Port Alberni school community embraces Wonder Women undergoing cancer treatment

Tickets for Nov. 21 Wonder Women Benefit dance are still available but the dinner is sold out.

Carrie Nahorney

Carrie Nahorney and Elizabeth Platz have more in common than their neighbourhood and professions. The two south Port residents and teachers were both diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. They were shocked by the unexpected news but have taken on the challenge with a positive attitude through treatments and are leaning on each other for support.

When Nahorney found out another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to go for a mammogram in March. She has a family history of the disease, but was not experiencing any symptoms nor discovered any lumps. The exam was taken as a general precaution.

“I was called back for a second mammogram and ultrasound,” Nahorney said. “The next day they wanted to do a biopsy and I knew right then it was cancer. My chest fell to the floor.”

She said she was in the best shape of her life and was in training for a Mudderella obstacle race.

“I thought, how on earth could I have breast cancer,” she said.

On April 8, Nahorney had a double mastectomy, although the cancer was only in her left breast.

“I am glad of that decision to take both,” she said. “My husband and I decided to attack the treatment as aggressively as possible. We want it to be it.”

After wrapping up six months of chemotherapy, Nahorney now faces 28 days straight of radiation, followed by hormone therapy and possibly reconstructive surgery.

She said she is taking it in steps and is grateful to have a strong support network of friends and family.

“It is hard not knowing what is next,” she said. “Going from chemo to radiation is like going from the known to the unknown and I have some anxiety about that, but it is helpful to talk to people who have gone through it.”

One of those friends is Platz, who was diagnosed with breast cancer on May 11. They have been beside each other every step of the way.

“I remember vividly feeling saddened and shocked that such a vibrant and healthy person could be diagnosed with cancer,” Platz said about Nahorney’s diagnosis.

Platz’s story is a rare one. Findings show that about 1 in every 3000 woman are diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant. At the time of diagnosis, Platz was 33 weeks pregnant with her second child. Immediately, the question of the baby’s safety was foremost for Platz, her husband, Kevin, and their doctor, Dr. Van Zyl.

Platz credits for Dr. Van Zyl for her care and support.

The decision was made to deliver early at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, as the hospital has the neonatal intensive-care unit. Josiah Michael Platz was born one month premature on May 26 and was cared for in the NICU for one week with a few issues regarding his lungs and chest.

Josiah is now a healthy, happy baby, but the first four months of his life were tough on his mom: Platz underwent a string of surgeries, chemotherapy sessions and doctor’s appointments.

Nahorney said it has been helpful having Platz living next door.

“It is a bad club to belong to, but it has been a blessing to have Elizabeth across the street,” she said. “We have someone to talk to. I was able to help her through the shock of finding out and we have become ‘chemo buddies’. She came with me after her own treatments were done.”

“Carrie has been such a great friend, supporter and encourager through it all,” Platz said. “We often joke that we are so glad to be going through this together, just that we wish it was under different circumstances.”

From the beginning, Nahorney and Platz have adopted a “superwoman” theme to help them through the tough times.

“At every treatment I wear something ‘wonder woman’ to remind myself that I know I can do it,” Nahorney said.

Also helping along the way is the support of family, friends and coworkers. Nahorney said she was never without a meal and her housekeeping was taken care of.

Now colleagues of John Paul II Catholic School and School District 70, headed by Stacey Manson, are organizing a fundraising dinner and dance to help with expenses for the two families for Saturday, Nov. 21.

The Wonder Women Benefit evening is a family-oriented dinner and dance, complete with silent auction, photo booth, music and games.

Nahorney said it will be a chance for the two to enjoy something positive with their whole families.

“I am really looking forward to being around my friends as I make this next transition,” she said.

“When I look back on my journey, I am so amazed by all the caring people in my life,” Platz said.

“I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family, church, friends and community support network.”

The fundraiser takes place at John Paul II Catholic School on Nov. 21. Doors open at 5 p.m. and dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. The dance starts at 7 p.m. Dinner is sold out but there are still dance tickets available for $5.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the school, Wynans Furniture, John Howitt Elementary and Walk the Coast.

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