An important year bringing many changes
With panel events including a round table on environmental health, our 30th anniversary, workshop development, a big year for the reform of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act including our appearance as a witness before the Senate committee who studied the bill, op-eds in the Montreal Gazette and La Presse and our diverse mobilizations, launch of the new Cost of Illness website, many collaborations and invitations to present our work with other organizations, and the integration of our colleagues, Ama Maria Anney and Catherine Poitras, and much else, the year 2021-2022 has been full to overflowing.
In addition to all this, it was our colleague Trish’s last year before retirement. Trish has been so important at BCAQ in so many ways, that the team was not looking forward to her retirement, as well-deserved as it was. It came sooner than expected when Trish took a bad fall in May and is still in rehabilitation. Work was immediately reorganized and, for now, we are a team of four, along with our active board and volunteers. You can read Trish’s account of her accident below. But all is not finished for Trish at BCAQ as we will have important sessions for knowledge transfer in the fall.
This is also the last year for three other very important people at BCAQ, board president, Nancy Guberman, vice-president, Lise Parent, and board member, Deborah Bonney. All three have contributed to BCAQ through a wide variety of important work and will no doubt continue volunteer (we don’t let people go easily!). We will celebrate the contributions of Trish, Nancy, Lise and Deborah at our AGM in September.
To all members, allies and collaborators, we cannot thank you enough for your support and encouragement throughout the year. We have really felt sustained and part of a bigger movement in everything we undertook. And like almost everyone we meet, we are feeling the effects of a big year carried out during a pandemic. For that reason, we will be closing our office from July 18 to August 12. The whole team needs a serious rest.
But we will be back in mid-August preparing for the AGM and the upcoming year that already holds exciting new projects. We sincerely hope to be able to see you in person in September. And until then, take very good care.
Your team and board of Breast Cancer Action Quebec
Trish, Vio, Ama Maria, Catherine, Jennifer, Nancy, Lise, Elana, Elizabeth, Deborah, Sakina, Ariane
The misadventure of Patricia on Friday 13th
Our open letter published in La Presse
On International Women’s rights Day, researchers, women’s groups, health groups, local neighborhood groups, citizens of all origins are writing to you to say we have had enough with the proliferation of toxics, in our air - indoor and outdoor, our furnitures and some interior finishes in homes and offices, our clothes, our food, and in a range of personal care products that we use daily.
To curb or better stop this contamination, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which regulates toxic substances, must be reviewed.
Looking Ahead in 2022
Challenging the System
On December 9th we held a celebration of 30 years of uncompromising breast cancer prevention, of fighting toxics and of asking the tough questions.
What a night it was! We started with a virtual panel simply called Challenging the System. Our fabulous line up of guests wowed the audience with their presentations and Q&A, animated by the one and only Maguy Métellus whose presence made this special event even better than we had hoped for.
Working harder than ever for prevention. Please donate today.
By Patricia Kearns
In October, I had my annual mammogram and appointment with my breast surgeon and the experience got me thinking. It’s been six years since my lumpectomy that preceded weeks of chemo and radiation, treatments for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
Now, once again, the waiting room is full of anxious looking patients, young and older, wearing blue hospital gowns. Some women scroll through their phones, others watch YouTube and some just stare blankly ahead.
I remember when that was me, unable to do anything but panic inwardly, waiting for the results of the biopsy. Or two years later, to see if the treatments had worked.
The waiting room is where we are all sent once the question of cancer is raised.
It is where we wait to meet the surgeons, nurses and oncologists. It is where the radiation technicians and radiologists are. The psychologists, kinesiologists, and dieticians; they see us sitting here, in our blue bubbles, waiting for them or someone else.
This year Breast Cancer Action Quebec is celebrating thirty years of advocacy and public education for the prevention of breast cancer. Much has happened in the last thirty years that we are proud of, but what remains constant is that far too many are diagnosed every year with breast cancer.
We need to stop the flow of patients into the waiting rooms. It is estimated for 2021, on average, that 76 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day and 15 Canadian women will die from it every day. And globally, incidence of breast cancer is on the rise for both young and older women.
You know our thing is prevention: Stopping breast cancer before it starts. But why doesn’t prevention become our government’s thing, in the wake of an ever-expanding amount of scientific evidence linking toxic chemicals in our environment to the current high incidence of breast cancer? Why aren’t these chemicals better regulated and removed? How is it that Canada is so far behind the EU in this regard?
Research and Networking Advisor, Breast Cancer Action Quebec
Our Bodies, Our Environment
This spring we experimented by hosting three workshops on Zoom. A wide range of people from across Quebec, Canada and internationally participated in our interactive introduction to environmental health, Our Bodies, Our Environment: Women, Toxic Substances and the much-needed reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Participants included union activists, scientists, members and workers from women’s centres, environmental activists and more.
