Why Brenda Runs in Support of Ottawa Cancer

By Sara Gill

2011 started out as the perfect year; 49-years-old, married to her wonderful husband, and she had just spent a month vacationing in Florida. Life was great.

But a lump on her breast started to grow and in May 2011, her biggest fear became a reality: she had breast cancer. The tears ran down her face and arrangements were made for the battery of tests: blood tests, heart tests, MRI’s, CT scans, x-rays, bone density tests, etc…

Her oncologist was concerned because Brenda tested positive for HER2, a protein that spreads cancer, and Brenda had also suffered from Crohn’s disease since the 80s. She was told the best course of action would be chemotherapy.

Brenda was told that it will shrink the lump, stop the HER2 and cancer cells from spreading, and that additional drugs could be taken to ease the side effects.

But one side effect that could not be controlled is the loss of hair. Brenda had flaming red hair, along with the nickname “big red” her whole life, and thought she would lose her identity. After the first round of chemo, hair starting coming out in clumps. She shaved it off and to her surprise, not a single tear was shed. After two cycles of chemotherapy, the lump did not shrink. It was time for stronger medication with more side effects. In late October 2011, the cancer had spread and was metastasized to the bones.

Brenda said she was devastated and was full of questions: why did it happen? Why to us? Why now?

On November 10th 2011, surgery was done to remove the breast. A month of healing and back to chemo again, but now it was oral chemo – medications that could be taken from home. After 23 days of radiation to the chest in April 2012, the pain was unbearable. The tears were flowing and the creams did not work at first. A rash appeared on the other side of the chest, and the doctor thought the cancer had spread to the skin. Brenda said she wondered if the roller-coaster will ever end? After a biopsy which lasted an entire week, finally some good news arose – no skin cancer!

In 2011, Brenda was told longevity is usually significantly less than 5 years, yet she is still going strong.

This year, Brenda officially retired from the Ottawa Police Service Association with 36 years of service working with and for the membership and received her 35 year Ontario Women’s Law Enforcement award.

Brenda has registered for the Scotiabank Ottawa Half-Marathon (21km) as part of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and hopes to complete it walking within 3 hours. The featured picture is a 5km walk she did in 2011 in support of cancer.

Every step she takes is in loving memory of her family and loved ones who were lost far too soon to Cancer. Her father Tom Lawson at age 44, her mother Anne Lawson at age 56, her sister-in-law and good friend Sandy Livingstone at age 58, her teenage best friend Donna Shore at age 53, and many others. She also walks for everyone she knows and loves, many of whom are battling with cancer.

You can sign up for the Ottawa Race Weekend (May 28-29) and choose the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation as your charity of choice and also help Brenda reach her fundraising goal by donating on .