Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I lost my job. It was the spring of 2020, and the bank where I worked was making major cut-backs due to COVID restructuring. I got laid off.
At first, it felt like everything bad was happening all at once: this blow to my career, my diagnosis, a lumpectomy with surprising and disappointing findings, and then a bigger surgery with a complicated recovery. It was a lot of shocks to the system all at once. But amongst everything that was going on, losing my job was actually the best thing, because it made it possible for me to focus on my treatment and taking care of myself.
Getting laid off also allowed me to do one of the things I’d been wanting to do, which was publish my first children’s book. I accomplished this while going through treatment. The book is called The Thing with Wishes, and it’s about being thankful for what we have. Even though we may have big dreams and big wishes, sometimes we have to look around and just be thankful for what we have right here, right now. The story was inspired by what I was going through.
In the classic Pinocchio, the song goes, “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.” But sometimes, no matter what we wish, life just doesn’t turn out the way the way we imagined it. Getting cancer certainly isn’t in anyone’s plans or dreams. It was a long road for me – from getting diagnosed in June 2020 to finishing treatment in April 2022. I went through six rounds of chemotherapy, including a horrible allergic reaction to the treatment, and a month and a half of radiation. There were days when I was really down. I wondered if I’d get to watch my daughter graduate from grade eight, let alone from high school. Thankfully, I don’t think that way anymore. I’m focused on living every day of my life to the best that I can.
My husband, my 13-year-old daughter and I are huge Disney fans. We plan a trip at least once a year. In August we went to Disney World in Florida and looking forward to thrilling experiences helped me get through my treatment. Being a fan also helped me get through it. I know how to find the fun and the magic in an experience.
When I lost my hair during chemo, it was really hard. I’ve always thought of myself as a strong, confident, independent woman, but when I started to look sick, people started treating me differently. I didn’t like that. The Look Good Feel Better workshops helped me to not look like I was sick. I learned how to tie head scarves and how to apply makeup. And I had fun with it. When my friends asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told them I wanted hats. And I received so many great ones – fun hats and fuzzy tuques and beautiful scarves and a funny Santa hat that I wore through the holidays. I would take silly pictures with the hats and send them to my friends. And my husband got me a fantastic tuque with long brown hair attached, pretty much like my real hair used to be, that I would wear to my daughter’s hockey games. I might have felt different, but I managed to have fun with it and to boost my confidence.
Because the thing with wishes is, it’s not the big dreams and wishes that are most important, but gratitude for what we have right in front of us– like great friends, an amazing husband and daughter, and a funny hat that makes me smile.