Brenda's Story - Bringing Concentrated Care Home to Cape Breton

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"When I was told I had stage II pancreatic cancer, it was like the wind was taken from me. Time stood still for a moment, but it seemed like forever. Then I heard my sister’s voice saying, “We will get through this.” I knew we would.

My name is Brenda McCarthy and stereotactic body radiation is my mission. I’ll come back to that, but let me thank you first. Thank you. It’s people like you who made it possible for people like me to stay home in Cape Breton where I was able to get most of my cancer treatments.An image

It’s been nearly two years since I first discovered something wasn’t right, but it feels like it was just yesterday. After being told my eyes looked a bit yellow, I was in denial that anything serious was wrong. I was told it was cancer. I was immediately plunged into a new and devastating world. Pancreatic cancer has a very low survival rate – I knew that.

I’m here today because we have an incredible cancer centre in Cape Breton. We have medical professionals who genuinely care and fight to treat this disease. Through my entire journey, I was able to be close to my family and friends. My community gives back, making it possible for me to have my treatment here. Close to my children, my husband and my sisters – who are my best friends.

The biggest obstacle in my journey was that the radiation oncologist wanted me to have stereotactic body radiation therapy. We don’t currently offer this specialized and concentrated treatment at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, so I would have had to travel to Ontario. My condition at the time was considered unstable and so my doctor said he could modify this treatment for me. I received the highest radiation that he could safely administer. It’s a bold step but cancer is bold. It doesn’t choose us based on who we are, but we get to choose how we deal with it. And Cape Bretoners choose to deal with it by giving.

It’s hard to say this, but my cancer has come back. I’m battling again, but battling harder than ever. However, I’m thrilled to tell you, that with your support and generosity, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation is going to fundraise to purchase the stereotactic body radiation equipment for Cape Breton. Now, we need you to make it a reality. 

We fight this battle with everything we have and then we fight a little more. By giving back, you were with me for my treatment. You allowed my sisters to sit beside me, hold my hands and wipe away my tears. With your compassion, along with my faith, I fought. Let’s fight together and bring stereotactic body radiation home – to Cape Breton. This is our chance to impact cancer care for generations to come.

I’m fighting, but I need your help. I want to give patients access to the best in cancer care. I want to see future cancer treatment become more accessible and comforting for those who unfortunately follow in my footsteps.  I need you to be a beacon of hope to cancer patients in your community

We can all can help fund stereotactic body radiation therapy that will allow many cancer patients in Cape Breton, just like me, to have a higher dose of radiation, with less treatments and reduce travel off-island. This therapy is concentrated and leaves less of an impact on the rest of the body. This type of radiation will be saving lives.

I hope you’ll consider making a donation to support cancer care in Cape Breton. If this is the legacy I get to be a part of, bringing stereotactic body radiation therapy to my community, cancer will never beat me. I will have won this battle, no matter what." 

To make sure the next patients have access to important cancer care, please give today. Your generosity can make all the difference in the world for the next patients in need. 

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*  Brenda was the face of bravery in our fundraising efforts while she battled pancreatic cancer at home. Brenda fought hard and unfortunately passed away on June 1, 2020 at home with her family by her side. She was able to fight, inspire and leave a legacy, because you give back. In fact, as of June 24, the first patients in Cape Breton will have access to Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy that Brenda’s efforts fully funded. This equipment, which will treat lung cancer patients first, reduces time in hospital, treats tumors with pinpoint accuracy and offers increased quality of life for patients. 

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