LONG RIVER – When Misty-Lynn Caseley’s phone rang on March 9, she wasn’t surprised.
Caseley had been waiting for a call from her doctor and it came during her daughter; Charisma’s eighth birthday supper.
“It all happened so fast. I found out that I had breast cancer on her birthday,” said Caseley, a 48-year-old Long River resident.
Her battle began in January during a checkup with her doctor. Caseley had recently changed her lifestyle and lost 80 pounds.
During the appointment her doctor found the first lump. Thinking it was nothing, she was sent for a precautionary mammogram.
They found a cancerous tumour.
While receiving the news from her doctor, Charisma, who was in the room with her parents, raised her hand to ask a question.
“Is she going to die?” asked Charisma.
A lumpectomy was conducted on April 1, and when they went in they found two more tumours.
“It’s unheard of. Only about two per cent of people have more than one tumour at a time,” said Caseley.
“One of them was a highly aggressive form of ductal breast cancer. There were two separate tumours. One of them was considered a high grade,” she explained.
A second lumpectomy was conducted in June in an effort to save the breast.
Caseley is the head chef at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, and she didn’t want to miss out on a busy season in the kitchen.
“When the second lumpectomy results came in, my doctor said there as no way to save the breast and that I had to go in for an emergency full-right mastectomy.”
The mastectomy happened in mid-July, forcing her to take four weeks off.
She began chemotherapy on Aug. 16. There were four rounds of chemo, which made her ill, extremely tired and her hair began to fall out.
By September, Caseley couldn’t continue to work, and she was put in isolation for an infection that caused her white blood cell levels to drop drastically.
“I was too sick to return for the rest of the season.”
Cancer runs in the family, she said.
“I’ve lost family members to cancer. My father died in 2015 suddenly of a serious form of cancer.”
Charisma added, “Cancer takes all the nice people.”
While the main reason she continued to work was for the love of her job, Caseley knew they needed the financial support.
Her husband works out West, but with her diagnosis, he had to come home to take care of her and Charisma.
“It wasn’t so much the money. I loved my job. I’ve been there since 2009. I keep calling it my kitchen.”
A benefit was held on Dec. 9, which was organized by her friends Maggie and Samantha.
“If it wasn’t for Sam and Maggie helping out, I don’t know what we would have done.”
People from work and the community showed up, despite the snowy weather, she added.
“I was stunned. There were so many people. They were very generous. One of Charisma’s friends even bid $20 on a bag of bread rolls.”
Now Caseley doesn’t have to worry about providing a normal Christmas this year.
“We’re going to have a great Christmas. We would have made the best of it either way, because it isn’t about financial things, but we were worried how we were going to afford the season and everyday necessities.”
Charisma has handled it like a trooper, said Caseley.
“She came into the original appointment because we don’t believe in hiding this from her. She’s very intelligent and is very mature. Being a girl I felt it was important she was involved in the process.”
She’s also made a comic book about her mom’s battle with cancer.
“It was inspired by Captain Underpants,” said Charisma with a laugh.
Caseley added, “I’m called Breast Cancer Warrior. I’m bald, but I’ve got a headband and a cape. I’ve got breast powers. I’ve got an arch nemesis and I kick their butt,” she added with a chuckle and a shake of her head.
With her eyes welling up, “She’s made me a hero not a victim,” said Caseley.
Charisma says she’s going to have a great Christmas and it was nice that so many wanted to help her family.
The eight-year-old said, “I hope everyone has a good Christmas, because we’re going to have one. Everyone deserves to have a merry day; everything is peaceful on Christmas.
“I like seeing people happy. And it feels good to help others. It’s so nice people wanted to see us happy.”
Caseley says there is an 80 per cent recurrence rate that the cancer will return, this time in her left breast. She is currently mulling over a precautionary mastectomy on that breast.
“I’m don’t want to have to worry every day if it’s going to come back.”
Five Fast Facts about Breast Cancer in 2017
–According to the Canadian Cancer Society:
– 26,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, representing 25 per cent of all new cancer cases in women
– 5,000 women will die from breast cancer, representing 13 per cent of all cancer deaths in women in 2017.
– On average, 72 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day
– On average, 14 Canadian women will die from breast cancer every day
– 230 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 will die from breast cancer