Brenda Codner & Diane Whitty


The Tea Party ️ 

This story is from two of four sisters that have battled and are still battling Breast Cancer. We were so touched by how these beautiful women supported each other that we wanted to paint a picture for the two that celebrate remission while the other two sisters are still deep in battle. So we featured a tea party and one day soon their beloved sisters will celebrate right beside them ❤️

During the fight for their lives a bond was created deeper than most siblings and it is truly beautiful. In our Breastless and Beautiful 2019 Calendar we celebrate them, their courage and WINK (Women into Networking Kindness) are so proud to stand beside them.

Diane’s Story

My journey with breast cancer started in 2010, however looking back, it started in 2005 but I was unaware of it at the time. In 2005 I noticed a lump in my left breast. I immediately went to see about it because I feared the worst. I was given an ultrasound, sent to see a specialist and was told "it was nothing to worry about". I was set up for yearly mammograms from then on to monitor it and went on with my life.

In July of 2010 the lump started to become tender and felt different, so I asked to have my mammogram earlier as I was concerned. After the mammogram, they said they wanted to perform a biopsy to see what it was. I remember the day I got the call from my family doctor asking me to come in for my results. I was at work and I had a lump in my stomach and couldn't concentrate and I knew it wasn't going to be good news. My husband was out of town visiting his son, so I asked my sister in law to go with me. My doctor told me I had ductal carcinoma in situ preliminary grade 0, which meant that it was contained in the milk duct. I remember having this surreal feeling, like I could not process what was happening and I didn't really understand what it was. I just knew it wasn't good. I felt heavy and spacey and didn't really know what to do next. My doctor already had an appointment set up with a surgeon to discuss a plan.

I wasn't sure if I should wait to tell my husband until he got back from his trip but decided to tell him right away. It was such an awful thing to have to tell him over the phone and to not have him there, so we could comfort each other. I remember feeling scared and alone.

In the month I had to wait to see the surgeon, I did some research online and had a lot of people give me their opinion about what it was. To be honest, I was really confused, especially about the grade 0 staging because I had people telling me it wasn't really cancer but that if it wasn't treated it could turn into cancer. I was so frustrated and anxious and just wanted to have it dealt with right away.

In August of 2010 I met with the surgeon. My husband and daughter went with me and he told me the technical name for it again and presented me with several options. I could have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Again, a lot of what he said didn't register with me. I just remember thinking that I wanted whatever this was to be gone from my body and I knew that if I didn't have my breast removed, I would spend the rest of my days worrying and afraid that it might come back. He told me to take 24 hrs to think about it, so I did. I talked with my family about it but knew that my decision was already made. I wanted a double mastectomy, to decrease the risk of it ever coming back. The surgeon said that I would have to wait longer to have a double mastectomy, so I opted for just removing the left breast first.

The month or so I had to wait to find out when my surgery would be was pure agony. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't concentrate and was anxious all the time. I chose to keep working right up until my surgery, but looking back, that probably wasn't the best decision. But again, I wasn't thinking clearly and just kept pushing myself to get through each day because that is the only thing I could do. I did not want to fall apart. I was offered some medication to help with the anxiety during this time. Even though I am opposed to medication, I did decide to take it to help me sleep. I was scared of what was going to happen. In my mind I was still confused as to whether this was actually cancer or not. To be honest, I think part of me was still hoping there was a chance that it wasn't. One day I was so anxious and frustrated that I went to the breast clinic and asked one of the ladies working there to help me understand what was going on. I remember her saying "Do you really think that the surgeon would be willing to remove your breast if it wasn't cancer?" In that moment, it sank in and I knew it was true. She encouraged me to be my own advocate and keep calling the surgeon's office to stay on top of my appointments, so I did not fall through the cracks. From that day on, I had a better focus of just getting my surgery as soon as possible.

Going in for my first mastectomy, I was shaking inside but didn't let anyone know because I didn't want them to be worried. I was told later that I had problems with low oxygen in recovery but within an hour of being woken up from surgery I was discharged home with drains in and told to come back the next day. To say I felt miserable was an understatement. My daughter, who is a nurse stayed with me that night to monitor me and give me pain medications. I could barely get in the car the next day to get to the hospital.

