WATCH: The extended interview with Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who sat down with Tom Clark to discuss a personal health matter and offer some advice to women.
OTTAWA — Cabinet minister Lisa Raitt could be away from Parliament until the end of the year, while she recovers from a medical procedure to rule out cancer.
“I have a solid growth on my ovaries,” she said. “On Tuesday, we’re going to have surgery to remove whatever that is.”
So far, diagnostic imaging and blood tests have proved promising, but Raitt and her doctors cannot rule out ovarian cancer until the lump is removed and analyzed, she said in an exclusive interview on The West Block with Tom Clark.
Raitt, who was first elected to Parliament in 2008, said she isn’t yet certain how long she will be away from work.
“It depends upon how invasive the surgery is and whether or not it’s cancer,” she said. “But I am prepared to recover and make sure that I get better.”
Following tests and discussions with her surgeon, Raitt said she is comfortable heading into this week’s procedure.
It was three years ago when Raitt, 46, first noticed some “changes” happening to her body.
“Everyone always says it’s normal, that’s what you go through when you’re going through menopause or perimenopause,” she said. “But they were things that affected my everyday life.”
Trusting her instincts, Raitt went to her doctor, who ordered tests. Finally, she recently got her diagnosis.
“It just came out of nowhere, in a sense,” she said, explaining part of her motivation for talking about her personal health issues is to advise women to listen to their bodies and follow up any concerns.
“I had some real complaints associated with reproductive issues and I didn’t let them go. I continued to talk about them with my doctor and became concerned. I actually let a year go by in terms of getting a test done, and I shouldn’t have done that. I should have been more diligent with my health and I should have followed the advice that I was given.”
WATCH: Lisa Raitt discusses the solid growth doctors found in her ovaries and offers some advice to women.
Roughly 2,700 Canadian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 1,750 will die of the disease by the end of 2014, according to estimates from the Canadian Cancer Society.
Raitt said she didn’t tell her sons, 10-year-old Billy and 13-year-old John Colin, about what she was going through until after the a blood test diagnosis came back, the results of which offered hope her growth may not be cancerous.
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“I decided to let them know that I was going to have surgery and what it meant,” said the Nova Scotia-born minister who represents a Toronto-area riding. “I’m going to see how the boys do … They’re not used to me being out of commission.”
Since getting the news, Billy has spent time practicing his card games, an activity he can do with his mom to help keep her company, Raitt said.
“We don’t talk about cancer. We don’t talk about what happens if it’s cancer. We talk about the operations, and it’s one step at a time.”
The minister’s office will issue a press release later today, ahead of Tuesday’s surgery. In the meantime, Raitt said she is trying to maintain a positive outlook.
Her age, and overall health are instilling confidence the analysis of her growth will yield benign results, she said.
“That being said, you have to check these things out, and women have to talk about uncomfortable issues associated with symptoms that aren’t pleasant to talk about with others,” she said. “But you start telling the stories, you realize there is a lot of commonality in terms of symptoms, and they can be treated. But as well, they should be investigated.”
Another reason for speaking out ahead of her surgery is to mitigate any speculation.
“This is my truth, my reality,” she said. “My family and I are going to recover together, quietly and privately, now that everybody understands what’s going on. I appreciate anyone who wishes me well, but we’re just going to be very quiet now.”
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