What can I tell you about myself? Well, I guess I should start at the beginning. My parents are Jamaican and I was born in England, but I’ve been in Canada for over 40 years now. I grew up here.
Today I live in Mississauga with my husband and two boys. My boys are 26 and 28 years old, and they both live at home. They say that I’m boring, that I don’t do anything. But that’s not true. I like to walk and do aerobics and Tae Bo, I go to church every weekend – well, almost every weekend – and I love to shop and hang out with my girlfriends. My boys may poke fun at me, but they were there for me when I needed them. Last summer, I went for a mammogram and got a call saying to go and do another one. Shortly after, I was given the news – I had a tumour – it was breast cancer.
At first, I kept crying and crying and crying, oh my goodness. I prayed to God to help me. After a while, I settled myself down and started to encourage myself – telling myself that I can get through this, and that lots of women had passed through this and survived. And my boys encouraged me. They kept saying, “Mom, you’ve got this.” So I stayed strong – it’s the only way to get through this. I had to be strong and stay positive. And I held on to my faith. Whatever you believe in, God or something else, hold on to that and let that help you through your journey.
After the surgery, I went for chemo and then radiation. On my first day of chemo, the receptionist said, “Wow, you look so cute!” And I said, “Well, might as well look good to feel good, right?” She said, “Oh, so you know about Look Good Feel Better?” That was a funny moment because I’d never heard of the program. But now I had! I attended all the LGFB workshops, and I learned a lot of things. For example, in the makeup workshop I learned that everyone should be wearing sunscreen – including people of colour. I learned that no matter your skin type, we should all be wearing sunscreen to protect our skin, every single day. That was a “Wow, really?” moment for me.
I really enjoyed learning how to apply makeup. I’m not really a makeup person per se, but with cancer we lose our eyelashes and eyebrows, so we’ve got to fake it. My motto was always, “Just because I’m not well, doesn’t mean I need to look like I’m not well.” I liked being able to have control over how I looked, and I didn’t want everyone to know I was sick. The hair was a big one for me. For Black women, our hair is number one. We’re always taking care of our hair, and we like to wear braids, weaves, and wigs. When my hair started coming out, my husband shaved my head for me, and he shaved his head, too. We took a picture together – it was so cute. Losing my hair had a huge impact on me but I was grateful to have him by my side.
LGFB taps into so many different areas of a woman’s journey with cancer – from breast care, to how we feel after treatment, to makeup, hair care, and more. It was a great resource to have throughout this journey.