We are only weeks into the New Year but 2012 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for us. This is the year that we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our foundation and the Look Good Feel Better program in Canada. We are in the early stages of planning the 20th issue of our annual magazine, which has given us a reason to dig through our archives and revisit some of the touching, hopeful and empowering stories that we’ve had the privilege of sharing over the past two decades.
Just this week, we were beyond thrilled to hear from an amazing woman we first met when she appeared in the 1998 issue of our magazine. Dionne Warner is nothing short of a miracle. She is a seven-time cancer survivor, having had cancer in her breast and brain and two bouts of liver cancer before being diagnosed in 2009 with Stage 4 cancer in her lungs, bones and liver. Dionne and her husband Graham are known at the cancer care centre where Dionne receives her treatment for dressing up in themed costumes for each of her chemo appointments, often marking their entrance with music, laughter and commotion. We received the incredible news this week that Dionne’s cancer is in complete remission! I have no doubt that Dionne’s indomitable spirit and resolute optimism helped propel her to this point. She’s a true personification of what it means to have hope.
We use the word ‘hope’ a lot around our office because we believe that every woman deserves to face cancer with hope, support and optimism. That’s not to discount the bad days or the seriousness of cancer, but we believe, and our report proves, that women are, overall, determined to face cancer with positivity. The women we surveyed told us they just need the supports to help lift them up when the really low lows hit. In fact, I would have to say that ‘determined’ is the word that I use most often to describe my own cancer experience. Despite being given just three months to live, I was determined to do everything in my power to turn my grim prognosis on its head and make medical history. I was also determined to face each day with as much positive spirit as I could muster. Many days, when my own supply of positive spirit was depleted, I had to borrow some from the many friends and family members who rallied around me, but together we got through the scarring surgeries, the gruelling treatments, the pain and the nausea to the point I am at today – 22 years cancer free! How truly grateful I am.
Despite the fact that doctors were able to remove the cancer from my body many years ago, I face the lifelong impact of cancer every day with the same determination that I did back when I was undergoing treatment. Because my treatments and surgeries were so extreme, I am left with lifelong physical challenges that require me to wear braces on both of my legs and walk with a cane. Every day when I strap on those prosthesis that enable me to walk, I am reminded of the ‘new normal’ cancer created for me and I am determined to face these challenges head on.
What word best describes your cancer experience? Has your word changed over the course of your journey? Please share your word in the comments section below. We might include your comments in the 2012 issue of our magazine, so that you can help other women facing similar challenges.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you as we face cancer together.