Linda Hillier’s life changed forever on May 4, 2016.
It’s the day the mother of two and grandmother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer after discovering a lump in her breast.
Hillier’s cancer journey included a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
During her cancer battle, the Pasadena resident stayed at Daffodil Place on three occasions. Operated by the Canadian Cancer Society-NL Division, the 24-room facility is for cancer patients and their caregivers who must travel to St. John’s for cancer-related appointments.
“They provide your meals and the rooms are just beautiful. If you don’t have a vehicle, they will take you to all of your appointments and pick you up when you’re finished. There’s a room there to watch TV or to socialize. It’s just amazing,” she said.
The Canadian Cancer Society has been there for her at every turn, she said, adding the society was “a ray of sunshine” through it all.
“Cancer can be quite the (financial) burden. The Canadian Cancer Society can help you with special bras, other special clothing, special wigs. ... They have people you can call and talk to one-on-one. You can drop by anytime if you have questions and you’re met with a smile,” she said.
Throughout her cancer battle, Hillier said, her husband, Tony, was her rock. Her daughters and granddaughters were also a great support, she said.
As well, she said, she got great support from other members of the breast friends cancer support group in Corner Brook.
Hillier battled cancer by staying positive and having a sense of humour — a journey that continues today as she goes through breast reconstruction.
Hillier would like people to know that you can still have a great life after a cancer diagnosis. There are many supports available, she said, through the Canadian Cancer Society.
Hillier has advice for other women: have your mammograms, and if you feel anything out of the norm in your breast, see a doctor for further investigation.
Hillier is open and confident talking about her cancer journey. It’s a way to help others, she said.
“If I save one person, that’s one person that didn’t die,” she said.
Amanda Mansfield, health promotion co-ordinator with the Canadian Cancer Society, said practical supports to cancer patients are available, including breast prostheses, wigs, turbans, hats, specialty bras and blankets, as well as cancer-related information kits.
Since 2011, the program has reached 70 communities in Western Newfoundland, helping a total of 1,830 people.
“In Western Newfoundland, we’ve given (free-of-charge) 5,916 items,” she said.
The society also offers transportation assistance programs, online and telephone support and contributes to numerous volunteer-led support groups throughout the province.
As well, Mansfield said, the society’s health promotion program provides various presentations within the community, thanks to initiatives such as its Daffodil Campaign, which runs the month of April.
Mansfield said it costs $30 a night for someone battling cancer to stay at Daffodil Place and an additional $20 for the person’s caregiver, for a total of $50. The amount includes not only accommodation but meals and transportation to and from cancer-related appointments.
It costs $100-plus a night to run Daffodil Place, she said, but the society can offer the lower cost thanks to generous support garnered through fundraising efforts, including the daffodil campaign.
Since Daffodil Place opened in July 2009, people from 101 communities in the Western region have stayed at the facility. As of March 31, 2019, that’s 1,966 people who were able to use the service from those communities for a total of 26,448 nights.
About the campaign
In addition to fresh daffodils, people can also buy daffodil pins at any Scotiabank branch during April.
The daffodil is a resilient flower that survives the harsh winter and is the first flower to bloom in spring, Mansfield said.
“Through this symbol of hope and renewal, we are able to provide these support programs to make life better for those affected by cancer,” Mansfield said.
A cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to define a person, she said, adding that life is bigger than cancer.
“Our goal is to improve cancer as an experience by helping people live longer and enhancing their quality of life as they are living with cancer,” she said.