Breast cancer Working towards a cure
Yellowknife rallies against breast cancer

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (OCT 30/96) - Liza Gaudet is a survivor. Four years ago doctors diagnosed the grandmother and mother of four with breast cancer.

Thanks to early detection and painful therapy, the sometimes deadly condition no longer controls her life, but it still affects her every time she looks at one of her three daughters or her granddaughter.

Gaudet refused to say she's cured, although she admitted that "so far, there's no more cancer."

National statistics suggest that woman are more likely to develop breast cancer if more than one close relative has it.

She worries about her daughters and grandchild and won't simply stood by to let the chips fall where they may.

Gaudet helped organize Sunday's Run For the Cure, a five-year-old national activity held in select cities across Canada to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research.

This is the first year the event has been held in Yellowknife. Despite just three weeks in the planning, it drew hundreds to the St. Patrick's high school gym, where the bulk of the day's activities took place.

"It gives me so much hope," said Gaudet. "It makes me see that I'm not alone in this."

Head organizer Terry Chang said she didn't know if they'd draw more than 25 people on such short notice and was overwhelmed with the community response.

Other local women, some cured of their cancer, some still facing painful chemotherapy and radiation treatment that may rid them of their deadly burden, told their stories at the event's opening ceremony.

Chang reminded the crowd that despite the day's carnival-like atmosphere, they should pause to remember why the run is being held.

"I don't want us to lose sight - not even for one second - of the reason we are here today, and that is because of breast cancer," said Chang.

She explained that breast cancer strikes one in nine Canadian women, or 15,000 women every year.

And although the disease is curable, especially when detected early, more than 5,000 women die of breast cancer in Canada every year.

Surgeon Michael Haskins, who diagnoses and treats many Northern women who suffer from breast cancer, said one way women can minimize its effects is to conduct regular self-examinations.

"Early detection is key to any kind of cure for breast cancer," he said.

Haskins estimated that fully half the women he examines have never conducted one, much less regular, self-examinations.

"This to me seems almost unbelievable," he said.

Most of the women who gave testimonials at Sunday's gathering said they probably owed their lives to early detection.

Money raised by Yellowknife's Run for the Cure is already slated for the development of a comprehensive breast screening program for the North.

Organizers say they hope the program will be accessible to all Northern women in the hope that more lives may be saved.