By Niomi Pearson
A binder full of doctor referrals, pill regimens, pathology reports and other miscellaneous documents tell the story of Sandy Przada’s two-year journey with breast cancer.
One hand-scribbled note indicates directions to the store where she purchased her first wig after chemotherapy, while a calendar of radiation dates notes not only the appointment time but also the friend or family member who accompanied her for support.
Although it has been nearly 11 years since the diagnosis, Przada keeps the binder as a reminder of her journey.
“I forget every little detail of treatment – like before my radiation treatment I had to have three little dots tattooed on me so that the radiation would be placed exactly where it needed to be every time.
“When I look back at my binder I can’t believe I had gone through all of that,” she said. “I think it upsets me more now than when I was going through it.”
The diagnosis came in November 2004, after Przada, then 37, discovered the tell-tale lump and inquired about it during a regular checkup. First came the ultrasound, and then a needle biopsy which confirmed Przada had Stage 3 breast cancer.
She recalls it felt like a death sentence. Along with her husband Keith, they toiled over having to break the news to their three boys.
“You hit a wall, almost like you don’t believe it,” she said. “After a little while, I went ‘you know what, this is just a little bump in the road, I just have to do what I have to do and I can move on.’”
By mid-December, Przada was on the surgery table, where surgeons performed a full mastectomy on the left side and removed a two centimetre mass.
After Christmas with the family, Przada started six months of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of daily radiation in Victoria.
“It takes a toll on your body,” she said. “With the chemo, you feel sick, and it’s like a constant hangover.”
Przada continued to see her oncologist for two years, and now has annual checkups and mammograms. Regular biking, walking and eating well have become part of Przada’s prevention strategy. She said once you have experienced breast cancer, it is hard to shake the fear of it returning.
“It doesn’t come often, but when you hear of a case, it brings you back and you think ‘nobody is safe,’ it could happen to anyone, it could happen to me again,” she said. “So it’s always in the back of my mind.”
On Sunday (Oct. 4), Przada will be one of many local breast cancer survivors to participate in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure in Nanaimo.
Although she had completed the run in years preceding her diagnosis, Przada has since participated every year.
“My boys come and do it with me, and my youngest brother who is not a runner at all makes it a point every year to come and do it with me,” she said. “It’s easy to do and it’s a good event. It’s fun to be there.”
This year’s event will take place at Beban Park. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., with the walk/run to follow at 10 a.m.
For more information, please visit www.cibcrunforthecure.com.