Brooke Spitse is no stranger to the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre or the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation. She’s been employed by both, and is currently on maternity leave for the latter. Brooke is a bright and cheerful 30 year old, a wife, and of course a new mom. “Last year, I was raising funds for (local) breast reconstruction equipment and this year I actually needed that equipment myself.”
Brooke discovered a lump, first believed to be mastitis. When it didn’t go away, she booked time to get herself checked. Her doctor ordered an ultrasound, and in December 2021 it was confirmed; breast cancer. For the first time, she experienced first-hand the true meaning of Cancer Care. Brooke said, “When you go for chemotherapy, there are warm blankets, a free lunch, a welcome bag, massage and heated chairs, and so much more. When you meet with your care team, you receive care that feels as if you are the only patient on their mind.”
Through this journey, Brooke has learned that she is stronger than she ever thought she could be, and a main reason for that is her support network.
“Words can’t ever describe how thankful I am for everyone who has supported me through this in so many ways. And a special shoutout to my husband who did not sign up to become a new dad and caregiver to his wife at the same time, but has been amazing throughout it all!”
Read more to learn about the wisdom she’s gained, and what she’s learned about herself through this journey. You can also make a donation in honour of Brooke and her courage as a 2022 Lock Out Cancer Ambassador.
When did you first discover something “wasn’t right”?
While breastfeeding my newborn son, I thought I had mastitis and could feel a clogged duct. After trying to clear it for some time, I gave up. When I stopped breastfeeding, I noticed the lump was still there. I decided to make time for myself and get this checked out. My doctor ordered an ultrasound in December and it was confirmed to be breast cancer.
What surprised you about local cancer care here in Windsor?
Having worked in the Cancer Centre for 9 years, I thought I knew exactly what patients meant when they said the Cancer Centre was like a second home to them. Being a patient myself, I now truly understand what they meant. The Cancer Centre and staff genuinely care about you and are focused on making you comfortable. For example, when you go for chemotherapy, there are warm blankets, a free lunch, a welcome bag, massage and heated chairs, and so much more. When you meet with your care team, you receive care that feels as if you are the only patient on their mind.
Many have little exposure to the world of cancer treatment until they’re thrust in it. Can you impart some words of wisdom?
Cancer treatment looks so different for each and every patient. Your treatment plan is based on your cancer type, your cancer staging, your age, and so much more. Additionally, two people could be on the exact same cancer treatment plan and have different side effects. Every patients’ journey is truly unique. I hadn’t realized this before. If you have a loved one going through cancer treatment, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are personally feeling rather than assuming.
What aspect have you been able to view as a positive from this experience?
One thing that I can view as a positive from this experience is that it I am now more motivated than ever to engage our community and continue raising money to help our patients. Having seen first-hand how the funds raised through the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation can truly improve the patient experience makes me want to do all that I can to convey that message to our community and our donors so that we can continue to support our patients as much as possible.
What have you learned about yourself? About your support network?
I’ve learned that you are ALWAYS stronger than you ever think you could be. And I’ve always known this, but my support network is absolutely incredible. Words can’t ever describe how thankful I am for everyone who has supported me through this in so many ways. And a special shoutout to my husband who did not sign up to become a new dad and caregiver to his wife at the same time, but has been amazing throughout it all!
We sincerely thank Brooke for sharing her story. Click Here if you would like to donate to the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation in her honour.