Brenda Coffin got to ring the bell in the Oncology Department at Penticton Regional Hospital.
That’s how many cancer patients celebrate the end of their chemotherapy treatment at PRH. The bell is engraved with the words: “Never give up, never surrender.”
For Coffin, she had the added bonus of having her parents and two daughters on hand for the occasion.
Her family’s story started on Christmas Eve 2015, when Coffin’s younger sister Peggy learned she had breast cancer.
Living in Calgary, Peggy used a video link to inform Coffin and other family members gathered at their parents’ home in Vernon on Boxing Day. She would soon undergo a mastectomy.
“I went to help her with her appointments in Calgary and she told me I should get a mammogram done because of what she was going through,” Coffin recalled.
Although her initial mammogram was clear, a few months later Coffin discovered a lump on her breast which was confirmed to be malignant. Rather than a mastectomy, her doctor performed a less invasive lumpectomy at the cancer clinic in Kelowna last summer.
Coffin then started chemotherapy in Penticton at the Oncology Department at PRH. After six rounds of treatment (each round three weeks apart), she completed her chemo treatment on Feb. 23, 2017. Her final chemo session turned into a family affair. Her two daughters, Chloe and Gracie made a special sign to commemorate the occasion which they brought into the hospital for their Mom.
Chloe said she stayed up late the night before to complete the artwork – much to her mom’s chagrin.
“She was telling me to go to bed at about 10:30, but I said: ‘No, I have to make it perfect,’” she recalled with a grin.
Gracie also donned a pink tutu for the visit, after she and her friends decided to get dressed up at school that day for fun. “Then I decided that maybe I can make some people happy at the hospital if I still wore it,” Gracie explained. “A lot of people mentioned it and started smiling.”
Brenda said having her daughters stop by for her final treatment was great.
“They’re my sweeties,” she said. “When I first told them I had cancer, they said: ‘Mom, we’re going to help you, we’re going to get you through this.’”
Brenda noted her sister’s experience battling cancer helped her as well.
“I was able to use that as a reassurance that we would get through this, just as Aunty Peggy did,” she said. “There’s just amazing doctors and staff here in Penticton. I was just so impressed – from the lab techs to getting my mammogram – everybody has been absolutely amazing, especially the oncology team.”
Brenda said as difficult as her cancer has been, she realizes it could have been much worse.
“As tough as it has been, it’s not as tough as it could have been,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of people going through a lot worse. You count your blessings every day.”
Brenda is now undergoing follow-up radiation treatment in Kelowna. Although she does not require scans by a SPECT-CT machine, she applauds the recent donation of the nuclear medicine equipment for PRH by Penticton businessman David Kampe.
The South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation still has $7 million to raise in its $20-million campaign to provide the medical equipment for the PRH expansion, now under construction. For more details, contact the Foundation office at 250-492-9027.