Nova Scotia·Blog

Inspirational courage in the face of needless mastectomy

Reporter Yvonne Colbert reflects on the courage of the woman who needlessly underwent a mastectomy.

"She’s my hero."

That’s how Lynne Foley describes her sister, Sharon Fisher.

And no wonder. Fisher is the  67-year-old woman who underwent a mastectomy by mistake. Think about it: She was given a cancer diagnosis and had her breast lopped off for no reason.

It’s hard to comprehend.

When her lawyer Ray Wagner called me to say he’d arranged an interview with her Friday morning, I had no idea who the patient was.

All I knew was that this woman in her mid-60s had been given a wrong cancer diagnosis and had her breast removed needlessly.

Courage in the face of catastrophe

How do you deal with that?

I had no idea what to expect as I prepared for the interview. Would she be angry? Bitter? Twisted by the experience? How would I react if that was me?

I spent an hour talking with the two women on Friday and I walked away marvelling at their love for each other, their composure and the resilience of the human spirit.

Sharon is soft-spoken and a gentle woman. You get that from the moment you meet her.

Her sister Lynne is very similar, but allows more emotion to show as she speaks about what her sister had been forced to endure. Lynne says the two are "joined at the hip."  She has been by her sister’s side throughout the ordeal and was there for that meeting with the surgeon where they learned about the terrible mistake.

'You have to go on'

And despite the hand she’s been dealt, Sharon remains a remarkable woman. Proof of that was her comment that she felt bad for the surgeon who had to tell her about the mistaken cancer diagnosis and the unnecessary mastectomy.

"She felt really bad," Sharon told me.  She went on to say that likely everyone involved felt badly, too.  Here she is, thinking about other people’s feelings, when she could be wallowing in her own misery.

"What can you do?" Sharon responds when I asked her how she’s handling all this. "You have to go on."

She says she’s had lots of bad days, but her family keeps her going — especially her grandchildren. Her son lives in Ottawa and she says they video chat on the computer almost every day.

She has two grandchildren and says some days she tells her son, "Put them on. I need to see them."  Anyone who is a grandparent can appreciate that.

I was impressed with the grace displayed by both sisters. They have been through the unthinkable yet remain reasonable and composed.  

On Friday, when I introduced Sharon to you, our viewers, I described her as a mother, sister, grandmother, aunt and friend. I said she was any woman and every woman.

She is.

And hopefully by taking the brave step to tell her story, she will, as she hopes, prevent this from happening to the rest of us.