You can’t help but be impressed with Louise Bird’s attitude.
The two-time cancer survivor, mother to four children, one step-child and grandma to ten grandchildren had a simple mantra while battling breast cancer.
“I had cancer, it didn’t have me. I went to where I was going to take the bull by the horns, and I’ll fight,” she said.
And fight she did. The resident of Wawota, SK about two and half hours south-east of Regina, was first diagnosed with HER2 Breast Cancer at 37 years old. She would undergo chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
At the end of her treatment in the fall of 2002, Louise was getting ready to see her general surgeon when she found another lump. More tests revealed the same cancer had come back. She would begin a similar course of treatment as before beginning with chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, the tumour was not responding and in fact, it was growing. The chemotherapy had put her in a much weakened state and while being prepped for surgery she passed out. That put a halt to the treatment. More tests would show Louise Bird had Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer. She would begin radiation therapy with the aim of shrinking the tumour enough for surgery…and it worked!
“It was essentially radiation therapy that saved my life,” Louise says.
She says the care received during treatment was excellent. While she had the attitude of meeting her cancer head on and fighting hard, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be low points.
“And I’m really happy they have these patient navigators who work with patients throughout the system. I just sort of got to the point where I was really depressed, and they picked up on that.”
In order to receive radiation therapy a patient must first get a Computed Tomography (CT) Simulation. The CT Simulator provides each patient’s medical team with the images they need to determine tumour size and shape plus treatment set-up and delivery technique required. In order to ensure alignment from simulation to radiation treatment, a patient is tattooed with dots. The dots are a positive reminder to Louise.
“They’re battle signs. They’re signs of a battle won,” says the now 53 year old.
Louise wholeheartedly supports the campaign to replace the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency’s (Agency) two CT Simulators.
“They play a vital role in radiation therapy and it’s important to have the equipment here in Saskatchewan.”
Today, Louise says her health is generally good other than lymphedema in both arms. While that is a constant reminder of what she’s been through she says surviving cancer has changed her. Like many survivors her focus today is on what’s truly important.
“Just think of how much stuff in your life you actually have control over. When you think about it, it’s not a lot. You have control over your own words and your own action,” she explains
And for Louise, her actions include giving back to help patients going through treatment. She’s a member of the Agency’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, and sits on a number of national boards related to radiation therapy and cancer patient advocacy.