Feedback included: "Congratulations on the very high quality of your presentations." "I'm glad to see other people are interested in this long overdue reform of the laws that protect our part of our biosphere." "It gave me a good overview of the landscape and opened my eyes."
Curious to know where our participants joined us from? → Find the map here! ←
Think adverse environmental effects affect people equally? Ask these women
By Dr. Jane E. McArthur and Jennifer Beeman
This editorial was originally published in The Hill Times. It is reproduced here with permission.
Although the passage of time this past year sometimes felt like a stopped clock, the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic have provided us with a timely history lesson and an opportunity to shape the future.
Covid-19 has made clear how environments are connected to health by showing how individual actions cannot address all the conditions around us. The pandemic has also revealed the health effects of government policies and that specific populations of people disproportionately experience environmental health effects. Seniors, Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples, workers and children are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, illustrating health is nested in our living and working conditions. (Continue reading)
BCAQ in the News
Sounding the alarm on paper receipts
"A group that advocates for cancer prevention are sounding the alarm on paper receipts. They are saying that the paper they are made of contains a chemical that was potentially dangerous." Listen to the radio show on CBC Daybreak Montreal
Environmental groups applaud Loblaw's commitment to phase out receipts with phenol
"Jennifer Beeman, executive director of Breast Cancer Action Quebec, says bisphenols used in thermal paper are known endocrine disruptors and can be a significant source of exposure for women." Read the article by CTV News
Preventing Breast Cancer by Decarbonizing Our Lives
October Discussion Panel by Zoom
Wednesday, October 28 at 7pm
If you missed it, watch the recording below:
How can applying the lens of decarbonization illuminate the complex links between climate change and profoundly serious health impacts, including breast cancer, that can be traced back to fossil fuels?
People use the term “decarbonizing the economy” to refer to the process by which we can systemically remove fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) from the myriad of roles they play in driving our economy. Fossil fuels are used for so much more than burning for energy or to fuel transport. They are the primary components for producing plastics, fertilizers and pesticides and a vast range of other chemical products. They are also the source of a range of toxic chemicals that have become ubiquitous in modern life, particularly endocrine disrupting chemicals. Their use is deeply entrenched in our economy and our lives. We need to root them out permanently to protect the planet and human health.
Jane McArthur is a Ph.D. Candidate in the University of Windsor's Sociology - Social Justice Program. Her dissertation examines understandings of environmental breast cancer risk with women at the Windsor-Detroit border, a workplace where there is a suspected breast cancer cluster among female border agents, thought to be associated with high exposures to diesel exhaust. In addition, Jane undertakes a range of community-based research and regularly writes about the links between environment health threats and intersectional injustices.
Marlene Hale is a Wet’suwet’en woman born in Smithers, British Columbia. She is a chef by profession, living in Montreal and teaching cooking of healthy food for First Nation organizations. Marlene has recently found herself thrust into an anti-pipeline spokesperson role and activist for her community as she felt compelled to contribute to the anti-pipeline struggle back home.
Fe de Leon is a researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and has worked extensively on toxic substances; she has coordinated the efforts of member organizations of the Canadian Environmental Network Toxics Caucus and made numerous submissions regarding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, as well as risk assessment and risk management reports for specific toxic substances.
Rosanne Cohen (1957-2020)
photo by Patrizia Pino
Remembering ROSANNE COHEN 1957-2020
Tribute by Patricia Kearns
Research and Networking Advisor
Breast Cancer Action Quebec
It is with heavy hearts that we share with you the sad news that Rosanne Cohen died on July 16th, 2020. Rosanne was our friend, mentor, colleague and the first executive director of our organization. If you were lucky enough to meet her, you will not forget her.
Rosanne was a vivacious, insightful and truly warm person whose commitment to fighting toxics in our environment was deep. Her joyfulness was contagious, and it permeated all her work. No matter how serious the issue or tough the challenge, Rosanne infused the problem with her special brand of joie de vivre and the results were remarkable.
Rosanne began volunteering for Breast Cancer Action Montreal (BCAM) in 2008, joining the Speakers’ Bureau after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and received treatment for the first time.
She was soon invited to join the Board of Directors and, in 2010, was named our first Executive Director. She left a fulfilling career in film and television to advocate for women with breast cancer and join the fight for prevention.
Many salient BCAM moments happened under Rosanne’s leadership. A fierce advocate for young women’s voices in the safe cosmetics movement, Rosanne championed our youth project FemmeToxic alongside our then administrator, Janice Melanson.
She was a natural with our student interns and young volunteers and with her guidance, they transformed FemmeToxic into a peer-run collective. At their SOCK HOP fundraiser, Rosanne, always a kid at heart, was one of the last to leave the dance floor!
