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Women's advocates battle cancer
Arlene Hache and Lyda Fuller encourage menopausal women to get checked out

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 28, 2013

Two of Yellowknife's most active advocates for the well-being of women in the North travelled a dangerous road the last few months.

NNSL photo/graphic

Arlene Hache, left, and Lyda Fuller sit in Fuller's living room Friday as they explain how they both were recently diagnosed with uterine cancer, and how both of them conquered the disease. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

Lyda Fuller, executive director of the YWCA, and Arlene Hache, former executive director of the Centre for Northern Families, were diagnosed with uterine cancer last fall. Both underwent hysterectomies and both are now recovering.

As the women sit in Fuller's sun-drenched living room on Friday, they told their almost identical stories of how they noticed the signs, received the news, looked cancer head on and came out on top.

Both women had gone through menopause years ago but started to notice some light bleeding in the early summer.

"It was very light bleeding. No big deal. I would have been tempted to sort of ignore it except for my friend said, 'you better get it checked out,'" said 64-year-old Fuller.

"I said, 'OK, when I get a minute. Work is busy.'"

Hache, 60, shrugged the bleeding off and said she doesn't normally discuss health issues with friends. Her partner told her to go to a doctor, that it didn't seem normal. Hache said she was too busy, plus, she didn't like going to the doctor. She then saw a television ad directed at women who had been through menopause. The ad implored that if the women noticed they were bleeding, to go to the doctor: that it could be cancer. Hache went to the doctor right away.

Hache received her diagnosis of uterine cancer in September when PAP smear results came back positive. Fuller said a recent PAP smear she had didn't detect any irregularities but her doctor sent her to get an ultrasound to figure out why she was bleeding. A part of Fuller's uterine lining was biopsied and sent to Edmonton.

Hache had a hysterectomy on Nov. 23. The day before, Fuller ran into Hache at Javaroma. Hache told Fuller about her surgery.

"Arlene said she was going to go have surgery and I asked her what her symptoms were and they were the same as mine," said Fuller.

Fuller got her results that yes, she did have uterine cancer on Jan. 3 and had a hysterectomy on Jan. 8.

Both women spent about two days in the hospital after the surgery and went home to recover. Both women's illnesses were determined to be stage 1 uterine cancers. Fuller is taking time off work at the YWCA until late February. Hache retired from her 25-year career with the Centre for Northern Families early last summer.

"The reason I followed up with health issues was because I retired. I thought, 'OK, I'm going to pay attention to my health now, take care of myself a little better. If I had still been at the centre, I wouldn't have bothered," she said.

"You get so consumed with work. You're on call 24-7," said Fuller, who has worked with the YWCA for 27 years, 16 in Yellowknife.

Fuller and Hache will undergo a short radiation treatment in Edmonton in the near future as a precautionary measure. They said the journey they have taken over the past few months has been challenging but extremely smooth thanks to the health services in the city.

"I found that the services were just very fast and excellent. The support from hospital was just superb you couldn't ask for better," said Hache.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, most women with uterine cancer are post-menopausal and between the ages of 45 to 70. Some symptoms include abnormal bleeding from the vagina either bleeding that starts after menopause or bleeding between periods in pre-menopausal women, or pain or pressure in the pelvic area.

"Thank goodness I paid attention, and thank goodness my friends said go have it checked out and thank goodness it all happened so quickly," said Fuller.

Fuller and Hache will now go for a checkup ever three months for the next five years.

"Now I don't want to go into over work again, be a workaholic. I want to spend more time with my husband and my kids. I want to spend more time enjoying life," said Hache.

"It's good news, for both of us, very good news."

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