Brenda Johima, an extraordinarily talented artist, photographer and graphic designer who I've had the privilege to work with, was diagnosed in April 2014, with a breast cancer diagnosis of an invasive high grade 3/3 cancer with lymphatic space invasion.
She lives rural, so has to travel regularly to treatment, as well as pay for out of town accommodations, all her regular bills, dog care, and other added expenses in a larger city centre for breast cancer treatment.
She is not able to work.(as advised by her medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and regular GP)
BC Cancer Agency Lodges cost $55.00 per day. Hotels cost $100.00 or more per night, even with a medical/compassionate hotel rate.
For radiation alone, that’s an added $1100.00 for one month (5 days per week) in Victoria for the BC Cancer Agency Lodge. The lodge is only open 5 days per week, so Brenda has to find hotel or other accommmodations on the weekends for her and her standard poodle, to avoid driving the tiring 3.5 hour drive home and back, in between radiation treatments. In addition, she needs to pay for dog boarding and walking during this one month for her standard poodle Teddy.
Although she is aiming for a speedy cure, IF Brenda’s breast cancer journey is longer, she would like to relocate closer to Victoria, one of BC's major treatment centres.
As a solo home based entrepreneur, she's been advised to prepare for "a long haul" as a "possible one year journey for treatment, recovery and healing from breast cancer."
Thank you for visiting and for your support. Any little bit financially that you can give, will help to make things a bit easier on her journey.
Here is Brenda's story, in her own words:
“Hi. I’m Brenda Johima, and I’m 53 years old. I’ve never had to write about myself having breast cancer before. I’ve been trying to write about this for weeks. I’d like to give you the basics:
On April 17th, 2014, I was given a breast cancer diagnosis.
It was an invasive grade 3/3 cancer.
I found a lump in my right breast in December 2013, and went immediately to a walk-in clinic, as my doctor was away. After examination, was told that definitely there was a lump there and the physician ordered an “urgent” mammogram and ultrasound. This was December 24th. Merry Christmas 2013 to me.
The mammogram came back that I needed an “urgent” breast biopsy.
So from December 24th, 2013 to April 2nd, 2014, I waited and waited and waited (for many reasons) for my breast biopsy. Let’s just say there were many glitches and I fell through a few cracks in the medical system. It worked out in the end, as I was grateful for the surgeon that I have, and for the procedure that they did. I just hope they have caught it in time.
The biopsy came back as a grade 3, invasive breast cancer, with lymphatic space invasion present. The margins were positive for an invasive cancer. (this isn't good)
On April 30th I had an excisional breast biopsy under general anesthesia in Comox, British Columbia, Canada, on April 2nd, 2014. I had a fabulous surgeon. I’m grateful I had an excisional biopsy, rather than via the usual method.
I don’t think anybody was expecting this, as I’ve lived a healthy and active lifestyle for most of my life, have never even tried a cigarette, and generally eat very healthy foods, walk 5-10K daily, am an avid lake, pool and ocean swimmer, and have done whatever I could to minimize risk factors, with the life I lived.
Cancer hits anybody at random, apparently.
Since the biopsy I have also had “breast conserving surgery” … a lumpectomy, as well as a sentinel node biopsy.
A couple of weeks after surgery, I was told by the surgeon that the results were “good news” and that they think they “got it all” however, I still require radiation to make sure all of the cancer is gone, and hopefully to help prevent a reoccurrence.
On June 9, 2014 (when I initially wrote this) I was in a medical system holding tank.
Except for wait times, which are lengthy, every step of the way, my care had been superb to date, with my surgeon, the walk-in clinic physician, and the hospital. I feel blessed to live in British Columbia and to have a medical system like we do. My own doctor, unfortunately, made many mistakes. *I am looking for a new (regular) doctor. (*revised: I found a new doctor! she is fabulous)
The current wait is for upcoming appointments in Victoria, at the BC Cancer Agency, with a medical oncologist (chemotherapy) and radiation oncologist. I understand that I’m also down for hormonal therapy as well.
So, three possible treatments are upcoming, which for many breast cancer patients, add up to about one year out of a lifetime. (so I’ve been told)
There is a very strong possibility that I need chemotherapy and hormone therapy. I know for sure I need radiation therapy, to hopefully prevent a reoccurrence. I am told that I can choose to accept or decline these “standard of care for breast cancer patients” treatments.
There are many, many alternative treatments and possibilities out there for a full recovery and cure, if one has lots of funds, is wealthy, and/or has a super strong mindset and intention (I am told) to beat cancer forever.
Lacking any extra funds, I’m dependent on my mindset and traditional/regular care which is covered by BC Medical.
I’m doing my best to kick cancer!
(**Revised September 22, 2014 : I DID need all 3 treatments, and I have completed 3 rounds of chemotherapy to date, with a 4th and final chemotherapy treatment shortly. Then I will commence radiation in October for almost 4 weeks, and hormonal therapy will follow also, for 5 years or more**)
What is NOT covered by BC Medical? Lots.
I live rural, and radiation is only done in a few major centres in B.C. Victoria is my first choice.
Living in an isolated community, I would like to stay in one of the BC Cancer Lodges so that I have the social, emotional and medical supports I need. So I have to come up with $1100-$1540 for a month ($55/day) to stay at one of the BC Cancer Agency lodges during radiation treatment. Radiation is done every day, Monday to Friday. (Victoria cancer lodge is closed on weekends, but Kelowna is open 7 days per week, hence the difference in price)
Chemotherapy is performed every three weeks. Radiation is done every day, Monday to Friday.
(Sadly, due to the distance she lives away from a treatment centre, she'll also have to be away from her one year old standard poodle Teddy for long periods of time and wants to make sure that she can pay for his doggie daycare, boarding and daily walks and care so he is well taken care of so she has peace of mind and can focus on a full recovery and cure.)
“So, what ABOUT Brenda Johima? Who is she?
Brenda had recently closed her home based graphic design business (before she found out she had cancer) as she had done it from 2002-2013 and was eager to change careers and to have colleagues, to be part of a team, get a day job nearer a larger city centre (she lives rural in Fanny Bay) so that she could find better (and more) employment, meet new people and friends and to begin life anew, perhaps in Victoria.
Then cancer hit. Everything has been on hold since.
Prior to all of this? She's had an interesting life!
She's been a singer, a professional music therapist, a counsellor, family advancement worker, child care worker, program coordinator (numerous times), a flea control sales woman (yes) and pet supplies store cashier, a lifeguard and swim instructor, fitness and aerobics instructor, a public speaker and workshop facilitator, artist, graphic designer, on and on, more and more. Ask!
She values creativity and kindness and I loves nature, animals, wildlife, pets, DOGS (LOVES dogs). She believes in watching out for the underdog, and in stepping in to take action to protect others from bullies (zero tolerance for bullies), and Brenda has been a volunteer for conferences, festivals, and with persons with disabilities. She has volunteered her photography services for SPCA and other rescue organization special events, donated poster designs for special causes, worked with suicide prevention and saved lives that deserved to be saved, and finally, as a lifeguard, she saved many many lives, which to this day, she is proud.
I hope this gives you a small glimpse into a piece of Brenda's life and we are asking for your support, love and prayers, as she navigates this breast cancer journey to a full cure, so that in life, she THRIVES.
Kindness, Love and Light Make The World A Better Place. — Brenda Johima"
To learn more about Brenda and her journey, visit her at http://brendajohima.ca/about