My breast cancer story is old news, literally.
Check it out – Yukon News, Wednesday, May 5, 1999, page 17, an interview with reporter Amy Steele entitled Beating Breast Cancer and a Mike Thomas photo that mortified my children (lovely mastectomy scar.)
At 48, my life was playing out like a tacky afternoon soap opera: husband left with another woman, three half-grown kids to raise, working nights at the hospital, then oh, good, let’s add breast cancer to the mix to see if we can ratchet up the stress level just a little more …
That was 12 years ago.
This summer I turn 60 and, let me tell you, life is good.
Surgery and chemotherapy were successful; yearly check-ups have been uneventful. My children are grown and gone, two are married, one has a son – my amazing grandson who turned two last Saturday. No more 12-hour night shifts – I’m semi-retired now, with my own little home-based business to keep me out of mischief. I’ve remarried – a hard working Yukon man who treats me like a queen. We’ve recently downsized into a nifty little condo, which, I believe, will allow me to pursue some interests that have been on the back burner for years.
Still, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops.
With age, I am increasingly aware of the women who did not and do not and will not survive breast cancer, what they forfeit when their lives are cut short, and I am left with a nagging ache in my soul.
Twelve years since my own breast cancer experience and still, the statistics are disturbing:
* 1.3 million women worldwide are diagnosed annually with breast cancer;
* 465,000 of these women will die.
* 2010 estimates for Canada:
* 23,200 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed; 5,300 will die.
* (on average) 445 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each week;
* (on average) 100 women will die each week.
One hundred women dying each week while I have the privilege of survival, chasing after my grandson and complaining about the weather!
I have been involved with Paddlers Abreast since the beginning discussions around a conference table at the public library in the fall of 2000 (thanks, Faye for the invitation to attend.)
The goals seemed laudable – to encourage women undergoing diagnosis and treatment, to help survivors regain function post treatment, to honour women who do not survive, etc. – and the physical challenge of paddling to Dawson really grabbed my attention.
Ten years later I’m still paddling. The group – individuals that make up the whole – has touched a lot of lives, and the river keeps teaching me lessons. I’ll continue as long as I am able.
But this year I’m resolved to go a step further. After the River Quest race I’ll be stowing my paddle and dusting off my walking shoes.
This fall my sister and I will participate in a Susan G. Komen three-day for the Cure fundraiser walk primarily targeting breast cancer research. We’ll walk 60 miles over three days – could it be any more strenuous than three days of paddling to Dawson? Not likely. I’m under no illusion that the modest contributions we raise will eradicate breast cancer any time soon, but it’s at least something. It’s not standing at ease while 100 women per week are denied a future.
By faith I know that a time is coming when there will be no more breast cancer; until then I’ll keep on paddling and walking and receiving each day for the gift that it is.
Life is good.
Editor’s note: This is part of series of profiles on
the Paddlers Abreast team. Their latest canoe
voyage begins on June 30.