Teal Power Canuck

Sharing My Journey & Raising Cervical Awareness in Canada


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1 year.

A year ago, my life changed.

Some cancer survivors consider their cancerversary the day they became “cancer free”. I consider mine today – the anniversary of when I was diagnosed – October 31, 2013.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember what I was wearing, that it was raining, and the way it felt when I was told I had cervical cancer. Some people may think it is weird to celebrate this – but I choose to celebrate how much has happened this year to me, both physically and mentally, and how I have overcome it.

I haven’t written on here since I was given the “all clear” in July. I wasn’t really sure what to write because I’ve had so many mixed emotions. I have a handful of partially written blog posts, but I never finished them. I am so lucky – I fought, and I won. I know I should just be happy about that. After I was told I was cancer free, part of me wanted to be rid of everything to do with cancer. Everyday I wonder if this is the day I won’t think about having cancer. But you never rid of it, even if you beat it – and there is nothing wrong with that.

Anyone who knows me knows I am pretty positive person – even through my sickness and treatment. What I have learned through my journey and in my “after cancer life” is that it is ok to be scared. It’s ok to cry on your bad days – I still have them. I constantly worry the cancer will come back. Every time my body feels off I get worried. I look at my scars everyday, and – especially lately – I have been feeling some side effects of my treatment. The after effects can be more emotional than being sick – cause you are just so done with it all. But c’est la vie en cancer. I still won. “When you face difficult times, know that challenges are not set to destroy you. They are sent to promote, increase and strengthen you.”

Something I never thought I would ever have to deal with at my age, I conquered. I am so grateful for that, and for all the love and support I have gotten this past year. That deserves to be celebrated – happy cancerversary to me!

#TEALPOWER

Mixed emotions today, but still feeling grateful for what I have learned this year #tealpower

Mixed emotions today, but still feeling grateful for what I have learned this year #tealpower

 

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My Story

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January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month in the U.S., but I’m a Canuck that lives in Toronto and we don’t really have a month dedicated to this disease – a disease that recently touched me personally. So I’m starting a blog to mark Cervical Cancer Awareness month… I mean if news about the Kardashians and Duck Dynasty bleeds up here, why can’t this? I don’t need this to be a movement, I just want to raise awareness and share my story.

First off, a little about me – I’m a 33-year-old public relations professional, specializing in TV publicity. I’ve had a hectic, but awesome 13 year career and recently launched my own company in 2013. I’m also a foodie who loves creating in the kitchen and am a huge musical theatre lover and an avid football fan – Go Irish, Go Ravens! I have an awesome support network of family and friends – and everything I have been going through the last few months has really proven this to me.

On October 31, 2013 I got spooked. A few weeks earlier I noticed irregular spotting between periods, which was really odd for me – so I booked an appointment with my family doctor. After a few tests, and sending me to the gynecology clinic at the hospital for a procedure, I got a call to come in for the results on Halloween. Feeling overly confident I went to the appointment by myself (in hindsight, not the smartest decision)… and then I got told I had a tumour on my cervix… stage 1B1. My heart sunk and I felt like I escaped my body for a bit – but my doctor and the nurses at the clinic were so fantastic to me. The most important things I retained – I caught it early, its treatable, and I had options. I took armfuls of information to read and research, and I walked back to my car and called my boyfriend to tell him the news. We cried as I sat in my car for what seemed like an hour. We knew this could be one of the outcomes, but you never can prepare yourself to actually hear the words… You Have Cancer.

For those of you who know me, outside of this – I’m a relatively healthy person. Over the last couple of years I have really been watching what I’ve been eating and working out regularly, mixing up running, going to the gym and a lil P90X action. My dad suffered a stroke almost 8 years ago, and I really wanted to start taking care of myself. For the most part I make my own food because I want to know what was going into what I was eating – which has spawned an obsessive foodie who makes everything from scratch. Check out my Instagram ;). I ran two short distance races last year, the 8K Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago in the Spring and the 5K at the Scotiabank Marathon in Toronto – and I ran this the day before the procedure that would tell me I had cancer. 2013 was the healthiest Ali I could have possibly have been, and setting my own hours really helped me maintain that. I am a person who regularly goes for her annual physical. I have gotten regular pap tests since I was 17, all coming back clear. I even had a physical in August – no pap test this year cause new provincial guidelines say its only given every three years, which I was not happy about – but everything from my physical came back clear. But now I have cancer. And it’s a cancer that is all circumstantial.

A little bit about Cervical Cancer in Canada:

  • In Canada, 1,300 to 1,500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 400 women die of this disease each year
  • Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Canadian women between the ages of 20 and 44
  • For every case of cervical cancer that is diagnosed and treated, there are between 50 and 100 women who are found to have cervical precancerous abnormalities
  • Approximately 75% of sexually active men and women in Canada will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. For some, this will lead to cervical cancer

I’m currently in my third week of radiation and chemotherapy treatment. I’ll go into my treatment and why I chose it in another post. If there is one thing I want to accomplish with this blog is that we are not immune, we are not invisible – listen to your body, go to your doctor, get tested, don’t get so caught up in the busy of your daily life that you sacrifice you – it can save your life… it’s going to save mine.

Why #tealpower? Teal and white are the colours of cervical cancer awareness and I’m a fan of the hashtag. You will see it a lot from me on social media and on this blog. Use it if you like. Thanks for the support and for reading and I hope you enjoy following along with me on this journey.

a.

Me after running the 5K at the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in Toronto in Oct 2013. I ran this race the day before the procedure that would tell me I had cancer.

Me after running the 5K at the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in Toronto in Oct 2013. I ran this race the day before the procedure that would tell me I had cancer.