Nfld. & Labrador

What's it like being the face of cancer? 'Kind of cool and a little bit daunting'

Tracy Duffy and Juanita Dinn are two of the survivors featured in the In This Together campaign for a bigger chemotherapy unit at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation.

Tracy Duffy and Juanita Dinn are survivors featured in a campaign for a bigger chemotherapy unit

Tracy Duffy says she wants others to know that no one is untouchable when it comes to cancer. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Many people have had to face cancer. Not as many people can say they're the face of it. 

Tracy Duffy of Torbay is just one cancer survivor featured in a campaign, called In This Together, to raise money for a bigger chemotherapy unit at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation. Organizers say they're outgrowing the current facility. 

So what's it like being recognized publicly as a woman who has cancer?

"Kind of cool and a bit daunting," Duffy told CBC.

More than a year ago, when Duffy found a lump in her breast, she didn't tell anyone. For her, the worst part about having breast cancer was finding the words to tell her loved ones, but a year later she's telling her story to people across the province.

Juanita Dinn was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago. In 2013, she learned it had spread to her bones and is now terminal. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

She said she agreed to do the campaign after the wonderful treatment she received from the nurses and her doctor at the cancer care facility.

"I want to be out there to let people know they aren't alone," she said. "I think it's good because it makes people start the conversation.

"When you hear that diagnosis you don't even know if you will be here, let alone on TV or on commercials promoting the fact that you have survived treatment."

She was still somewhat shocked when her kids told her they saw her advertisement at the movie theatre.

Watch the campaign video with Tracy Duffy

"I think overall it has been great to meet other survivors apart of this campaign," she said. "I have gotten such great feedback. It has just been great to get that support and the recognition for speaking out, so hopefully this creates more awareness."

Although Duffy is now recovering, she said the process doesn't come without uneasiness.

"It is a struggle not to let the anxiety take over because there is always the worry, the creeping kind of thoughts of, 'What if it is back?'" she said.

Duffy walks alongside Dr. Joy McCarthy. The two were childhood friends and reunited decades later when Duffy was diagnosed with breast cancer. (In This Together/Youtube)

Juanita Dinn's reason for becoming one of the faces of the campaign was so her kids could remember her when she's gone.

The mother of three from St. John's was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013, but last year she found out she is no longer responding to the medications.

"I guess, selfishly, I really wanted to do this for my kids and know when I am gone this is something that I am really proud of and I want them to be really proud of too."

But the diagnosis has not stopped Dinn from living her life. 

Sitting in her tidy living room, in good spirits with her hair done and makeup on, Dinn says she wasn't looking for publicity, but the campaign moved her to action. 

Watch the campaign video with Juanita Dinn

"What I didn't want is for someone to say, 'Oh my God, that poor woman is dying," she said. "What I am hearing is two really key words for me, which is strength and hope."

The hardest part for Dinn was learning to accept the diagnosis, particularly when she learned it's not curable.

"I never want to think of it as a battle. I never considered myself a warrior or a fighter. I like to think that I am living with cancer. Cancer is secondary to everything else that is going on with my life — I don't want to focus on it every day," she said.

Dinn and her sister, Barb share an emotional moment in the campaign video. (In This Together/YouTube)

With statistics showing one in two people getting some form of cancer, she said she wants to warn people that it's inevitable that if not you, someone you love will get it.

"Now it's personal. Now we all have a vested interest in making sure this state of the art facility is there to take care of our family members, that's the reality."

"I am happy. I am happy that I am getting one more day, I am happy that I can talk to people and give them some hope."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Meg Roberts is a video journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John's. Email her at meg.roberts@cbc.ca.

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