When our organization was living through a difficult financial period, Rosanne made a passionate pitch to the staff and Board proposing we use some of our diminishing funds and hire a feminist expert in youth affairs to write a grant application for our FemmeToxic project. A risky move, requiring a leap of faith, she convinced everyone that focusing on youth was the right thing to do. BCAM received the grant from Status of Women Canada which funded a two-year project to develop leadership within communities of marginalized youth, led by the new youth coordinator, Naïké Ledan.
Kellie Leitch, Minister for the Status of Women Canada comes to Montreal to award BCAM its grant cheque
Rosanne and her posse
A few months later we were awarded a grant from the Catherine Donnelly Foundation to support Prevention and Action against Cancer and Toxicants (PACT) a project in partnership with Environmental Defence Canada (EDC). At a meeting in Toronto with Maggie MacDonald, their Toxics Program Manager, there was no stopping the flow of ideas that emerged. Rosanne’s parting words to Maggie mentioned our next meeting and somehow she included a joke about Montreal and pyjamas. Rosanne’s unique sense of humour and way of being in the world endeared her to people. Effortlessly, Rosanne forged important organizational bonds and friendships that still exist today. She was simply, the cat’s pyjamas.
In 2014, breast cancer recurred for Rosanne and she needed more treatments. So, she resigned from her position as Executive Director but stayed close. She rejoined the Board of Directors; we were fortunate and delighted to still have her input and energy. In 2016, she, and her much adored René, moved to “Sutton the Beautiful”, as she coined it, an area of Quebec they frequented for years on weekends and holidays, when their son Oliver was growing up. Rosanne being Rosanne found the progressive people there and was invited to join a slate of citizens seeking political change at the local level. In 2017, Rosanne became Councillor Cohen of District 4! When she came over for supper chez nous with Viorica, her dear friend and BCAQ’s administrator, she insisted we call her Councillor Cohen. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. We never laughed so hard.
Rosanne was a dedicated and diligent municipal politician and eventually she had to leave our Board, but she was always available for consultation, continued to be a monthly donor and said yes to our invitation to speak at our panel “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Breast Cancer but Were Afraid to Ask” in 2018.
The last time I saw Rosanne was in February 2020. She was in town for a chemotherapy treatment for indolent lymphoma which she believed she developed as a result of one of her treatments for breast cancer.
Throughout the pandemic we spoke on the phone. Her March-treatment was cancelled due to it and her April-treatment was cancelled because her white blood cell count was too low. She began to experience a lot of discomfort and pain in May and in June she was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital for tests. On the afternoon of July 16, she was moved onto the palliative ward. René and Oliver spent the afternoon and evening with her and at around nine that night the doctor called René to tell him that Rosanne had just died.
Her end came so quickly, probably the way Rosanne would have wanted it.
Rosanne was a loyal friend. We met in our twenties while working at a local repertory cinema where we both honed our love of film. They were fun, crazy times at Cinema V. We each went on to work in film and television and our paths crossed many times over the years. But the most deeply satisfying years of friendship occurred with Rosanne when we reconnected in our 40’s. She invited me to a lecture about breast cancer and I invited her to be on an advisory committee for a film I was researching about breast cancer philanthropy. One thing led to another and eventually Rosanne and I shared an office together at Breast Cancer Action Montreal. Truly some of the happiest days of my life.
Read what others in the BCAM family say about Rosanne…
I first met Rosanne many years ago, when she applied for a job at BCAQ (at that time, BCAM). We hired her immediately and quickly realized that she was a woman with a multitude of skills and talents. In fact, she became BCAM’s first Executive Director.
I had not been in touch with Rosanne since her move to the Eastern Townships but had heard she was quite happy about leaving the city. I’d been thinking about her recently and was planning to get in touch. Unfortunately, I didn’t know she was not well—I was very surprised and saddened to receive news of her passing. I will remember Rosanne as a caring, kind, and thoughtful person. I’m sure the BCAM/BCAQ community and others in her life feel very fortunate to have known her.
Former BCAQ board member
I met Rosanne when she joined the BCAM speakers’ group. Our assignment was to present The Beast of Beauty at the Montreal Association for the Blind...with posters of the slides!!
The humorous phone conversations we had to try to figure out how to do this for a group of people who couldn’t see our teaching tools was the beginning of our friendship. I was taken with Rosanne before we even met. We laughed a lot, brainstorming ridiculous ideas, and eventually came up with a plan. It must have worked because no one fell asleep or walked out, and a grandfather had lots of questions about safer choices for his grandchildren.
Our bed-in to raise awareness for prevention in the John Lennon-Yoko Ono suite of the Queen Elizabeth hotel showcased so many parts of her character...her creativity, generosity, passion, and sense of fun.
Rosanne was very present when she was with you. It’s hard to imagine the world without her presence.
