Butson: Finding hope for others during my life’s most challenging time

By Katherine Butson
October 24, 2013

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One year ago last month, I accidently discovered a lump.

I was misdiagnosed four times before finally being diagnosed in January with a rare, aggressive breast cancer. Following an unsuccessful surgery to remove the cancer, I began aggressive chemotherapy treatments in February. These eight treatments were to sweep my body of cancer cells and prevent them from returning.


On the eve of my fourth treatment, I was informed I was the recipient of diluted drugs for each of my first three treatments — not the news any cancer patient wants to receive, and news that haunts me every day.

This summer, I had major surgery, after which I learned I would have to have radiation treatments over a six-week period. My journey has been long, arduous and beyond frightening.

Breast cancer has not only terribly affected me over the past year it has affected everyone who loves me.

I wish to have my former life back. The cancer-free life when I could be a terrific, active mom to my son; a caregiver, friend and companion to my fiancé; and a helpful, involved person to those I love. 

I wish to have my independence back.

I wish to leave cancer behind.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I would like to bring everyone’s attention to this nasty, humiliating and sometimes deadly disease.

This year alone, more than 23,000 Canadian women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  I want everyone, women and men alike, to realize the importance of performing monthly self-exams. If I hadn’t found that lump when I did, it is most likely I wouldn’t be writing this article now.

I wasn’t a self-examiner and I found that lump accidently. It is vitally important to realize the necessity to check oneself.

So please, ladies, remember to check yourselves monthly. And, gentlemen, please remind your ladies to do so.

You may save the life of someone you love.

On Sunday, Oct. 6, I participated in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s CIBC Run for the Cure in London’s Victoria Park because breast cancer has changed my life forever.

Team Katherine Butson was the idea of a mere acquaintance of mine, whom I now call a friend, to participate in the run with the intention of heightening breast cancer awareness and raising money to help find a cure. I’m honoured she supported me in this way. I’m touched by all who joined my team, including colleagues from the Faculty of Education and Western as a whole. I’m indebted to those who made donations and, by doing so, gave me the gift of hope. 

Every donation counts and no donation is too small. Those donations move the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, cbcf.org, closer to achieving its vision of creating a future without breast cancer.

When I think about how breast cancer has changed me forever, and those who will be diagnosed this year in Canada, it feels good to know I’m doing something, along with the other members of Team Katherine Butson, to change those statistics through my participation, fundraising and by learning more about breast cancer. My team raised just under $32,000 for this important cause and donations continue to come in.

On Friday, my doorbell rang and I was presented with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundations 2013 Determination Award for being the second highest individual fundraiser in London. This award inspires me to beat breast cancer and move forward to a life filled with hope and much better times.

I’m very grateful for everyone’s support and incredibly proud of the success of my team of supporters. 

You can make a difference, too. With your support, the foundation will continue funding breast cancer research, education, awareness, advocacy and health promotion initiatives across the country, aimed to significantly reduce the burden in Canada.

During the most challenging time of my life, while fighting to survive breast cancer, I learned that with tenacity and faith, one truly can turn lemons into lemonade.

Katherine Butson, BA’88, has managed The Althouse Press at the Faculty of Education since 1986.  She currently remains on medical leave. 


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