On the day of her late brother’s birthday, Bernice Heisler was diagnosed with cancer. “That phone call hit me like a ton of bricks,” she recalls.
Bernice Heisler’s cancer journey began in 2019 when she found a lump in her left breast while on vacation in BC. When she was tested, it was found to be nothing and she was advised to return in the next year for a retest.
However, due to Covid-19, Bernice’s retest was further delayed. As the lump continued to grow, she promptly sought a mammogram, which was followed by a needle biopsy that confirmed her cancer diagnosis.
Bernice then began treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. “I never thought in my lifetime [that] I would have a medical card from the Cancer Institute,” she says. “That card made my diagnosis very real.” But fortunately, she found support in her health care team.“They were wonderful. They answered all my – what I thought were dumb – questions, but they assured me that there are no dumb questions when it comes to cancer.”
On March 22, 2021, Bernice received a mastectomy.
“Until this point, cancer seemed for the most part abstract – but now it is very real, given the piece of my body that was cut off.”
Over time Bernice learned ways to approach and manage the challenges of living with cancer. One of the ways was to learn everything she could about her cancer from the right sources so that she could ask her physicians more questions and advocate for herself. “As an intellectual person, the way that I chose to deal with it was by getting informed about the disease, and my case specifically. I knew that I had to advocate for myself, and be an active participant, … and not a passive bystander.”
Today, Bernice continues to receive treatment at the Cross. Her treatment consists of hormone therapy – and soon, reconstructive surgery. “My story is not over yet, but my good health has made the healing process very easy… [It’s] a blessing that other than the cancer itself, I am as healthy as I have ever been,” she explains. “There are no symptoms or side effects to speak of in my case from treatment, other than [those] associated with surgeries.”
Bernice’s overall experience with her treatment and care at the Cross Cancer Institute has been positive and uplifting. The care she received is what compels her to give back to the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Cross. “The staff and the volunteers at the Cross Cancer were so nice and helpful,” she expresses. “At the lowest time in my life, they made me feel like everything would be okay – and they were right. I will never be able to thank all the doctors and healthcare workers that helped me in this journey.”