MaryAnn Bradley

My life has not been an easy one. I lost my father, sister and first husband within five years of each other. My father died of lung cancer and my sister of pancreatic cancer. I knew I had a strong family history for cancer but never really felt it would affect me. Afterall, I was doing everything I could to take care of myself. Living a healthy lifestyle and enjoying life as a wife, mother, and grandmother and loving every minute of it.

In early 2014, I developed a radiating pain in my left carotid artery. I thought I was developing heart disease. My family physician was wonderful. He sent me for every test possible; Stress test, Echocardiogram, MUGA scan, Carotid ultrasound, ECG and bloodwork. Everything came back negative for any heart disease. So, I decided I would just live with the pain. However, in August of 2014 the pain worsened and I needed to know once and for all what was causing it. I went to the Emergency Department where I was admitted.

I begged the cardiologist to keep investigating as previous testing had been inconclusive. Further heart tests were done, including a chest x-ray, angiogram, and another MUGA scan. Low and behold the chest x-ray, showed a spot. After having a CT scan it was conclusive, they believed it was cancer.

What a blow! I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I wanted so badly to just throw up, however I had to be cool, after all, I couldn’t show weakness. I was tough and strong and for that first few minutes, I felt that they were wrong or could be wrong. There is always hope, right? Perhaps they were wrong. The biopsy confirmed I had NSCLC.  A 2.5 cm Adenocarcinoma in the upper lobe of my right lung. From that moment on my world was shattered. The only thing I knew about lung cancer was that my father had died of it 24 years before. I was dying, at least that is what resonated with me, and that was the only thing I could think about.

I was referred to a thoracic surgeon who told me that I was a candidate for surgery and they would be taking out the tumour via VATS procedure, (Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a type of thoracic surgery performed using a small video camera that is introduced into the patient's chest via small incisions). And that was that. Just cut it out and things would be great, or that is how the doctors made it sound. They were very confident, but all I could think about was that I was dying and there was no help for me. My recovery went very well. I had little pain and felt very well overall. I was back into getting on with my life within four weeks. However, it bothered me that I was never offered any educational materials; I wasn’t told about mutations or staging after surgery. I was told absolutely nothing other than this was their plan and would be followed up in three months time.

I have a very strong faith in God and I asked him to intervene and take over the driving on this. I simply was not strong enough to take all of it in. I promised that if I lived through the surgery and recovery, I would continue to do His will. I would help others with lung cancer to learn and understand more about their disease and I would educate myself so I could share what I had learned and gone through.

My story is one of persistence, self-advocacy and early diagnosis. It has been five years since that miserable day when I found out I had lung cancer, and I am happy to say that through God’s grace and surgery I can now give back to the Lung Cancer community in the many ways I had hoped to. I am a proud Lung Cancer advocate and I remain very happy to help others who are going through this frightening diagnosis. I have a special interest in Early Diagnosis in Lung Cancer.

It is because of this very scary disease that I have made some truly wonderful friends who also have lung cancer. Many have shared in my goal to build a Canadian Lung Cancer Support community, which began with the creation of a Facebook group for Canadians with Lung Cancer called, “Canadian Lung Cancer Advocacy - Breathe Hope.” Our group is slowly building and offers support to lung cancer patients and caregivers from coast to coast in Canada.

MaryAnn Bradley
Lung Cancer Advocate
MaryAnn is an avid lung cancer advocate and has been a member of the Lung Cancer Canada family for many years. She is a member of our programs committee and a peer-to-peer support group mentor. We thank MaryAnn for her support, advocacy and passion. #HopeUnites