By: Danette Dooley
Kerry Churchill aims to give back to those struggling with breast cancer
Author and motivational speaker John Maxwell once said “People may hear your words but they feel your attitude.” During an interview at a local coffee shop in St. John’s on August 14, Kerry Churchill’s attitude is as palpable as her smile.
Her bright blue eyes – the colour of the ocean. Perhaps, not unlike the ocean near the beach where she was doing yoga in August 2015 – only to find a lump in her breast later in the evening.
Churchill was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.While she answers questions about her battle with cancer, Churchill isn’t focused on herself. It’s her mother who fills her every thought.
Marie Gladney – who battled both breast and uterine cancer –would soon be admitted to a local palliative care unit for end-of-life care.
Churchill talked about memorable times she shared with her mom over the years… how her mom “cried and cried” when (Churchill) was diagnosed with cancer… of flying to Alberta with her sister to surprise their mother. Churchill’s treatment included chemotherapy and a bi-lateral mastectomy.
“In three years I’ve had eight surgeries, but I got through it all,” she said in her glass half-full rather than half-empty approach to life.
Churchill is a single parent. Kyle and Kendra are now in their twenties. She recalled how, in January 2018, Kyle took her to dinner and a movie before leaving on his first tour with the military. During the movie, she said, something told her to touch her neck.
‘I’m Not the Average’
When she did, she said, she felt something there. She knew instinctively that the cancer was back. A biopsy confirmed that her breast cancer had metastasized to her lymph nodes.
“With metastatic breast cancer prognosis it’s two-three years survival. That’s the average life span… I looked at (the doctor) and said, ‘But, I’m not the average and I’m going to beat this.’”
The doctor suggested chemotherapy. After taking time to think about whether or not she wanted to take the drug, Churchill decided to have nine chemo treatments.
“I do a lot of natural things as well. And I totally believed (the chemotherapy) was going to work.”
And it did. Her diagnostic tests have determined that there is no evidence of disease (or NED for short). Because she has metastatic cancer, she said, she will never be told she’s cancer free.
“There’s no evidence of disease and I’m definitely going to stay that way.”
In addition to her natural remedies and her chemotherapy, Churchill thinks her positive attitude has helped her in the battle with cancer.
“You have to dig deep and look at the joy in every day and be grateful. And I did,” she said. While meditating one day, Churchill decided she needed to do something to help other people along their cancer journey.
“I’d struggled so hard financially and you don’t need that when you are fighting for your life. So I kept thinking – what could I do to pay it forward. And then I thought Breastless and Beautiful!”
Churchill thought about the beautiful women she’d met who had faced similar struggles with breast cancer.
“Then I thought to myself I’m going to make a calendar and I’m going to raise a lot of money for people in this province (battling cancer).”
Churchill talked about her idea with stylist Dana Metcalfe of Salt Box Studio who hosts a “Karma Day” for people with cancer.
“I told her how Breastless and Beautiful had come to me and how I wanted to do a calendar but had no idea how.”
Metcalfe was quick to come onboard with the project. “She built this team Women Into Networking Kindness (WINK) and off we went,” an enthusiastic Churchill explained.
WINK was created to support and uplift the community through active participation by volunteerism, fundraising, and acts of kindness for people in need. Metcalfe serves as WINK president; Kathy Pretty is vice-president and project coordinator and Irene Batstone heads finance and administration.
WINK’s first project is Breastless and Beautiful – a 2019 calendar showcasing Churchill and other resilient breast cancer survivors. The calendar will launch September 9 with proceeds from the sale of the calendar going to the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre’s Patient and Family Support Fund.
Churchill said her mother was to be in the photo shoot with her, but she had a fall the day of the shoot and was unable to take part. However, she said her mother believed wholeheartedly in the project and in her belief that Churchill would win her battle with cancer.
“Mom was always so positive. She told me that I had beaten cancer once and that I was going to beat it again. They gave her two months to live last July (2017)… she’s now in her 14th month. And I feel blessed that Mom has been here for me throughout my battle.”
Marie Gladney passed away on Aug. 21 – a week after this interview took place. She was 64 years old.
For more information on the calendar visit www.breastlessandbeautiful.ca or search Breastless & Beautiful on Facebook.