Before I got sick, I was in the best shape of my life. I was teaching group fitness classes at my local gym and working out just about every day. It’s a bit of a passion, and I feel weird if I don’t do something active every day. I love walking, hiking, and cycling – I like to be outdoors in the summer. I walk all year long. And although I had to stop teaching, I still love participating in fitness classes at the gym. It’s such an amazing feeling to be in a space with a bunch of other people who are all working at different levels and have different goals. There’s this strong sense of community and energy.
Cancer touches so many people’s lives. When I suddenly stopped showing up at the gym every day, people noticed – and when I finally came back after 15 months of cancer treatment, they all wanted to know where I’d been. I’m really open about it. I tell everyone what’s going on. And it has helped me connect with so many other people who faced cancer. Hearing their stories always gives me perspective and makes me feel less alone on my journey.
My diagnosis was unexpected. I was feeling completely fine. It was during the pandemic and I was working at home, just like everyone else. I got up to get a coffee, and my husband said he heard a big thud. He turned around and I was having a seizure on the floor. The next thing I knew, there were paramedics standing over me. I had no idea what had happened. It turns out I had a tumour in two of the lobes of my brain. It couldn’t be removed – it had to be treated chemically, with radiation and chemo. My long treatment journey began.
I’m someone who usually goes 125 miles an hour, all day long. I’m like the Energizer Bunny. I have more energy than my teenaged kids. Not having any energy all of a sudden was really frustrating. I couldn’t exercise hard, which distressed me. As someone who has always struggled with their weight, I was really struggling now – I couldn’t work out, I was on a steroid that blew me up like a balloon, and I was turning to food for comfort. This physical change wasn’t good for my self-confidence. I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror.
I first learned about Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) from my friend who had breast cancer. She raved about the workshop. She had enjoyed herself immensely, met some other nice ladies, and came home with this bag full of amazing products – she said it felt like Christmas. So I signed up too. At first, it was just an excuse to lock myself in my bedroom and to have an hour to myself for the online webinar. I looked forward to it, the way you’d look forward to going to the spa or to get your nails done. But I walked away thinking, “Wow, I really do feel better about myself!”
The makeup tips were helpful and practical, and the session was so relaxing – it felt like having a chat with a girlfriend. With cancer, our life can become consumed by medications and doctor’s appointments and blood test results and worrying about the future. To sit around and talk with other women was so healing. To me, that was the most important part. Just to take some time for myself to talk about something fun that I’m interested in – that’s so valuable. It’s like my time exercising – it’s both “me time” and time spent in community. It helps ground me and makes me feel better physically and mentally. And that’s what I got from LGFB, too.