Former BCAQ board member
Little Pink Lies Press Conference (from left to right: Elitza Mitropolitska, Deena Dlusy-Apel, Aseema Kabir, Nancy Guberman, Rosanne Cohen)
Rosanne graciously took me on as a BSW practicum student with BCAM's FemmeToxic project in 2012, after another practicum fell through. She was a huge supporter of my learning and growth as a young social worker, and such a joy to be around. Rosanne's passion for the BCAM mission was palpable and educating youth in particular. I feel incredibly grateful to have known her, and though I only knew her for a short time, the impact of her kindness and generosity lives on in my life and my work.
Former BCAQ intern
It’s hard to put into words all that Rosanne was for me – friend, colleague, inspiration, co-conspirator, fellow traveler and so much more. Always smiling, always positive (well, almost always), and always giving. Rosanne was way too humble and contributed more to me and to BCAM/Qc than she would ever admit. But beyond this, Rosanne was lots of fun. How we laughed on our walks up the mountain or on treadmills at the Y as she vowed to get in shape. What fun we had on our trips to Tulum and to Turks and Caicos (the latter on her bucket list) or plotting how to make BCAM the go-to organization for health and the environment issues or how to convince wealthy acquaintances that their money would be well spent in donations to BCAM. She is truly missed.
Rosanne was the joy of the space, she made coming to work fun, saw the best qualities in everybody. Always had the mission to bring laughter while fighting for justice. She didn’t see these two unrelated. And then she would welcome you to her kitchen where we would have wine while plotting against the system that poisons our life.
Former Youth Project Coordinator
I remember the first Board meeting that Rosanne attended. She was so unassuming, saying she didn’t know what she could contribute to the Board, but that she was willing to try. It became clear that she had many talents and skills to offer. It wasn't long before she became the President of the Board and then its first official Executive Director. She dove into every new project, was an idea factory, and the most encouraging person I have ever met. Rosanne made everyone involved at BCAQ feel indispensable and valued. I did some of my best work alongside her. She made me laugh, supported me when I was discouraged, and always listened with her whole, great big heart. She was unique, and I miss her.
Former BCAQ Executive Administrator
"Rosanne was a warm and spirited person whom I felt instantly connected to. As soon as we started talking, I felt that Rosanne and I were instantly friends and part of something larger together, such was her ability to create a sense of solidarity and build bonds between people. We worked together on campaigns to draw attention to the relationship between breast cancer and environmental pollution, and I always admired her ability to be so outspoken, to contain anger for injustice, and at the same time share in the joy and the thrill of committing to activism. I will miss her presence and her spirit, and I am grateful to have known her. "
Maggie MacDonald, MA
Writing and Research Services
Photo credit: liz.oriordan.co.uk
By Patricia Kearns
I found this article very special for a number of reasons.
Liz Ball MD or Dr. Liz O'Riordan, as she goes by on social media, writes from the place of being both a breast surgical oncologist and a breast cancer patient. In the essay you'll find here, she writes to her fellow doctors, but we patients have access to her words too.
And they are very honest. She wants her colleagues to learn from her experience so they will provide for their patients things they badly need. Things that she had not thought about before she became sick with breast cancer herself.
Reading O'Riordan also made me reflect on how my own breast cancer surgeon communicated the hard news about my biopsy being positive for cancer in a very humane way. Much later, I learned that my doctor had lived through cancer himself.
Toxic Substances. Great Q & A.
Our online TOXIC BEAUTY panel discussion generated a lot of interest. The questions that the public asked and the answers that our panelists gave went straight to the heart of the issues raised in the film.
If you missed it, it is not too late. Here is the recording of the event.
Presentation of the annual theme:
The theme of International Youth Day 2019, "Transforming Education", is thus designated to highlight efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all young people, including the efforts of young people themselves. This theme is anchored in objective 4 of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development - "to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all".
Why transform education at Breast Cancer Action Quebec?
Education in the formal sense, as we have always known it, with all the changes we are currently experiencing, therefore needs to be constantly reviewed so that it can keep pace with the frenetic pace of these many changes.
As part of its Youth Program through the training project "Become an Environmental Leader in Your Community" and its other public education activities, Breast Cancer Action Quebec is fully involved in this movement of educational transformation. This work is done by promoting the acquisition of knowledge, awareness of communities through the youth's engagement, competence and commitment to actions aimed towards changing how we treat the environment.
Breast Cancer Action Quebec has therefore chosen this aspect of the transformation of education to help and encourage youth who are capable of taking a stand for the protection of the environment and their health.
Have a good International Youth Day 2019!
A Story You Will Want to Read
We received an email mid March from a woman in a difficult situation. She had been diagnosed with grade II Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) under unusual circumstances. She reached out to us because she hoped to find medical professionals in Ontario who were open to providing Active Surveillance of her condition. We asked her if she would be willing to share her story and what has developed is a compelling 4-part series which we will publish with two installments in May and two in June.
