Strength from within
Maureen Lyons fought breast cancer with calm

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 27/99) - Maureen Lyons glows after a quick afternoon workout. She looks healthy, and much younger than her 52 years. It would be difficult to guess Lyons used to have breast cancer.

Lyons, who has lived in Yellowknife 19 years, says she discovered a lump 10 years ago, during her monthly breast self-examination.

"It was a small lump. I found it myself and fortunately found it early," she says.

She says she immediately set up an appointment with her doctor.

"I stayed calm," she says.

"Even though I was advised it probably wasn't breast cancer, I wasn't surprised when it was."

October is Canada's Breast Health Month, and Lyons agreed to tell her story to spread awareness of the disease.

Between 1984 and 1994, 60 women out of every 100,000 in the Northwest Territories were diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the National Laboratory for Disease Control. This is much lower than the national average of 88 out of 100,000.

However, 20 out of the 60 diagnosed cases per 100,000 women resulted in death. That's 33 per cent of all cases, which closely follows the national rate of 34 per cent.

Lyons was flown to Edmonton for a mammogram and diagnosis by a breast cancer specialist.

"I ultimately had a lumpectomy (removal of the lump from the breast)," she says.

"I waited for the results, and when they came back it was, indeed, a cancerous tumour."

Removing the cancer was only the beginning of fighting the disease. Even though Lyons' lump was relatively small, she was given radiation treatment to kill any possible leftover cancer cells in her breast.

"I underwent isolation radiation surgery. Large surgical needle were implanted in the area where the tumour was," she says, touching the upper left part of her chest with her fist.

"Then I was hooked up to a machine that looked like a squat black vacuum, which fired radiation pellets down the needles to the site."

Lyons says she didn't panic or worry during her ordeal. She says the experience of being treated for breast cancer was not a negative one for her because of her family and her faith in God.

"I had such wonderful support from Blake (my husband) and the children and friends," Lyons says. "Even though I was sometimes alone, I was never really alone."

She says she encourages any woman diagnosed with breast cancer to educate herself on the disease.

"I encourage them to get as much information as possible, so they can be proactive in their own care," Lyons says.

"And I encourage them to connect to those people in their life who will be a support for them."