Within the first minute of speaking with her, I could tell that Kim MacDonald is a force to be reckoned with.
Although I couldn't see her as we spoke on the phone, I sensed her warming smile and positive attitude. She asked about my day and I thanked her for sharing her story, which is sure to inspire both women and cancer patients to live with gratitude and hope.
Despite the fact that we discussed the gloomy topic of breast cancer, the "Weather Network" host remained surprisingly calm and collected. From recounting the day of her diagnosis up until her "life-changing" mastectomy tattoo, MacDonald wasn't afraid to share it all.
"Once I got the tattoo, it changed everything about how I felt about myself."Kim MacDonald
If there's one thing MacDonald knows for sure, it's that her tough past has paved the way to an enlightened future.
In an interview with Yahoo Canada, the Hamilton, Ont.-based TV presenter opened up about her difficult journey with the disease and her involvement with Breast Cancer Canada.
Yahoo Canada: Tell us more about your breast cancer journey. What was it like to receive your diagnosis?
Kim MacDonald: "I felt like I knew that I had breast cancer before I heard the words from my doctor. I had significant changes to my breast that made it obvious there was a problem...I had been getting checked regularly and in February 2016 the surgeon said that I was fine and took me off his patient list."
"But by September things had really changed, my breast had hardened and got rashy. I thought I had inflammatory breast cancer which is pretty much the worst diagnosis. So that's what I was going into the doctor's office with, so I had already thought of the worst case scenario."
"It was strange having to comfort others when I was the one with breast cancer."Kim MacDonald
"I had a biopsy done and the surgeon said he didn't know how I ended up with a 10 centimetre tumour. He said I didn't have inflammatory breast cancer but Stage 2b Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, HER2+. And I'm like phew, because it was different and maybe better than what I thought it would be."
YC: What was your treatment process like?
KM: "I was nervous about what was going to happen to me...Thankfully the cancer had not spread anywhere which was very lucky. I started chemotherapy right away. They had to shrink the tumour before surgery or a mastectomy could be done."
"The hardest part for me was telling people close to me — my children, my mother, that's what still brings big emotions for me...When I told everyone, I put a positive spin on everything. I convinced everyone it was going to be fine. But it's weird because I'm new to all of this and I didn't know how to tell people I had cancer...I was in these scenarios when I was convincing other people close to me that it will be fine. It was strange having to comfort others when I was the one with breast cancer."
YC: When did you first decide to get a mastectomy tattoo? Why did you feel that this was right for you?
KM: "My mastectomy was done in May 2017. My tattoo was in May of 2022. I was thinking about getting the tattoo for five years. A friend asked me if I was thinking of getting one, as when I look in the mirror I am seeing art rather than scars. And so I started to Google and I saw these beautiful women with tattoos and I thought, yes, I'm doing this."
"I was trying to look ahead and be positive, be strong, and to not let it break me."Kim MacDonald
"...Eventually I found this beautiful tattooist. I had a picture in mind from a local artist in Hamilton of a sunflower. I thought my tattoo artist could use this as inspiration and come up with her own design. After five years I took the leap. And I didn't tell anyone what I was doing! So I contacted my artist and got the ball rolling as I thought this was a story worth telling and showing."
"I had grown to accept what I looked like with my scars. Once I got the tattoo, it changed everything about how I felt about myself. I couldn't believe the shift in my attitude. It was more than I expected. I love it, it was life-changing, and it was empowering."
YC: Tell us about your tattoo design and why you chose it.
KM: "I love sunflowers. I heard the saying, 'be the sunflower, stand strong and follow the sun,' when I was doing treatment, and it really stuck with me. I felt like I was doing that all throughout my treatment. I had down days for sure, but for the most part I was trying to look ahead and be positive, be strong, and to not let it break me. And I thought a sunflower was a great symbol of that. Having a good, sunny attitude has got me though difficult times."
"A lot of my artist's designs look like a sunflower within a storm, and I said this is how I feel — there's a storm behind me and I'm going to look toward the sun."
"You only have control over your attitude and how you deal with situations."Kim MacDonald
YC: How did you get involved with Breast Cancer Canada's latest rebrand/campaign?
KM: "I have been a spokesperson for Breast Cancer Canada since the first year of my diagnosis. Because of being in the public eye I became a face for them. When I got this tattoo, I really wanted to reveal it. Most people didn't know about it, so I wanted to show women with cancer that they have a choice."
"I was speaking with a friend from Breast Cancer Canada and she sent me a casting call for breast cancer survivors. They hired me, and the campaign came out this Monday. I love their new brand and their mission to fund research. I'm so behind everything they do. It's a small charity doing huge work."
YC: Why is this ad important to you and what do you hope people get out of it?
KM: "I hope that people will donate to Breast Cancer Canada and see that women are thriving because of their research."
"I also want women who are going through breast cancer to know that I know how hard it is. I hope to be something that they can look at and see that people can beat this, they can thrive, be strong and determined, and people can look good and beautiful on the other side. Women don't see enough of this. You don't see women with mastectomy tattoos on billboards!"
YC: Your story is inspiring. What advice do you have for women battling breast cancer?
KM: "Breast cancer is hard but a lot of positive things came into my life because of it. Everyone deals with bad things in their life that you don't have control over. You only have control over your attitude and how you deal with situations."
"To women dealing with breast cancer, please take care of yourselves. Seek therapy if you need it. It's all-consuming and difficult but you can get through it, there are great treatments, and know that you are bigger than your disease. You can beat it!"