October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In Canada, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. This year alone, that’s ~28,000 Canadians who will be diagnosed with the disease. The stark numbers are a reminder to do your monthly at-home exams, book your mammogram and stay on top of your health.
While research is paying off (we now know there are 50+ types of breast cancer alone) more needs to be done to customize patient care for the best possible outcomes. Not every cancer diagnosis is the same, so not all treatment plans should be either.
A broadcaster constantly in the spotlight for The Weather Network, Kim MacDonald is a Survivor and Thriver. After completing treatment, including a double mastectomy, the TV personality found a new way to cope post-op. I caught up with her to chat about this new future for breast cancer survivors.
BLAZING TRAILS, AGAINST ALL ODDS, KIM’S BREAST CANCER STORY
Libby Roach: Being in the public eye when you’re going through something so visibly brutal is a challenge in and of itself. How did your coworkers and family support you?
Kim MacDonald: The beautiful thing about being public about breast cancer is that it doesn’t put the burden of support on just one person; a spouse or a friend for example. Instead, I had family, friends, coworkers and even strangers all giving a little bit. That turned out to be a tsunami of support.
For every chemo visit, I had someone different sit with me. My husband had to continue working so he came the first time and I told him that was all I needed. Friends and family members took turns showing up for me and I got to have real meaningful conversations with each one as I sat in that chair, sometimes for hours.
I would receive a bouquet of flowers, and the moment it would wilt, a new one would show up, never from the same person and all throughout my 8 months of treatment.
My work family came through for me time and again, visiting, and sending cards, and baskets of goodies. People would cook healthy food for me and drop it off.
It felt less burdensome to share with multiple people rather than just one. It made me realize how spectacularly good people can be and I felt blessed to have so many in my life.
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS: KNOW MORE
LR: Your tattoos are so beautiful. Where did you first see this as an option and can you speak to the non-conventional approach versus surgery? Did you have any people in your circles trying to talk you out of it?
KM: The tattoo idea came to me a couple of months into treatment. I had initially thought that I would have reconstructive surgery (implants) after my bilateral mastectomy like the majority of women do. My oncologist cautioned me to wait at least three years, telling me that he was worried that if my cancer resurfaced, we might not catch it early enough if I had the surgery. It was at that moment I decided to stay flat and forego the whole idea of brand-new, gravity-defying boobs. It wasn’t worth my life.
A close friend told me that some women have tattoos done on their chest instead, and I immediately started to Google. I was in awe. This, I could get behind and it was something I could look forward to. Because of radiation, I thought I would wait and let my skin heal. In the end, I waited 5 years. I decided that 5 years almost to the day of my surgery, I would cover the area with a sunflower tattoo. I loved the saying “Be a sunflower, stand strong and follow the sun.” It helped me through some dark days during treatment.
I found a tattoo artist in Burlington named Julia Bell who runs a studio called “Atomic Cherry Tattoo” with only women on staff. It was the perfect spot. The tattoo felt life-changing. I have had a hard time loving what I looked like since cancer and this was a true turning point. It made me feel strong and beautiful.
PAINTED LADY, STRONG IS BEAUTIFUL
LR: Going forward, how do your tattoos effect your clothing choices- are you more apt to show off your skin or do you prefer to keep them private? Has your style changed since the addition of your body art?
KM: I rarely show my body art. Most people had no idea I had it done, but I wanted survivors to know that it was an option for them and so I participated in Breast Cancer Canada’s “Know More” campaign. I went from keeping it private to appearing on billboards. But to be honest, nothing about it embarrasses me. I love it and want other women to feel like I do.
As far as clothing goes, I have mostly avoided plunging necklines because of the absence of cleavage but now with my tattoo, I might just seek them out.
Now in its 30th year, Breast Cancer Canada is dedicated to the support and research to advance To learn more about Breast Cancer Canada, please check out their website.