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Cancer can be beaten, says local survivor

Marlene Nash talks about her experience as a breast cancer survivor in Chilliwack on Friday. -
Marlene Nash talks about her experience as a breast cancer survivor in Chilliwack on Friday.
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A story of cancer defeat was told at Chilliwack Mall last week, by local resident Marlene Nash.

She spoke to a small audience about her own battle with breast cancer, in hopes of encouraging more women to be pro-active about their health.

“Although breast cancer is a terrible disease and it is terrifying to be told you have it, you should know that it is not a death sentence,” she said.

Her diagnosis came in 2002, just two months after retirement. Her diagnosis came from a combination of mammograms, x-rays and self-examinations. But the most important tool seems to have been her own determination to find answers.

Her story started when a lump was found during one of Nash’s routine mammograms, in her left breast. She prepared herself for the worst, and went in for a needle biopsy.

However, the biopsy was cancelled at the last minute because the lump had “disappeared.”

“I can’t even describe the emotional state I found myself in after hearing this,” she said. “I couldn’t even remember driving home.”

But about six months later, she found a lump herself - in her other breast. An ultrasound revealed nothing of concern and she was told to not worry.

But she persisted, and soon found she did in fact have breast cancer.

“The shock of receiving that type of news is overwhelming and leaves you numb, scared and desperate,” she said.

Nash eventually had a complete mastectomy, reconstruction and chemotherapy. She continued a fairly active life, enjoying curling and other activities. And now she’s a paddler with Spirit Abreast, a dragon boat team consisting of breast cancer survivors.

“Being a member of this team has been a life-changing experience and has proven to me that faith, hope and determination cannot only move a mountain, it can raise an 800-pound boat up on top of the water and push it 500 metres in under three minutes.”

The Telus Tour for the Cure will continue its journey across B.C., inviting locals throughout 24 communities to tell their stories of survival. They will also be providing 42 aboriginal breast health sessions around B.C. this year, wrapping up in November. The tour is being organized by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Mammograms are free once a year for women over 40, however only 49 per cent of women who are eligible are using the service.

The foundation hopes to increase the usage to at least 70 per cent. Besides regular screening, women can decrease their chances of breast cancer by quitting or never starting smoking, and by opting for a lower-estrogen dose birth control pill.

Only five to 10 per cent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary.

Last Friday’s event also included MLA Barry Penner.

“As a cancer survivor myself, I can attest to the importance of early detection,” Barry Penner said.

The tour is in Abbotsford this week, at Seven Oaks Shopping Centre.

Editor's Note: Read Marlene Nash's story in her own words at www.theprogress.com

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