October | Deborah Bridgman

Since October is Breast Cancer awareness month, JETELOVE chose to highlight a 6 time breast Cancer WARRIOR, since the word “survivor” doesn’t seem to do this wonderful lady justice.

Meet Deborah Bridgman.

She is a single mother of two adored daughters who has been fighting metastatic breast cancer for the past 13 years of her 26 year journey with breast cancer. Yes. You read right, 26 years.

It was such a privilege to sit down for a candid conversation with Deborah. I was literally blown away by her positive attitude, her gratitude and her love of life.

It all began in 1994, at the young age of 29, after having ended a 17 year tumultuous relationship with her husband and obtaining sole custody of her two young daughters.

Feeling a large lump under her left arm she decided to go and get it checked out. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She immediately started chemotherapy with other additional treatments. Things seemed stable for a while but after 4 years, her breast cancer was back. She underwent an operation to have a breast removed. Deborah describes the 9 week period following the surgery as a struggle and a challenge. Thankfully, her parents were there as her angels and have accompanied her throughout this journey and have been a tremendous support in helping raise her daughters. 

Deborah insisted on getting back to life as she knew it, seeing friends, exercising and pursuing a black belt in karate. This is when she really started connecting with people, younger patients like herself who were going through the same thing. She was compelled to give back and started her long journey as a volunteer for numerous Montreal charities including Hope & Cope, Young Adult Cancer Canada, Venturing out Beyond our Cancer, Cure Foundation, Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation and Pink in the City to name just a few. She has worked on many committees raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness. Over the past 26 years, Deborah says that she has spoken to thousands of women offering comfort & support.

In 2007, at 43 years old, Deborah received her 3rd cancer diagnosis. She was experiencing debilitating pain in her hand and arm. She discovered a stone like lump above her collar bone. This led to a torturous 2 hour MRI where they discovered a cancerous tumor. This time, it was Metastatic Breast Cancer. The tumor was entangled in her brachial plexus nerves. Due to the risky nature of where the tumor was positioned, Dr’s couldn’t remove it. They opted for another 5 weeks of intense radiation and countless hours doing physio. This helped manage the pain but she was still losing sensation in her arm. It was at this time that she, along with the encouragement of her Dr, went on long term disability after a 25 year career at Bell Canada.

In 2013, during a scan, they noticed that she now had a tumor in her chest wall. They operated on her once again and this time, her Dr inserted 6 tubes into her chest wall which meant that she had 12 intense radiation treatments over 6 days. Two days after this, she headed off to New Jersey for a girl’s getaway she had planned. She was also determined now more than ever to pursue her 2nd blackbelt in Karate.

Fast forward to 2015, she was in intense pain and was experiencing problems lifting her arm. Another scan confirmed that the cancer had spread to her brachial plexus in her back which was affecting her mobility in her shoulder and hand. In mid 2015, Deborah had lost complete function from her shoulder to her fingers.  And so began a 17 month oral chemotherapy marathon. She took 100 pills over 10 days, with 7day breaks in between.

Deborah reminisces on how fabulous 2018 was. Traveling, spending time with family, looking and feeling amazing. But guess what?  Her following scan showed that the cancer had metastasized to her spine, her abdomen, her ribs, lung and her lymph nodes in her lower abdomen. So, our warrior started right back on the oral chemo- Xeloda, a medication which she responds to very well.

In April 2019, her scan showed COMPLETE RECOVERY!!! Yes! You read right! Since then, Deborah has been stable and there has been no progression (fingers and toes crossed that this continues!)

Deborah’s positive take on life is so contagious! She told us that she doesn’t want to miss a thing, that there are way too many beautiful moments in life that she wants to cherish. She mentions having lost way too many wonderful friends to this horrible illness and she vows to continue in her efforts to both bring awareness, provide support and fundraise to help find a cure for metastatic Breast Cancer once and for all. Deborah is presently involved in a fundraising initiative called Dreamteam, spearheaded by Dr Michael Pollak at the Jewish General Hospital, supported by Stand Up To Cancer. Deborah, along with 2 other women will be selling t-shirts to raise funds for research to help find a cure for Metastatic Breast Cancer. (100% of the proceeds will go towards this initiative) To purchase a t-shirt, and to find out more  about Metastatic Breast Cancer please click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/Doyouknowcampaign2020/

Deborah, you are a true inspiration and a shining light. Keep up the amazing work.

We will continue cheering you on! #montrealtelove

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