Denise Poland

We first brought you Denise Poland’s story in February. You can read that story here. At that time she was just months into her treatment for breast cancer. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to check in on her and her journey.

In August of this year, Denise Poland and her husband headed out to Colorado. This trip was more than a vacation, it was one of healing. Just a year before, also in August, Poland accomplished a long-time goal to climb Longs Peak, a 14,259 ft. mountain.

“When we got to Colorado we drove by the mountain we had climbed [Longs Peak], and it was very emotional, but I needed to do it. That just seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only a year,” she said.

This time she didn’t summit Longs Peak, but she did take on smaller hikes of four to five hours in length. Poland and her family are hikers and enjoy adventure. Although this year’s hikes were much different, hiking is something she said she needed to do.

“Cathartic is the word I would use to describe it,” she shared. “It was comforting to know I still can do it, and that cancer did not take everything from me. It was humbling at the same time.”

For just over a year, Poland has been in the care of QMG Oncologist Dr. Raymond Smith and team at the QMG Cancer Institute. She’s nearing the end of her chemotherapy treatments and expects to finish at the end of November or early December — a milestone in her journey.

Throughout this time, she’s realized how meaningful the QMG Cancer Institute has been to her. The care she gets extends beyond her physical health. The emotional support has become just as important. Having that support close to home gave her anxiety about taking this latest trip to Colorado.

“I think I may have experienced a panic attack, but I’m not sure. There was no official diagnosis of it. I couldn’t get my emotions under control. I went in and spoke with an oncology nurse,” she shared. “I realized it was because we were going on vacation and I was going to be away from all of the support from the doctors and team. We were going to an area in Colorado where we weren’t going to have good cell phone service. I was getting myself worked up about ‘What am I going to do?’ kind of thing. I had lived with the comfort of being a half a mile away from QMG, where I can pick up the phone and be seen right away. But we worked through it, and they put me at ease.”

Another source of support has been Cancer Connect, a support group sponsored by the QMG Cancer Institute and QMG Foundation for all of those touched by cancer — patients, caretakers, families, and friends.

“It’s fantastic. I love it! I’ve made some wonderful relationships there. I would encourage people to go. You don’t have to go to every session; you can drop by every so often and that’s ok,” she said.

Since her breast cancer diagnosis, Poland often shares the importance of screenings and routine check-ups with those around her.

“In our family we have a saying, ‘You don’t have to — you get to.’  Getting a mammogram is a life thing that you don’t have to do — you get to do it!  It’s a must do — not a choice.  If I hadn’t gone to my yearly exam and done my self-breast exam, this wouldn’t have been caught in quite a while,” she said.


Looking back on this last year, she does so with optimism, the same optimism that she’s held on to throughout her journey, along with her faith. As she nears the end of her chemotherapy treatment course, she feels hopeful. Now her focus will turn to the physical and mental recovery.

“I’m so fortunate. Life is good. We’re getting back on track…day-by day and prayer-by-prayer.”