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Helen and MSH cancer nurses.

It was a cold January. After the holidays, people were back at work, looking forward to the year ahead. But that wasn’t the case for Helen Lennon and her four grown children. They were preparing to say goodbye to a dear husband, a loving father.

That January, Helen's husband was in the last days of his fight with glioblastoma – an aggressive type of brain cancer. For the past 20 months, the five of them cared for him at home until he passed away on the 24th.

That January was also when she discovered the lump in her breast.

"I didn’t think much about it at first – I had just had a mammogram in August and figured it was likely one of my ribs," says Helen. "It was very small and I had a lot on my mind. As the winter crept by, the lump got bigger."

In April, she made an appointment with her family doctor to get it checked out. My doctor immediately sent Helen to Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) for a mammogram and ultrasound. She didn’t want to scare her but was obviously concerned and wrote “urgent” on the requisition form.

The ultrasound results led to a biopsy. Helen remembers being very nervous about the procedure. But the amazing staff made everything painless. On the day she got her results, Helen brought her daughter, Liz, to the appointment. When Liz heard the word cancer, she fell to pieces.

As Helen turned to comfort her, she knew what she must be thinking: "How do we go through this again?" As it turns out, the family would go through it with the expertise and compassion of Helen's care team at MSH who have been by her side from day one.

"From the moment I was diagnosed, I felt strong and positive," says Helen. "I believed my outcome would be different from my husband’s. I knew my team at MSH would do everything in their power to save my life. And they have. After my lumpectomy, my doctor sent the lump away for intensive testing. Based on the results – which showed the likelihood that my cancer would reoccur within five years without treatment – a targeted treatment plan was developed."

Helen had chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a special injection to prevent any residual cancer cells from spreading. She has also been going to the Breast Health Centre every six months for a bone strengthening drug.

"The incredible care I received at MSH made it easier to tell my family I had cancer," says Helen. "After just losing someone they loved to cancer, they needed to believe my journey wouldn’t end the same. Thanks to my care team, I could give them that hope."

Today, Helen is happy to say that she's doing great. Her latest mammogram was clear. And she's free to live her life, see my kids and spend time with my two grandchildren.

The Breast Health Centre is about to be relocated and renovated. We need your help to purchase new equipment, like an ultrasound machine and vital signs monitor to provide better health outcomes for all patients.

Help patients like Helen fight their cancer battle close to home. Your support helps buy the equipment the doctors need to treat patients like Helen and give them life-saving care. It will help ensure those of us diagnosed with cancer have access to the latest treatments and personalized care right here in our community.

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Helen and her family five months after she started chemotherapy.