New Brunswick

Saint John breast cancer survivor describes hardships, hope

A year after finding a lump in her breast, Kathy Kaufield plans to celebrate the successful conclusion of months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments by participating in this Sunday's Run for the Cure.

1 year after diagnosis, radiation and chemotherapy, Kathy Kaufield is taking part in Run For The Cure

Breast cancer survivor Kathy Kaufield hopes participating in Sunday's Run For The Cure will mark the end of a bad year, and the start of a brighter future. (CBC)

A year after finding a lump in her breast, Kathy Kaufield plans to celebrate the successful conclusion of months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments by participating in this Sunday's Run for the Cure.

Kathy Kaufield shares the story of her diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
"I'm hoping the run will be the end of a bad year and the beginning of a brighter future," said the 48-year-old writer and mother of two.

Kaufield is one of 570 New Brunswick women who were diagnosed last year with breast cancer, according to statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society.

She only found her lump by accident, four months after it was missed by a mammogram.

Kaufield was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer last year, and although treatable, required months of radiation and chemotherapy. (Submitted by Kathy Kaufield)
She'd gone to St. Andrews for a conference and was taking a shower in the hotel.

The shower puff that's normally part of her routine had been left at home.

"So I grabbed the hotel bar of soap and I started washing myself and right under my left breast, there it was, the dreaded lump," she said.

"And it was big."

Surgery and tests would later conclude Kaufield had stage two cancer, though it was treatable.

Treatment sometimes horrible

But the treatment itself was an ugly business, said Kaufield.

A former journalist, Kaufield kept a diary of the good, the bad and the horrible in Facebook posts that were sometimes graphic and shocking.

Kaufield documented much of her treatment in Facebook posts, which at times were graphic. (Submitted by Kathy Kaufield)
When asked about them afterward, Kaufield said she actually held back.

She said she feared that too much information would scare people and turn friends away.

"I can't describe it to anyone who hasn't been through it," she said.

"You lose your hair. You lose your eyebrows. Your nails rot. Your muscles are sore. You can't eat. It's just this exhaustion like nothing you've ever experienced."

Waiting for the bell

Kaufield said one of her coping mechanisms was to envision the day she'd be able to ring the chemotherapy bell at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

A gift from fellow cancer survivors, the bell hangs in the hallway and when people complete their treatments, they get to ring it in celebration.

That day came in June and was captured on video which Kaufield posted to YouTube.

It's so emotional, she said she can't bring herself to watch it anymore.

Last week, Kaufield's doctor told her that all treatments were done and there was no evidence of cancer.

As a precaution, though, she'll have to be monitored at three-month intervals over the next two years.

Kaufield praised her daughters and husband for support through her illness. (Submitted by Kathy Kaufield)

Moved by generosity and kindness

Kaufield said she's not ready to talk about the so-called blessings of cancer. However, she said she's been moved by the generosity and kindness of others.

Neighbours have volunteered to take her kids for the evening and meals have shown up at her door.

Kaufield said her daughters, aged 10 and 13, and husband have been remarkable, and this Sunday, dozens of friends will participate in the Run for the Cure on Kaufield's behalf.

The Saint John event starts at 1 p.m. on Water  Street. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.

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