What Cancer Cannot Do

The world lost a fighter on Sunday.

That fighter’s name was Jen Young, or JY, as she’s known.  She was a member of Crossfit Altitude, the gym I’ve been a part of for more than five years; if you know anything about CrossFit, you’ll know that we’re a tight-knit bunch.  And while JY and I weren’t close friends, I have certainly admired the battle she’s waged over the past year and a half.  In her case, the cancer began as cervical cancer and metastasized to her liver.  She was 31 years old.

I’ve written about her a couple of times here and there, but now I’m going to share her education and advice, in her own remarkable, touching, transparently honest words, courtesy of her blog ‘From Potato to Paleo.’

How she was initially diagnosed:

“One of the first things people seem to ask me is how I found out. Since cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and can often be detected earlier than most, I don’t mind sharing. In May I went for my regular annual physical, and the doctor did not see anything abnormal. I did not get a pap at this time, because paps are only every 3 years now and I had had a normal one the year before. In principle, I am very much against this change in policy, but my particular cancer tends not to show up in paps in the pre-cancerous “abnormal cell” stage like many others do, so it likely would not have made a difference in my case. In June/July I noticed bleeding outside of my cycle that seemed different. I went to the doctor again in August and asked for a pap and exam. She could see the tumor, and sent me to the gynocologist right away for a biopsy. The gynocologist took one, but was convinced it was just a fibroid given its rapid appearance; most cervical cancers grow much more slowly than my mutant variety (aren’t I just the overachiever). Obviously she was incorrect, although I’m not in the least bit upset with her. I would rather have spent that week believing it was no big deal than all stressed about it waiting for results.”

Her take on fear and inspiration:

“I’m not inspiring. I’m just terrified, and too proud to show it…. That said, you needn’t feel bad every time you talk to me about some aspect of life, yours or mine, that is not cancer related. Just because you didn’t feel terrified at any point today doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems. Having cancer didn’t make me suddenly immune to “ordinary” problems. I still get unreasonably angry at old people in parking lots and irritable with poor customer service. Problems are relative in the life experience, and I am not judging yours.”

Her advice:

“1.  Smile more”.

“1b.  Do things that make other people smile”.

“2.  Pay attention”.

“3.  Trust the universe”.

lts-logoJY also co-founded the Love the Snatch Foundation while fighting her courageous battle.  LtS goals include fundraising, cervical cancer awareness, open conversation, and promoting/supporting wellness through health and fitness.  If you’re inclined and able, please consider donating here.

Lastly, have a read of this image that’s been floating around the internet.  “It cannot conquer the spirit“.

What-Cancer-Cannot-Do

RIP JY.


Bravo.

I am all about community and coming together.  I’m it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child.  I’m many-hands-make-light-work.  I’m about belonging and friendships and comfort and safety.  So when I had a chance to be involved at Assumption Catholic Secondary School’s “Cut for a Cure” last week, I jumped at the chance.  Assumption is a big part of my family’s life, as that’s where my husband has been a teacher for the last 12 years, and it’s also where my children hang out whenever my husband is coaching after school and I’m at work.  It’s our everybody-knows-us place, our this-is-good-for-our-kids place, our let’s-build-our-community-roots place.

“Cut for a Cure” has become an annual Spring event, after the resounding success of last year’s inaugural fundraiser.  This year, it was combined with a Spring sports pep rally.  Picture a school gymnasium packed to the rafters with high school kids.  Add in loud music, my energetic (read: loud) husband as emcee, and sports teams filling the floor seats.  Then add in a long row of chairs and dozens of go-ahead-and-shave-my-head volunteers paired with hairdressers.  And as the volunteers marched in, their hair prepped for wig-making donations, the excitement in the room grew exponentially.  The volunteers were overwhelmingly male.  Some were teachers, some were students, one was my five-year-old son proudly sporting his mohawk.  But some were female.  Some were grade 12 girls, the day before their graduation ceremony, willing to shave off their hair to make a donation.  To make a statement.  To make a difference. image image-2

I can only assume that these girls were like I was in grade 12.  At seventeen or eighteen, confidence can often run low and insecurity can run high.  Appearance is important.  Acceptance is important.  And let’s face it: society says that long hair is beautiful.  Our hair can be our security blanket, our hide-behind, our defining characteristic, and our self-esteem all rolled into one.  So to these girls, I say bravo.  Bravo for seeing the big picture.  Bravo for being mature and wise beyond your years.  Bravo for standing up for what you believe in.

And to my five-year-old son, who bravely got his mohawk shaved in front of hundreds of people, I say bravo to you as well.  As your hair fell to the floor, so did my tears of pride.  You get it, buddy.  And you made a difference.  

Cautiously watching his Dad go first...

Cautiously watching his Dad go first…

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The final product!

 


F*** Cancer. Enough.

No really.  F*** it.  I’ve had enough of hearing that yet another friend is fighting this battle, had enough of cancer attacking young, strong, wonderful people, had enough of this awful disease.  Had enough.  Enough.

Last week alone, a friend’s husband lost his battle with cancer, another friend was diagnosed, and a third friend discovered a second cancer site.  And that’s just last week, just within my circle of friends and acquaintances.  Enough.

Cancer’s reach is widespread and non-discriminate.  More than 187 000 Canadians got a cancer diagnosis last year, and 40% of us can expect to get diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives.  40%, 2 in 5, almost half.  Enough.

So what can we do?

We can help them fight.  We can fight with our friendship, our homemade soup, and our I’m-here-for-you-hugs.   We can fight with our screening tools, our risk-factor minimization, and our spread of awareness.  We can fight with our wallets, our research dollars, and our fundraising efforts.  We can help them fight until it’s enough.

Canadian-Cancer-Society

Here are a few fundraising efforts near and dear to my heart.  Please grab your credit card and click on the links.  Enough.

Love the Snatch Foundation for Cervical Cancer Research

Kim’s Ride to Cross Out Cancer

Burlington’s Relay for Life