Twenty years ago, the glow of being a young mother was overshadowed by a sudden and rapid weight loss. It took a long time to connect to the right places and figure out what was going on—I went to the ICU in Scarborough, ran blood tests and x-rays before a doctor filled me in by asking my husband and I a question: “Do you watch hockey? Do you know Lemieux?”
I guessed the confused look on my face answered for me. Back then, the news of hockey star Mario Lemieux’s Hodgkin’s Disease diagnosis broke a few years prior to my own diagnosis, and it rocked Canadians from coast to coast. Of course, I thought, “I have cancer?” Here I am, a newborn on my hip, an eight-year-old child by my side, a loving husband worried for me. How will I take care of my family?
Everything after that moment felt like a blur. I went through biopsy surgery, chemotherapy for six months and radiation for one full month. My signature long, silky hair, what people would remember me by, started to fall out first. It felt like I lost a part of my personality, that the sickness had manifested on the outside for the whole world to see and judge. I am a positive person by nature, but there were days I wasn’t able to stay positive. It might have been half a year, but it was one of the hardest periods of my life. I was declared in remission after treatment was done, and my loved ones thought cancer was behind me. In reality, it left a void that was filled by a fear—was it really gone? Was I really in remission? The fear of the unknown took a mental toll on me. Luckily, I had a lot of support from my loved ones.
My dear husband was my rock. I found strength through him and his encouragement. He would always encourage me to be positive, often reminding me that, “we’re going through this together, this is just a passing phase.” He encouraged me to get out of the house and attend a workshop I had just heard about that helps women who have cancer feel better.
I remember the day vividly; it was sunny day. My mother-in-Law offered to take care of the kids and I took the streetcar down to the workshop. I walked in and felt the warmth of the makeup artist leading the workshop. It felt like such a treat! I felt pampered. I got to make friends and talk to other women in my shoes. I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time since I started treatment feeling beautiful. That evening I felt normal. I felt normal taking the train home and kissing my little boys while waiting for my husband to come home. I never wanted to shake that happiness. The workshop did wonders for my sense of self.
Since that day, the fear of the unknown has been replaced by the comfort in knowing I have been in remission for the past 20 years. I am part of great organization Apotex Pharmaceuticals, that has been continuously supporting LGFB and I have had the opportunity to lead some of the Look Good Feel Better activities for the organization. But my love of the program ran so deep that I even joined the Bubbles & Brunch Toronto committee! Bubbles & Brunch events are held in support of Look Good Feel Better, where we raise glasses—and funds—for this amazing organization. While the event has moved virtually over the past year, it fills me with joy and pride to help other women to feel more beautiful again.