I had to wait 6weeks for the pathology report and dealing with recovery from a mastectomy. It all seems like a blur now, but I remember feeling frustrated, guilty, angry and scared. No one tells you what it's like to not be able to do things for yourself when you are used to being very independent. Or how hard it is to be vulnerable and let those you love to see you at your worst and having to ask for help. All this in addition to having to deal with the physical symptoms of pain, stiffness, strange sensations, limitations of range of motion. During this time, I was also being consistently questioned by my insurance company, wanting me to tell them when I could return to work. I was concerned about the money because I still wasn't sure what my results were and if I would ever be able to do the things I had done before. So many unknowns just created fear. Thank God my husband was very supportive during the whole process. He would give me space when I needed it and would let me talk when I needed that too. But I could tell that he was just as scared as me and didn't know what to do any more than I did.

Cancer changes relationships and how you interact with those you love because it changes you.

My follow up with the surgeon brought more fear because he told me that most of the cancer was contained in the duct but that some cells were outside, so I had made the right choice to have the breast removed. I was told I had to goto the cancer clinic for further treatment as my cancer was most likely hormone driven. I was so worried that the cancer would come back. I was started on Tamoxifen and was told I would need to take it for 5 years. There were many negative side effects, but I was so scared to stop it because they told me I needed it. While I was on it, I didn't even feel like a real person. Hot flashes, mental spaciness, fatigue and loss of interest were some of the things I experienced.

About 6 months later I went in for my second surgery to have the other breast removed and expanders inserted to proceed with breast reconstruction. I decided on the reconstruction because I didn't want to be self conscious and couldn't find a comfortable prosthesis.

I was less nervous going into this surgery because I knew what to expect but the recovery process was still hard. The expanders felt strange and caused pain and muscle spasms every month when I had to go get them filled. Stretching skin and muscle that has already been cut is not a pleasant experience. Again, I faced constant calls from my insurance company and financial worries.

In another 6 months I went in for yet another surgery to have the expanders removed and implants put in. More drains, recovery, healing and time off work. All these surgeries have had a lasting impact on my body. I have been able to go back to doing most of the things I used to, but I am limited in some things.

I also opted to have nipple reconstruction and nipple tattooing in the year following my implants. However even after all that, there are times when I still feel self conscious.

I decided to pursue genetic testing, which was a long process, and discovered I carry the CHEK2 gene which increases my risk for colon, thyroid and kidney cancer. So now I receive regular screening in all these areas.

During my diagnosis and treatment, I also learned that my mother had Alzheimer's. It was hard for me to not be there for her like I wanted to be and to have to concentrate on my own health. Not having your mom not be able to be there for you is hard when dealing with cancer. I am grateful for all of the support that I had through my journey when I needed it. Like I said, cancer has forever changed who I am. It has left scars on my body, my mind and my heart. It lurks in the back of my mind whenever I get an ache or a pain or strange sensation. But in this journey, I found a strength and a faith that I didn't know I had and I was able to support my sister Brenda when she faced her cancer journey shortly after mine. If there was any advice I could give someone facing this journey, it would be to get armed with reliable information, be your biggest advocate and fight for your life. Make the decisions that are best for you and never give up!