Meet Nancy Riopel...
We’re feeling the love from Greenfield Park.
For the last 22 years the Girl Guides of Greenfield Park have held a walk at the beginning of May for beast cancer prevention while donating to Breast Cancer Action Quebec. The Ladies Auxiliary, Branch 94 added its support by holding a BINGO whose proceeds also come to us annually. We always have a great time even if the weather does not cooperate and this year was no different, though we all agreed it was probably the coldest march in May we remember!
Our placards got an update/refresh thanks to Ana Lorcencova who used her artistic talents and school volunteer hours for a great cause! A big thanks to all the Sparks, Guides, Pathfinders, Rangers, their leaders and parents who walked with us. And thanks to everyone who made donations, we are thrilled.
Working with young women to become environmental leaders
Over the past two years I had an amazing and challenging opportunity to work in local public high schools through our program on environmental health. I discovered a lot of things about this younger generation: They are very smart, even those who don’t do well academically.
They are far more informed about the environment than their parents’ generation. They had no trouble understanding the complex issues I was teaching, particularly on toxic substances and hormone disrupting chemicals and their effect on human health and the environment. And they are good at making connections.
I also learned that gender dynamics have not changed much since I was in high school. The boys in the classes I was in talk much, much more than girls, act out more, jump up to be team captains during competitions, call out their answers, and generally dominate classroom interactions. Now don’t get me wrong, I really liked these guys. They came from very disadvantaged backgrounds about which they could talk clearly and with honesty. We talked a lot about health justice and environmental racism and they had a lot to say. And even now, I can remember their faces and voices as well as their points of view.
But the girls. I had to really work to try and create space for them. It was difficult and I had real trouble with this, despite understanding class dynamics and being committed to their taking their place. Most of the boys took any space as easily as they breathed. And the girls seemed accustomed to this and weren’t going to fight it.
In fact, it seemed easier for them to just keep their heads down and stay quiet.
Breast Cancer Action Quebec’s Youth Program has a long and rich history. It has taken a variety of forms. Prior to our work in schools, we had a girls’ leadership program funded by Status of Women Canada that offered unique workshops to girls in marginalized communities through partnerships with community groups.
This work revealed to us again how little space is accorded to girls from disadvantaged places. We generally hear that girls are doing much better than boys academically and it’s the boys who need help. This makes it difficult to see that not all girls are doing well and the ones who aren’t are becoming invisible. Very little is offered to them. In fact, you have to go out to find them and encourage them to come out and get involved.
That is what this year’s Youth Program aims to do. We want to reach back out to the community groups with whom we worked, encourage these girls to join our workshops and offer an environmental health curriculum combined with leadership activities.
People in disadvantaged and marginalized communities face much higher levels of environmental health problems and often lack the knowledge and/or resources to take them on. We want to help girls from these communities become the environmental health leaders of their communities. They deserve it and their communities deserve it.
As a women’s health organization dedicated to prevention, we think it is essential to work with young people to change things for their future. Unfortunately, finding funders for our Youth Program remains a challenge. It seems that many funders see the name Breast Cancer Action Quebec and can’t wrap their minds around why we are doing this. To them, breast cancer means pink ribbons and runs and middle-aged women and not much else. (They have told us this.) They seem to have missed the news on the environmental links to cancer and that prevention is more than recommending that people eat their vegetables and exercise.
Now we do actually talk to young people about vegetables (among much else). But we talk more about ultra-processed foods, food deserts and food security with the aim of finding collective answers to these social problems. Our work on prevention empowers girls from very marginalized communities to take on the structural changes needed to allow them to take care of their themselves.
We are very fortunate to benefit from funding from the exceptional Betty Averbach, Solstice and Abe and Ruth Feigelson Foundations for this work, but this does not cover the full costs.
This is why our next fundraising activity is dedicated to our Youth Program. It’s a zumbathon, and it is really fun. It is for people of any age -- even children – and any physical condition.
There is so much to be done. We are keen to do our part. You can help make it happen.
Thank you so much
If you are interested in seeing the results of our work in high schools, check out this infographic.
Telling it Like it Is: the Financial Impact of a Serious Illness
When a serious illness interrupts life, the consequences, including the financial consequences, can be devastating.
We are developing tools to help people protect themselves before they land in a dire situation or to help them navigate the financial questions they'd have if diagnosed with a serious, chronic disease.
To kick start the development of this program we are dedicating our next Café rencontre to hearing your stories. Your experience needs not be related to breast cancer. We want to hear from anyone who has been through a major illness, or who has accompanied someone close, and is willing to share the financial impact this had on them.
