Cancer patient shares amazing story of survival, presses on with positive attitude

From left: Chris Cox, TJ King, Linda Bernard, Wendy Ray

Rockwall Relay set for April 26 at Cain Middle School

If I get depressed, my Norwegian Shepherd gets depressed. So I put on music and dance around the house, and my dogs jump around with me.” ~ Linda Bernard

(ROCKWALL-March 18, 2013) Linda Bernard is smiling as she pulls off her purple cap to reveal her perfectly bald head. “Every time my hair would grow back, they’d do something else to me to make it fall out again!” she exclaimed.

Linda has a long history of cancer within her family. When she was just 14-years-old, her mother and her older sister died of breast cancer—her mother in August, and her sister in December. She also has had five cousins die from breast cancer, one of them her male cousin, Maurice.

“A lot of people don’t realize that men die from breast cancer, too,” she said.

Diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago at the age of 49, Linda had her husband Keith to support her while she was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “He always had a masseuse at the house, so as soon as I came home from my treatment, I would get a massage. I would almost have to be carried to the bedroom, because I was so relaxed,” she remembers.

Amazingly, Linda has some fond memories of her battle with cancer. While undergoing radiation for breast cancer, her 4-year-old goddaughter, Maylaina was living across the street from her. As she arrived home each day after her treatment, her goddaughter would race over to spend time with her. One day Linda was getting undressed as Maylaina wandered into her room. Maylaina’s eyes widened as she focused on the marking on Linda’s breast which the technicians had used to pinpoint the location of her tumors. “Auntie Nina!” the little girl exclaimed. “Someone has written on your boobie!” Linda shared the story with the staff in the radiology office, and soon the technicians were writing messages like “Hi Maylaina!” on Linda’s breast to the little girl’s amazement.

Tragically, the cancer returned with a vengeance in 2010, after Linda had been disease-free for ten years. She went to her general practitioner, complaining of back pain. He did an x-ray and found spots on her lungs. Later, after suffering from headaches, an MRI revealed a large cyst on the left side of her brain and lesions on the right side. The cancer has since metastasized to her bones.

At the time of her diagnosis, Linda had been in the process of buying a house in Rockwall. She had moved from California to be near her daughter and is glad she did, since she has an army of doctors at Baylor Hospital who are helping her in her fight. “Dr. Blum is my oncologist. Dr. Cheek works on my brain. Dr. Sally Hall is my cardiologist, because I now have congestive heart failure, and Dr. Elizabeth Tillerose is my family doctor.”

Sadly, Keith is not around to help Linda during her latest bout with cancer. He passed away in 2009 after both he and Linda contracted the Swine Flu. “You would have thought that I would have been the one to die. He was three years younger and healthy as a horse,” she explains. Keith was planning to retire, and the couple was going to buy a small mobile home, so they could drive across the country. They especially looked forward to seeing the Grand Canyon. Keith died the same week two of Linda’s aunts died—one from pancreatic cancer, the second from lung cancer.

Currently, Linda has just finished a round of 15 whole-brain radiation sessions. “I don’t ever want to do that again!” she states emphatically. In order to make sure the patient doesn’t move while the doctors focus the radiation at specific points in the brain, a wire mask is tightly molded to the patient’s face and is bolted to the table where they are lying. In addition to discomfort, the treatment has many unpleasant side-effects. “The radiation made me weak and discombobulated. I had to take drugs they give to people with Alzheimer’s to try to help with the confusion. I am getting better at forming thoughts, and I’m just now beginning to be able to taste again.”

She lost 25 pounds as a result of the radiation. “If you can’t taste, you don’t want to eat. Everything tastes burned,” Linda said. She is taking hormone blockers, which seem to be shrinking the tumors in her brain.

Linda’s exuberant nature hasn’t let cancer get the best of her. “Now that I have my freedom back—because when I was undergoing radiation treatments I couldn’t drive—I jump in my big red car and go anywhere. I hang out with my three dogs, and I ride horses with my daughter. If I get depressed, my Norwegian Shepherd gets depressed. So I put on music and dance around the house, and my dogs jump around with me,” she laughs.

Linda has recruited the staff of her neighborhood Starbucks to join her at Relay For Life on April 26th at the Cain Middle track. They will be selling beverages to benefit the American Cancer Society and cheering Linda on as she walks the Survivor Lap.

For more information about Relay For Life, visit

Written and submitted by Mary Thacker, Relay for Life.

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