Patient Story - Barbara Hutchins
Patient Story - Barbara Hutchins
Breast Cancer Thriver
It seemed to be a typical Sunday morning for Barbara Hutchins, until she discovered something unusual. While preparing for her morning run, she found a lump on one of her breasts.
“I thought ‘oh that’s not good.’ I knew this was different . . . I just knew,” said Barbara.
She contacted her Chatham-Kent family Doctor, Dr. Zeke Milkovic, who had her quickly assessed via CKHA’s Diagnostic Imaging Department by having a scheduled mammogram, ultrasound and MRI performed.
On August 8th, 2013, she received the news that she had triple negative breast cancer, a form of breast cancer that is aggressive and potentially deadly.
“We found out that I had Stage IIA, I had caught it in the early stages anyways,” Barbara explained. “The kind I had was super aggressive and is normally not caught until much later.”
When she received her diagnosis from Dr. Milkovic (coincidentally four babies were being delivered on the same day), Barbara remembers her overwhelming feelings of life crossing over with death.
“That was probably the first time I really thought, ‘Could this kill me?’ Then I shut that down and just went on my merry way,” said Barbara.
Between faith and family, humour has helped Barbara cope with difficult times in life. After hearing about her results, a date was set for her surgery at CKHA. She knew for her surgery that Dr. Elizabeth Haddad was someone who could help her face the challenges of breast cancer with humour.
“I knew I needed someone who was going to understand the whole humour of laughing and not think I was totally out to lunch, only partially,” expressed Barbara.
On September 11th, Barbara underwent a modified radical mastectomy procedure performed by Dr. Haddad. Four days after her surgery, she competed in the Terry Fox Run in Chatham with a wheelchair for assistance.
“They almost lost me off of the wheelchair once, it would have been priceless but it would have hurt me like you wouldn’t believe,” said Barbara.
Barbara had also planned on competing in a half marathon and was encouraged to remain as active as possible. In October, she walked the Toronto Waterfront half marathon, finishing in just under four hours.
“It took me forever, but I got a finisher’s medal and that was the good thing. I think that it was important because I had never done one before,” she said proudly.
In early November, Barbara began her first round of chemotherapy treatments with the Oncology Department at CKHA, where she felt a tremendous amount of support. She remembers the comfort she felt from a caring nurse sitting at her bedside after her surgery and the support she received from compassionate staff in the Spiritual Care department.
“It feels like another family has been looking after me and that is something. I didn’t really know what to expect because hospitals can be cold and scary,” said Barbara. “I think what surprised me was the genuine concern. If they would see me on a day when my colour wasn’t just right, they would ask ‘Are you okay? Do you need anything?’”
On February 20th, Barbara completed her last round of chemo and celebrated by participating in a virtual 5k run in support of Shift Youth Group in Smiths Falls. She also received a surprise from the staff at Wendy’s in Chatham, where she frequently goes for lunch with friends.
“I walked in and they had homemade cupcakes ready, they bought us our lunch and they celebrated and partied with us. And I thought, that’s just the way our whole community has been,” smiled Barbara.
Barbara’s husband, Larry, has also been at her side, taking time off work and staying home with her during the days she needed it most.
“I wouldn’t trade him for the world, he’s been absolutely wonderful through it all,” contemplated Barbara.
Barbara credits making a lifestyle change in 2011, prior to her diagnosis, in helping her fight the cancer. Due to her type 2 diabetes, she became frustrated about her weight and went on a heavy regime of exercise and became more conscious about the foods she was eating.
“I’m so glad that I got healthy because I was much more able to fight. I wouldn’t have been able to fight it without going for that healthiness which is something I think our community really needs to hear,” Barbara said.
In the future, Barbara would like to do advocacy and patient work by supporting patients and their families who are dealing with breast cancer.
“If I can help one woman, even one man, one family going through it, to me that’s what matters,” Barbara explained.
“I refuse to be called a survivor, I’m a breast cancer thriver. Surviving you’re just there, you’re just going to make it. Thriving, you’re fighting. You know it’s going to sound crazy but I wouldn’t change the experience for anything. It’s grown my faith, it’s grown my marriage, it’s grown me as a person, and it’s taught me who I am,” concluded Barbara.