Apart from the effects of the disease itself, a person’s financial situation can be altered in profound ways. This is not something most of us consider when our health is good. But when illness strikes, financial hardship can follow: loss of income, sick time and vacation time running out, treatment costs, daily living costs increase (think additional day care, travel to treatments) and long term disability may become a reality.
Please join us. Light refreshments will be served.
Date to be announced
La Maison Parent-Roback, 469 Jean Talon West, Montreal H3N1R4, 2nd floor
Be part of this important discussion.
One of my favorite people has breast cancer. Again.
Reflections on My Treatment
I wanted to tell you about my experience because I think there are important aspects that can be helpful for all women.
Following one of my bi-yearly mammograms, in 2013 I needed to have a follow up biopsy as some irregularity had shown up. To meet the breast specialist assigned to my case and find out the results, I brought along my partner Moira and my good friend and colleague Rosanne who had gone through breast cancer. I most often have someone accompany to appointments like this one. Better having more that one pair of ears listening. On meeting Dr Lutfi, who was not phased by my posse, I learned I had DCIS or Ductal Carcinoma in Situ in my left breast. This was an early stage, non-invasive, slow growing, form of breast cancer. I knew that it did not pose an immediate health threat because I was familiar with DCIS from my work with Breast Cancer Action Quebec.
I knew that there was a discussion in the medical community to reclassify certain low-grade lesions as non-cancerous. Nonetheless, it was then and still is called cancer and regularly treated as such.
So, I was very happy with the outcome of my appointment with my surgeon. He said that most women when they learn of the presence of any lesion that has abnormal cells they want it removed immediately. After discussing it, Dr. Lutfi and I agreed to proceed with active surveillance, a wait and watch approach.
So, I had yearly mammograms and in August 2015, during one of my check-ups a tumour was discovered in my right breast. A follow up biopsy was done; I received a phone call very early one morning from the doctor’s office with an appointment for that week. I remember arriving to Dr. Lutfi’s office and there being a nurse with him – that when I knew we were in for some serious news. Dr Lutfi explained this was not DCIS; it was Stage 2, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Estrogen +. He explained that I would need surgery -- what he called a partial mastectomy, although he said some people refer to it as a lumpectomy. More tests were being done on the tissue to find out about the HER2 status, whether it was + or - . I would have surgery to remove the tumour and some lymph nodes; more tests would be done on what was removed and the tumour board would decide on the post surgery adjuvant treatments – radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
The nurse, Elizabeth, took us into her office where she pulled lots of booklets from her shelves and gave them to us. When I asked her for my pathology report; she hesitated briefly but then went to ask the doctor for it. I was so happy to have the report in my hands as we left the clinic. Having it let me turn to one of the resources I regularly recommend to women. Breast Cancer.org. where they had a section devoted to reading and understanding your pathology report.
My surgery went very well with no complications and I soon found myself at home with coloring books, delicious meals, exercise regimes and painkillers. I am one of the lucky ones that has a great support circle and I know how important it was. Rehab was quick and at the follow up with Dr. Lutfi, he referred me to an oncologist. I am not sure now who that was, but I asked if I could see Dr. Thirlwell instead; he had been my sister’s doctor – she had gone through breast cancer two years before – and I thought that made sense for me to see him, as well as Deena’s one of the Board members of BCAQc. Both had great things to say about him. No problem, Dr Lutfi just changed the name on the referral.
Having my pathology report was also very useful when I decided to ask for a second opinion about Dr. Thirlwell’s treatment plan. I was worried about my health beyond my breasts. Living with Type 1 diabetes for most of my life, I have always been aware of heart health and I wondered about the effects of chemo and radiation on it. Were there choices for the chemo drugs that would be better than others on my heart? Dr Thirlwell was aware and seemed confident in his plan. The late Abby Lippman asked her brother, Marc Lippman, a renowned breast cancer researcher and oncologist if I could contact him. He asked me for my pathology report and what Dr Thirlwell was prescribing. He was 100% behind the plan and I felt my worry dissipate.
I was given the name of the radiologist I would be seeing and googled Christine Lambert’s name. One piece of research that she had co-authored caught my eye: DEVELOPMENTS IN PARTIAL BREAST IRRADIATION, so on first meeting her I asked if this could be a good thing for me. She of course explained that no, it was not for patients like myself whose cancer had spread into the lymph nodes and that we would be proceeding with 25 sessions of external beam radiation.
I have had great care at the MUHC and I wish all women with breast cancer the same. Remember it is a woman’s right to know – so ask all the questions you want, ask for reports, ask for the doctors you want, ask for a second opinion if that is something you want, it is your right.
BCAQc on Radio Noon Montreal show with Shawn Apel
Toxic Exposures are a Feminist Issue!
