THUNDER BAY – Healthbeat – Cathy Pineau has been living with cancer for 14 years. She was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer in spring of 1998 (ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced state because it is relatively slow-growing and has few, if any, symptoms). After surgery and six courses of chemotherapy, Cathy feels lucky to have had an eleven-year remission.
At the end of Cathy’s first treatment she was offered the chance to be part of a clinical trial.
“I jumped at the chance because I had read that people in treatment trials had better experiences because of how closely they were monitored,” Cathy said. Dr. Margaret Anthes supervised Cathy’s follow-up and provided excellent care and great moral support.
Cathy has great praise both for Clinical Trials and for our Regional Cancer Program. “The Cancer Centre, which in my opinion is one of the best in the province, followed me every three months, then six months. Eventually, after 10 years of close follow-up, I still receive annual check-ups even though the trial ended years ago.”
During those years of remission Cathy resumed her work as manager of the Lakehead Regional Family Centre, welcomed three grandchildren, and began gardening with a passion.
“Gardening is so beneficial both mentally and physically,” Cathy said with enthusiasm. “How much my passion for gardening kept me cancer-free is impossible to say, although I know for certain that I am physically and spiritually stronger because of it.”
Her garden reflects her spirit and care: it has been enjoyed on Thunder Bay garden tours and been featured as a contest winner in Gardening Life magazine.
Despite her cancer recurring in May 2009, Cathy and her husband Jim continued to travel to Arizona around her chemotherapy treatments.
“I want treatment, but I still need to live,” she said. “You have to balance having a life and I made the decision to travel even though cancer was still present. Some time ago, I read an article about a woman living with breast cancer that said, ‘We don’t choose how we’re going to die, but we can choose how we are going to live,’ and I’ve made that my own credo.”
Unfortunately, Cathy’s symptoms forced her to return home for more treatments. Jim stayed behind for a planned visit with their developmentally disabled daughter in Mesa, AZ.
One day while there, Jim and his brother took a walk through along the lake – the same four-mile walk he and Cathy took every day – and found a ceramic bell hanging from a tree. It turned out to be one of Ben’s Bells (bensbells.org), a clay wind chime representing kindness. They say that people don’t just find a Ben’s Bell, the bell finds its own way to people in need – and Cathy and Jim both take it as a herald of good things to come.
“I hope that I will have the chance to participate in another clinical trial when and if my current chemo ends, both as a chance to give back to the Cancer Centre and selfishly, to perhaps improve the chances of extending my life.”