Love, Diane



Brenda’s Story

My name is Brenda Codner and even though my journey with Breast Cancer started in September 2012. I feel as if my journey started way back in 2010. I have lost loved ones in my family over the years due to cancer and I just accepted that was the way it was meant to be. ‘However,’, in 2010 my heart was crushed to find out that my sister Diane had breast cancer. Diane growing up was like a mother to me because mom had to work to keep things going and even though through my life I may not have liked Diane I defiantly loved her. She always had my back even when I didn’t want her too. Mother had been diagnosed with Dementia and our family crumbled as some wanted to do this and some wanted to do that and as a result it took a toll on all our relationships. While all this was going on with Mother Diane was diagnosed with Breast cancer and my heart sunk at the thought of losing her, and with all my heart I kept praying don’t take her too. Diane was told she had to have her breast removed. While I sat in the waiting room as she had her surgery all I could think about how glad I was that Mom will never have to feel the pain knowing that her daughter has cancer because of her dementia, and I kept praying for her to be o.k. The surgery went well said the doctor as he approached all of us in the room. I could see the look on Diane’s husband face of total disbelieve of what is actually going on. He was just elated that she was O.K. as we all were. As the days went by and I see the strength and determination of this remarkable lady in so much pain and discomfort and her love for her Granddaughter that she is raising still amazes me till this day. Little did I know that what Diane was going through and by me watching, learning and helping would also be my own journey?

Because I never had a mammogram and I was now going to be 45 I thought it was time to get a mammogram. My doctor informs me that she only suggests getting one at 50. I persisted and said because Diane had cancer I too wanted to be tested and then it was set. The day of my Mammogram it was very upsetting because they did the Mammogram 3 times that afternoon. They said I had dense breasts and that they could see something. I was in and had a biopsy weeks later and was sick to my stomach waiting on the results. My doctor called and made an appointment and of course you know Diane was going with me. As soon as the doctor walked through the door I knew my life would be forever changed. As she nodded and told me that yes indeed I had cancer it was called DCIS {Ductal Carcinoma In Situ}. Grade 2. As she left the room Diane sat there and started crying. I was just in disbelief and I think in shock. I still can’t remember driving home till this day. My husband after learning all this became probably sicker then I was. He started having heart burn, not sleeping not eating very much but still managed to do all that was needed for me. I can’t imagine not having him in my life he is a blessing. After having MRI and Scans, blood work galore. I met with the surgeon and he wanted to give me a couple of weeks to think about if I wanted one or both breasts removed. I was very assertive with my answer right away stating that I wanted the 2 breasts gone. I knew that I would drive myself crazy wondering if the other breast had cancer and therefore made my decision then. He scheduled the surgery for Dec 4, 2012.

While waiting for my surgery to all our surprise my Sister that lived in Maine had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now there were three sisters with cancer. I had My Surgery here in Newfoundland and within days apart my sister Irene had her surgery in the United States. I was Lucky I had Diane with me, but Irene never had any siblings close to be with her. I know her children helped with her recovery but still it played on my mind and Diane’s mind. We all talked on the phone and tried to encourage each other to stay strong and give advice on what was working for each of us. As I think back now it was so sad yet comforting knowing that we were not alone in this. I was told when I went back for my first Checkup after my surgery that yes, I had made the right decision because upon testing the right breast that it also had cancer cells and that within one or two years I would have lost that breast anyway and that my survival chances then would be different. The doctor told me that my tumor was self-contained and therefor did not spread anywhere else.

My friend Michele who also stayed off work to stay with me while I mended and gave my husband some time to leave the house without worrying about me. She was a blessing and so instrumental in my healing process. Thank God for good friends.

Since then I have had my reconstructive surgery along with a lot of complications with infections and drainage problems I am proud to say I am pleased with how my breasts turned out. I also had melanoma on my leg removed and that healed really well. I had my tattooing of the Areola done in June of 2017 and finally am finished with surgeries. We also now have another Sister who lives away that has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has had treatments, wishing a bright and happy future for her and all who have been touched by cancer. I only hope that we all kicked cancer out the door, it’s time to start living again. So far, we are all still alive and I thank God for that and for all the doctors that not only treated us but also treat others before us and after us. Thank You.

In Closing: The first time I looked in the mirror and my breasts were gone, and I only seen the bones through the skin and the scars across my chest. I thought that no person should have to ever see this. I looked and said why God me? But the question should be why not me? I am no different than that little child who has cancer, or that teenage girl or boy, or that mother, father, and the list goes on. No-one deserves this no-one asks for this, but like anything we have to except our faith, live our lives take control of what we can control, and love who we are and never forget we are not alone. “WE ARE SURVIVOR’S

Love, Brenda