Canadian Women against Toxic Substances
Gender, biology and determinants of health, such as socio-economic status, employment, belonging to racialized groups and Indigenous communities, all play important roles affecting Canadian women’s health in relation to exposures to toxic substances. Canadian Women against Toxic Substances are concerned that the present-day laws which oversee the regulation and control of toxic substances do not adequately account for these factors, leaving women and the next generation vulnerable to a wide range of long-term negative health effects.
The foundation of our environmental regulations - The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) - is currently under review by the federal government. A serious reform of this legislation is of vital importance to Canadian women, as workers, mothers, caregivers and for all the other essential roles they play in our communities and in all their diverse realities. It is a question of the most fundamental environmental health justice.
Read further and see how exposure to toxic substances is a feminist issue. You may be surprised to learn among other things, that despite fundamental differences in biology between men and women, animal studies that too frequently relied on male-only models still dominate the scientific evidence.
Quebec civil society takes a stand on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) calling on the federal government to protect human health and the environment.
Over 80 Quebec groups have signed onto a Declaration that was sent to the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change on March 19 with a letter by Jennifer Beeman . This alliance represents a wide swath of Quebec citizens that goes far beyond the traditional environmental movement. They include among others, well-respected research centres and scientists, peri-natality groups, women’s and workers’ groups, shelters and groups that work against violence, collective kitchens, daycares, student, literacy and cultural groups.
The allied groups have committed to supporting the Declaration underscoring important elements of CEPA that need reform, and pressuring the government to follow the recommendations of their own report and bring in reformed legislation.Read more on how to get involved
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is the foundation of our environmental regulations and it’s currently under review by the federal government. Along with other environmental groups we have monitored this weak legislation for many years. It is in bad need of reform.
It is up to concerned individuals and groups like ours to put pressure on the government to take action.Click here to read more and get involved.
Why We Need to Reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)
As many of you know, our chemical regulatory system allows chemicals to go into production and circulation without proof of their safety. We are then required to fight a reactive battle, toxic substance by toxic substance, to prove their harm and get them out of circulation and out of our environment. In many cases, our exposure to toxic substances continues for decades after bans go into effect.
What happens when patient advocacy groups develop financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry? Sharon Batt investigates this in her new book, Health Advocacy, Inc.: How Pharmaceutical Funding Changed the Breast Cancer Movement.
Health Advocacy Inc.: A reading with Sharon Batt at Concordia University
Your generosity continues to amaze us!
We want to say is a BIG THANK YOU! Your donations were incredibly generous this year and it is so encouraging to know that you like what we are doing and support us in our endeavors. Truly, our 2018 activities are going to be very exciting and it is YOU who allows us to do this work.
And the winner is ...
We just drew the name of the recipient of the Green Beaver gift bag and it's Carolyn Badger. Congratulations Carolyn! Thanks to everyone who participated.
Wretched Pink Ribbons. Again.
So here we are again awash in these wretched pink ribbons. They must constitute the most successful marketing campaign ever.
And they are so pernicious. They make us feel touched by and involved in something significant by merely wearing them or buying something with their picture attached.
But what do they say? Nothing, except that thousands of women still go through breast cancer every year. And that is the problem. There is so much that needs to be said that gets buried under the ribbons.
What do we need to be saying?
We need to say that detection is not prevention. Actually bringing down incidence rates has been completely removed from all important discussions. We repeat to women for them to individually bring down their risk without a proper public health strategy to bring down breast cancer rates with a strong, public health program that incorporates environmental health as a central component. Also, in working to prevent breast cancer, we work to prevent a range of diseases.
Overwhelmed by pink ribbon blues?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month—in case you haven’t noticed, despite pink things all around you demanding your dollars. Breast Cancer Action Quebec is very skeptical of pink ribbon campaigns and the commercialization of breast cancer.
It is well known that companies try to reinforce their image and boost their bottom line by associating themselves with a good cause. But who really benefits, the cause or the company? What if the very products sold—through the promise of finding a cure—are actually contributing to the problem?
After spending a year as a volunteer with Breast Cancer Action Quebec, the organization became the site of my practicum placement for my Masters of Public Health degree. I came to BCAQc with a background in exploring how the health of our environment impacts food security and our reproductive health. I was interested in doing my practicum at BCAQc to learn how to apply my new public health skills to social-justice oriented work. BCAQc represented everything I hoped public health could embody: an empowering approach to holistically confronting some of the most compelling environmental and social issues of our time.
Most of my work centered around the Health Connections youth program, which I assisted in the development of and constructed a program logic model for. I also undertook an impact evaluation, creating a questionnaire to evaluate students before and after the program to assess the impacts we made.
We were interested in evaluating if Health Connections increased students’ environmental health literacy, which is embodied in the development of knowledge about environmental health, positive attitudes towards it, and the skills and capacity to take action to create environmentally healthy communities.
