Anne Martin

BRANTFORD – When the receptionist told her that the doctor wanted to speak to her, Anne Martin had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good news.

“When I was told, ‘I’ll put you over to the doctor,’ I just knew, I’m a retired nurse,” said the now 63-year-old Brantford woman who went on to have her cancer treatments at Hamilton’s Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC).

It wasn’t a particularly good time to get the “surprise” diagnosis. Her husband, Rick, was on his annual canoeing trip on the French River, and she couldn’t get a phone message to him even if she tried. And there was a big California vacation coming up.

Afterwards she went wading in Whiteman’s Creek near Burford with a colleague from the Victorian Order of Nurses who told her “it’s no time to go home to an empty house.”

Nothing had come up in her routine breast checks. She had a mammogram in May 2001, an ultrasound in August, got the bad news at the tumultuous time of 9/11, and had her operation in October.

Surgeons excised a huge six-centimetrea tumour that had escaped detection as it was deeply swaddled in tissue.

The grandmother with three grown children had a masectomy, four rounds of chemotherapy, 25 radiation sessions and five years of tamoxifen. The operation itself was a breeze. “I had surgery, went home eight hours later. I was booked in for three days, but I felt fine, and went to bed that night at 11, just like usual.”

And yes, Anne and Rick earlier went to California as planned.

A major reason for Anne’s upbeat attitude comes from the excellent care she received at Juravinski.

“From the very beginning, everything and everyone was exceptional in a medical-care sense, and caring as a person. You have so much choice, so much input into your care. They make you feel important.

“I was totally comfortable and confident with them. They were so totally skilled at listening, that was the main thing.”

There was one moment in particular that really helped. Anne was about to begin chemotherapy when a chemo nurse – who became a close friend – told Anne: “I don’t usually say this, but I went through this too,” and then gave her insight on how best to handle the treatment.

She’s gotten busy in cancer fundraising, particularly with JCC. She’s on a couple of volunteer committees that are organizing the second annual BRIGHT RUN/Walk for Breast Cancer Research, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 12, again at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area on Governors Road in Dundas.

The runaway success of last year’s inaugural walk/run caught her by surprise. They had hoped for 500 participants, but 1,002 showed up, and they raised $258,000 for breast cancer research at JCC. This year they’re looking for 2,000 particpants and $500,000 for the centre.

Dr. Mark Levine, chair of the oncology department at JCC and an instigator of the BRIGHT RUN/Walk, was overwhelmed by the support for last year’s event from patients, their families and the community at large.

“It was an incredible high,” Levine said of the throngs of walkers and runners at last year’s event. “There was a lot of hugging, a lot of crying – it was just wonderful.”

BRIGHT stand for “Breast Cancer Research In Greater Hamilton Today,” and Levine believes it’s important for Juravinski Cancer Centre breast cancer patients and their families to have a fundraising event that is uniquely local and accessible to everybody regardless of how much money they can raise.

“Hamilton is not Toronto or Montreal,” he said. “Hamilton would never make $2,000 in fundraising the minimum for somebody to walk. It’s just not how this community works.”

Research at the JCC is funded through a range of local, provincial and national sources, but the centre’s breast cancer team believes strongly in the need for an event where all the money raised stays in Hamilton.

The BRIGHT RUN/Walk keeps its costs low, looking to sponsors and an army of volunteers to mount the event. Letters to patients, word of mouth, posters and pamphlets at the JCC and a phone campaign got people involved last year. Run/walk teams came together, fundraising challenges to other teams were put out there. The day started with miserable weather but blossomed into bright sunshine for the walkers and runners.

“The clouds broke up and it was glorious,” Levine said, who has treated breast cancer patients for about 30 years.