Facing breast cancer treatment and major surgery generates different emotions. It made one woman find humor and song in her situation.
Known for her quick wit and sense of humor Catherine Bergh enjoys music and embraces silly parody songs.
That’s why it was no surprise to those closest to her that on the afternoon before major surgery, instead of feeling sorry for herself, Bergh did what she does best: made people smile and sing a tune.
She wrote a song parody, videotaped herself singing it, and posted the video on the Winchester Hospital Facebook page. It was a special shout out for Breast Cancer Awareness Month: sung to the tune of “YMCA” by the Village People.
“Nurses: today is the date. I said, surgeons: hurry up don’t be late…we can do this, you can show me the way, there’s just one more thing I have to say: It’s time for my mas-tec-tomy, it’s time for my mastectomy….give me new boobs, cut the cancer away, that’s all I that have to say….”
Bergh sang and her care team listened. She played the song for her nurses and surgeons on the day of her mastectomy and inspired others to tap into humor while tackling cancer. A few days after a successful surgery, she sat down with Healthy State to tell her story.
“I’m a teacher in the Lowell public schools and I love my work and my colleagues. For me, I think if you work as a teacher, having a sense of humor is essential. And with many colleagues, songs just get us through our day,” she said.
Bergh has worked as an English as a Second Language teacher for more than 12 years, teaching middle school immigrant students. Through the years, she has written parodies for different school occasions: from holiday party songs that poke fun at the new principal to mocking a school breakfast cart that was overloaded with carbohydrates. “So, I’ve happily claimed the title of resident parody songwriter,” she said.
Although enjoying many types of music from oldies, to classic rock to disco to pop is part of her day, writing a silly song about her breast cancer treatment came almost by accident. The day before her surgery at Winchester Hospital, she took the day off and met a friend for lunch.
“I was walking back to my car. It was a beautiful fall day. I was thinking about some of the songs I’ve written that have made me chuckle. I really love funny songs. It occurred to me, maybe I should make a song about this new adventure,” she said. “I’m not writing sonnets here, but it was something fun that made me feel pumped up and positive. It was one way I could keep my sense of humor.”
She posted the video on the Winchester Hospital Facebook page on Oct. 17, just two days before National Mammography Day.
Bergh said she wanted to use the song to tell others in her orbit that she had breast cancer, something she found out after her annual exam at the end of August 2018.
“I’m very lucky. I had a routine mammogram after a wonderful summer vacation. I got a call back and then had more mammograms, then ultrasounds, then a 3-D mammography with a biopsy. Then it really started to suck because I got the follow-up phone call from Dr. Kelley Cornell that I had cancer,” she said.
Bergh’s case was hard to detect, but after a thorough exam by her caregivers, it was found. “I had lots of poking and prodding. Only with an MRI did they find I had more cancer on the other breast. It’s only stage one, it’s small, and because I have really dense breasts it was hard to find. Because I have a history of atypical breast cells, my husband and I quickly made the decision to have the mastectomy,” she said.
On Oct. 18, Bergh had a double mastectomy with a tram flap reconstruction that used muscle and tissue from her abdomen to rebuild her breasts.
“I got a tummy tuck,” she said, always looking on the bright side. “I had two 9-pound babies who wreaked havoc on my abs. The ab crunches didn’t work so well, so now I have a tummy tuck and new boobs. In the long run I think it was the right choice for me,” she said.
As Bergh was getting ready to be released from the hospital, she expressed her gratitude for the Winchester staff. “All the nurses and staff have been just wonderful, especially my people at the Winchester Hospital Breast Care Center. They are amazing,” she said.
To keep her mood up, Bergh was already working on her next song.
“I’ve got my breast drain in my pocket, got that tubing flowing nice,” she sang to a popular Justin Timberlake tune.