Late Cape Breton woman’s legacy lives on through cancer equipment donation
SYDNEY, N.S. -- Even after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer in June, Brenda McCarthy is still lifting the spirits of patients at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre.
“It speaks volumes about her as a person, she always put others before herself,” says Krista McCarthy, Brenda’s daughter.
In 2019, McCarthy was diagnosed with Stage 2 pancreatic cancer -- her second diagnosis since 2017.
When she found out Alex Trebek had been diagnosed with the same disease, she wrote him a letter to let him know he wasn’t alone.
The "Jeopardy!" host called McCarthy in January, and a bond was formed over their conversation.
“The conversation lasted all of maybe five minutes, but I could tell that he was very sincere and genuine. He commended me on my efforts, raising money for the community,” McCarthy told CTV Atlantic in January.
But McCarthy, a nurse for more than 30 years, had an even bigger goal -- to raise enough money to bring a special form of radiation therapy to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
“Brenda McCarthy was single-handedly the most impactful person I’ve met in my four years here at the Foundation,” says Mark Inglis, the communications officer of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation. “She knew that this wasn’t going to impact her cancer care. She knew that it was going to be helping people after her.”
Sadly, Brenda lost her battle with cancer in June at the age of 60.
But now her goal of bringing Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre has become a reality.
“They are able to stay around in their own environment,” explains Dr. Kwamena Beecham, lead radiation oncologist at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre. “They don’t have to travel outside to have this treatment done, so five treatments or four treatments versus 40 treatments. For a better outcome, I think it’s really worth it.”
It’s a treatment McCarthy herself would have benefitted from, but she would have had to travel more than four hours to Halifax. Now the treatment is available to cancer patients in Cape Breton.
With more than $300,000 raised, it’s completely donor funded.
“Because of Brenda’s spirit, because people knew it was her,” says Inglis.
So while Brenda’s fight is over, her legacy is a shining reminder of how much of a difference one person can make.
“We find comfort in knowing that she is now helping others. Her legacy is living on, and she’s up there,” says Krista McCarthy.
“Cancer didn’t get the best of me, I won,” McCarthy said in January. “I won because I was able to help somebody else.”
And her efforts will be helping others, for many years to come.