Fighting triple negative breast cancer by staying positive all the way

Fighting triple negative breast cancer by staying positive all the way
JARVIS—Christine Best is helping ‘Paint the Town Pink’ for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. —Haldimand Press photo by Sheila Phibbs.

By Sheila Phibbs

The Haldimand Press

JARVIS—October is all about colour as the annual display of yellows, oranges, and reds are a highlight of autumn. But there is another colour deserving of attention this month – pink. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and survivors and supporters, including Christine Best of Jarvis, are doing their part to ‘Paint the Town Pink’.

Christine’s journey with breast cancer began late in 2019 when she discovered a lump almost by accident. She has always been an advocate for regular self-exams but admits she hadn’t done one for a couple of months. While lying in bed, something just made her do it and when she felt it, she recalls, “I knew what it was.”

That was November 18; the following day she was on the phone to her doctor and in his office two days later. He performed a second examination and ordered a new mammogram as nothing appeared on the one from a year and a half earlier. That test was done on December 4 and followed by an ultrasound. Christine says, “I knew when the doctor came in with the technician to see the results that it wasn’t a cyst, but some form of tumour.”

A biopsy took place on December 11 and the diagnosis was confirmed a week later. Christmas was celebrated and then the Best family enjoyed a trip to St. Lucia, which had long been booked for the birthday of Christine’s husband, Ken. After returning home, Christine met with surgical oncologist Dr. Hodgson at Juravinski and her surgery was scheduled for the end of January.

At this point, Christine says, “I was only supposed to have a lumpectomy and radiation.”

However, the surgery led to an unexpected diagnosis – triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). This form of breast cancer is named for the lack of estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2 protein. As Christine explains it, “I don’t have enough to fight the cancer. It’s very rare, very aggressive, and very mean.”

TNBC also has a higher rate of recurrence. The revised diagnosis required a change to the game plan as chemotherapy became a necessary treatment. Reflecting on her feelings at the time Christine says, “I did decide a long time ago that I can accept this and get through it or it will consume me. I had to make myself accept it that way as soon as I heard ‘chemotherapy’. That was the one word I feared the most.”

That fear did not, however, diminish the positive attitude Christine has shown through this journey. She refers to her husband, Ken, as her rock and she has been well supported by the rest of her family as well. Her sister, Lindi, a registered nurse in British Columbia, came home for three months to help provide care. Christine credits her faith with helping to maintain a positive outlook. From discovering the lump to diagnosis to the start of treatment, she says, “God’s carried me through this. His hand has carried me through it all.”

While she experienced nausea, she was fortunately never physically ill. She adds, “The journey has gone well. It’s not an easy road; the medications are hard, but you get through it.”

The pandemic added to the challenge, but Christine has taken that in stride. She puts it simply, “All you have to do is follow the protocols. I self-isolated in some respects – no shopping, drive-thrus, etc. – but I was not isolated from support.”

She has shared her journey via Facebook, frequently posting video updates on her progress. Her messages often included reminders to do monthly self-exams. While finding the lump herself hit hard, she says, “It’s just one more act of being proactive. Where would I have been if I had waited till my next mammogram?”

Christine was especially excited to post live from Juravinski on her final day of chemotherapy. As she celebrated with the traditional ringing of the bell, family, friends, and even customers of her bakeshop watched and cheered from home.  She says, “I love every person who comes here.”

That feeling is mutual as proven by the parade of honking cars and cheering passengers that drove past her home that June evening.

Maintaining a connection with her customers has been important to Christine and served as a reassurance that she would be back in the store. She says, “There was never a question of reopening.”

The plan to return to work has helped fuel Christine’s determination to fight and get well.           Necessary renovations have been done to meet COVID-19 health guidelines and ensure the safety of customers and staff. The “Paint the Town Pink” sign on the front lawn promotes awareness for breast cancer and all cancers. It’s a gentle reminder from Christine for all to take care.

The highly anticipated grand re-opening of Christine’s Homestyle Bakery, Catering, and Deli will take place on October 24. The community will be happy to see the doors open once again, but the happiest person of all will be Christine.

She says, “I am looking forward to seeing the people. There are so many that I haven’t seen. I will see their smiles behind the masks.”

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