I did not want to let go of their hands. I would have continued treatments just to have them close by.
Following this experience my life took a different turn. I promised myself that I would do the things that I wanted to do and would give more value to my desires and decisions. It was perhaps the beginning of a slow end to my marriage, but regrets I have none. You learn that life is short and like a child in a candy store, life becomes a treat. I learned to give thanks more often, to love the beauty in people, places and things. I now know that a simple phone call goes a long way when someone is down or troubled.
In 2015, I had another bout of breast cancer. It was just as devastating, but somehow easier as I was treading on familiar ground. I did not hesitate to have my breast completely removed and to then move forward. I do not feel that my womanhood is diminished by these experiences, I do feel that I have greater inner strength. Although I have always strived to be a good girlfriend, I now recognize the strength in women understanding women and giving their support to one another.

Being part of Pink in the City has helped me celebrate my triumph over cancer and share that triumph with fellow survivors.