Diane Bishop’s story is an amazing one of courage, coping and hope.
It’s a story of a woman battling Stage 4 triple negative breast cancer whose positive attitude and captivating smile incredibly leave you feeling much better about the world … after just a few moments in her presence.
And Bishop believes in miracles, too.
Facing the financial stress of soon not being able to pay her bills, nor being able to afford to travel to Toronto or elsewhere for clinical trials for a new treatment, something amazing happened — Bishop won a $1.5-million Super Set for Life jackpot with the Atlantic Lottery Corp.
But the miracle that Bishop takes from this is not so much the lottery win, but the fact that if anything happens to her now she knows her two sons — whom she raised as a single parent — will be better prepared financially to move on.
And that takes a heavy load off her mind, leaving her better able to focus her attention on the fight against her cancer.
“I figured if anything happened to me … my boys are my life, so I really didn’t know how, financially, they were going to be able to do it without me,” Bishop said. “But now, since we’ve got this win, I get to pay off one of my son’s house, and all his bills will be paid. My other son, I’m paying off my mortgage so he will live mortgage-free.
“So, no matter what happens to me, my boys will live financially in a better place and I couldn’t ask for anything better, and that is my miracle.
“My prayers were answered. If I don’t get miracle Number 2 on a cure, I got miracle Number 1 that my family is looked after.”
Bishop was diagnosed in April 2016 with breast cancer, triple negative, and underwent chemo treatments, surgery and radiation. In May 2017, the cancer came back and had spread to her lung and hip.
“It’s Stage 4, but I’m not giving up. We are still going to do the fight,” she told reporters while at the Atlantic Lottery Corp. office in St. John’s recently to be presented with her cheque.
Staff at the lottery office were overjoyed that Bishop had won. It was an emotional time when Bishop came in to be presented with the prize.
Bishop has been in the media before. In an interview with the local CBC prior to her lottery win, she spoke about being very sick, but not being able to afford to quit work. She said people fighting life-threatening illnesses should not have the extra burden of continuing to struggle to pay the bills. She said both the federal and provincial governments need to make changes to help lift the financial burden from patients who are undergoing cancer treatments.
“We went to the news media, and were speaking to the government. And, hopefully, we are going to change some of the financial burden that is attached with cancer for a lot of patients,” Bishop said. “It’s a fight I wanted to do for everybody because I’m not the only one. There’s a lot of us out there. It just took someone to step up to the plate and bring it to light that we cannot survive without financial assistance.”
Bishop was the franchise owner of a Needs Convenience store in Mount Pearl for the last five years.
Since the lottery win, she was able to retire from the store and concentrate fully on her health. Her ticket won a top prize of $100,000 a year for 20 years, or a $1.5-million lump-sum payment. Bishop chose to take the lump sum.
“As of Nov. 19, I’m retired. So, I can look after myself and spend time with my family and friends, and it’s a wonderful feeling,” Bishop said. “I’m going to miss my store and everybody, but it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Bishop said that before winning the lottery, the possibility of going away for various treatments was slim. Now, she said, she has the financial ability to go wherever she needs to in order to fight the cancer. It makes her sad, however, that other cancer patients are not in the same position.
“You get to a point that in order to survive, you have to sell off assets that you’ve worked so hard to get through your life,” she said. “So we’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got to keep going to government. The more voices that are heard, the better it’s going to be getting some changes.”
Bishop noted there was an amount of money raised through fundraisers to help her with travel costs should she need to go to Toronto or somewhere else for treatments. She has now passed that money on to another cancer patient and will also make a donation from her lottery winnings to Daffodil Place.
“I was given some money, donations and stuff from strangers and from other outside help, and I’ve decided to pay that money forward because right now I don’t need it,” Bishop sad. “I’ve found somebody who is in a financial need, such as myself, and I’ve paid it forward. So now he’s going to have a very nice Christmas and we are also going to make a really nice donation to Daffodil Place. I think that’s a really worthwhile place to give because it’s a financial burden when you have to come in town, and not only lose work, but you have to pay to stay somewhere.”
In addition to taking steps to ensure her sons are in better financial shape, Bishop has already made a couple of purchases that, to another lottery winner, may seem small.
“I needed a new bed and I’ve been putting it off for financial reasons and now, since this win, I’ve gone out and I have a therapeutic adjustable bed which now will help me. If I’m watching TV or having respiratory problems, I can raise it up,” she said. “It would really be small for someone else, but it’s a big thing for me. I bought a chair that is electric, too, so I don’t have to use my leg to push down the lever. Those are huge comforts for me.”