“Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t feel a lump and I felt healthy,” explains Michele Garneau, 53, and lifelong resident of Schreiber who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2014. “It was a total surprise when I found out that I had breast cancer.”
Garneau is a busy and motivated woman who works at the Terrace Bay Mill, loves the outdoors and is family oriented. She lives with her husband of 33 years, her Bengal cats and is the mother of two grown children. So when it comes to taking care of her health, Garneau is a firm believer that taking care of her health is a priority for herself and her family, and that includes getting screened for cancer.
When Garneau was 48, her health care provider recommended that she complete a baseline mammogram – even though she wasn’t aware of any family history of breast cancer. Then, just after she turned 50, she started her recommended cancer screening by going to the Screen for Life Coach when it was in town that spring, and that is when her cancer was detected.
“I wasn’t nervous to go for my screening appointment, and it wasn’t as uncomfortable as people had said it would be. It really didn’t feel like a big deal,” says Garneau. “Then I received a call that they wanted to do a follow-up appointment. Next, I was called back for a biopsy and within two to three weeks, I found out that I had a stage 2 breast cancer.”
In August of 2014, Garneau underwent a lumpectomy, and then had a second repeat surgery in September of the same year. She started chemotherapy in October, and was very grateful that the majority of her treatments could be completed close to home at the McCausland Hospital. Following chemotherapy, she underwent five weeks of radiation therapy in Thunder Bay where she stayed at the Tbaytel Tamarack House during the week and drove back home on the weekends. And although Garneau lost her hair, and experienced weakness, illness and fatigue, she did not lose her positive attitude.
“Though going through cancer treatment was tough, and I was not feeling well, I kept a positive attitude. I made up my mind that this was something that I had to go through and that I was going to be o.k.,” she said. “I did experience some anxieties and some fear about chemo, but my health care team was amazing. They did everything they could to help me feel as well as I could. I also had so much support from my community and that really helped me. I love my community and the people in it.”
Now cancer-free, Michele is dealing with tolls that cancer treatment has taken on her body. But she is working hard to regain her strength and get back to her normal life. When asked if she had any advice for women, she said “I strongly recommend that you take care of yourself. Breast cancer is very real and anyone can get it. I had no idea that I had cancer – I had no lump or symptoms. If it wasn’t for the breast screening program, my cancer wouldn’t have been detected and it would’ve been found later. By the time I felt the lump, it might’ve even been too late. Take my advice and take care of yourself.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, with one in eight women expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime. In Thunder Bay, breast cancer screening is available at:
For more information about cancer screening, visit www.tbrhsc.net/cancerscreening.
You can also complete a free, personalized online risk assessment of your risk of developing breast, cervical, colon, lung, kidney and melanoma cancers by visiting www.mycanceriq.ca.