What I didn’t expect was how much my own environmental health literacy would improve over the course of my internship as well! The learning is already clear when I look in my kitchen or bathroom, since over the course of my internship I was moved to replace my plastic cookware with glass, and toxicant-laden cosmetics with homemade alternatives.
I truly feel like I’ve learned more about the confronting environmental issues our planet is facing than I ever could have in my courses - and more importantly, how to act on these issues. Rather than just knowing the definition of the precautionary principle, I’ve been able to put it into action by leading DIY workshops on toxic-free body products, and teaching high school students about the unregulated risks present in our cosmetic ingredients and the pesticide-filled foods we eat. I am thankful that my practicum exposed me to complex issues like ecotoxicology, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and environmental racism, which have set me down new exciting and unanticipated academic and professional paths.
I am so grateful and enthusiastic for the opportunity to learn with and from BCAQc this year!
Fighting Endocrine Disruptors, One Lip Balm at a Time
A great article by Carly Welham, master's student in Public Health and intern at BCAQc, explains the politics of "Why We DIY"
Over the past few months, Breast Cancer Action Quebec interns have been holding DIY workshops across universities in Montreal, meeting with dozens of young people interested in creating body products free of toxic substances. We have been hosting conversations about how chemicals in products that we use every day affect our bodies, our health, and our environment.
Our reality is that everyday we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals that are harmful to us. As a women's health organization whose mission is to work for the prevention of breast cancer through the elimination of environmental toxicants linked to the disease, there are many reasons why we choose to create alternatives to body products with these toxic ingredients.
Your Triclosan Actions and the UN on Pesticides
With the arrival of spring, we would like to share with you a round up of some of the environmental health news we are keeping on top of. In a few weeks we will be sending our information on our spring activities. It would be wonderful to see you at one of our events soon!
On March 8th 2017, the UN human rights council made public a scathing report which is very clear: pesticides, many of which contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are harmful to human health and the environment and they are used in the service of industry profit, not to combat world hunger as agro-chemical business leads us to believe.
Update on Action against Triclosan
Last year we informed you about the actions of environmental and health groups concerning Triclosan. This ubiquitous antibacterial agent is also an important EDC, is ecotoxic and implicated in antibacterial resistance. You told us you were happy to sign onto petitions asking the government to ban this toxic substance from household and personal care products. Here you will find the final statement, coordinated by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), that we and 40 other like-minded organizations signed onto and sent to The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health on February 24, 2017.
Stay tuned to learn about local actions that you can participate in this spring!
Breast Cancer Action Quebec is the recipient of a special gift!
To our delight, BCAQc has been chosen as the charity being honoured at this year’s spring concert of Montreal’s Yellow Door Choir on May 26 and 27, 2017.
Since 1983, this talented choir has been performing and partnering with local charities using their concerts to support and raise awareness for the good work these groups do. And what good company we are in! Take a look at the list of over 60 community organizations that the Choir has supported throughout its three decades of singing.
Not only does the Yellow Door Choir donate the profits from the concert’s ticket sales to us but every penny that is made during the intermission bake sales is ours too! We will be posting information on how you can get involved by baking your favorite cookies, cupcakes or squares for the bake sale.
Yellow Door Choir, under the direction of the Roxanne Martel
Spring Concert, May 26 and 27 at the Unitarian Church of Montreal 5035 de Maisonneuve O. (Métro Vendôme). Tickets: $20; Students and seniors: $15
Take a listen to some highlights from last spring’s concert.
Stay tuned for more news about this.
Jennifer Beeman, Director, Breast Cancer Action Quebec
Written in response to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October 2016
I am in a strange situation. I am director of a breast cancer organization and I really don’t know what “promoting awareness” of breast cancer means.
Does it mean repeating the fact that one in nine women in Canada will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer at some time in her life? Even when this tells us nothing of what is being done to bring down that statistic (very little)?
Repeating “early diagnosis saves lives”? Even though this doesn’t explain to women that early diagnosis leads to a serious problem of overdiagnosis, which women really don’t understand and about which we are doing very little?
Repeating that we should “run for the cure”? Though this does nothing to prevent our daughters and granddaughters getting the disease?
BCAQc relies on membership dues and private donations to stay in operation. Membership entitles you to advance notice of seminars and workshops as well as a subscription to our electronic newsletter— BCAQc Connected.
A strong membership also helps to substantiate our financial applications for government grants and private foundations. Please consider joining us today!
For twenty five years — with your support — BCAQc has been working hard to get vital information about environmental and chemical links to breast cancer to the public, and we now know that our message is being heard.
We ask you to consider a financial gift to Breast Cancer Action Quebec to help us to continue to get this vital information to the public.
There are many ways you can be involved: volunteer, write a letter to the editor, book an educational workshop for your school, community group or work place.
Engage with us, follow us on social media, share your opinions and ideas – take BCAQc’s message to your community! Be a voice for a change!