By Lesley DeSousa
On January 21, 2016, my world was turned upside down and time actually stopped as I found out that I was diagnosed with Stage 2, HER2-positive breast cancer.
The news was a shock to say the least. At the age of 41, this is not news I was ever expecting to hear nor was I remotely prepared for it.
Am I going to die? Has the disease spread? How will we handle this? What about my family, my sweet kids? The many unanswered questions were overwhelming – what will my future look like?
After a few days of unending tears and about a hundred “Why me’s?” my husband Armene and I decided that we were NOT going to let this disease control our lives or our emotions. We would find strength in each other and face each step of this journey head on with positivity and grace. We vowed to laugh lots and smile more, to continue to count our many blessings and to remember all we have to be grateful for.
Our greatest blessing has been that we live so close to the Juravinski Cancer Centre. There, I have received an exceptional level of care. From the first time I met my doctors – Dr. Nicole Hodgson, Dr. Mark Levine and Dr. Ronen Avram (my angels) – I knew that my future was going to be a BRIGHT one.
I am grateful to all the nurses and staff who instantly relieved all my anxieties when going into treatments, who offered hugs and smiles and unending words of encourage and support. What a blessing!
I can finally say the words, “I am a SURVIVOR!” To date, I have had a double mastectomy, completed four months of chemotherapy and a year of Herceptin treatments. I’ve also had two breast reconstruction surgeries and I can say I love my new girls.
Although my surgeries and treatments have come to an end, I feel that my journey is just beginning and will continue. My goal now is to support other women in their journeys and to continue to support the breast cancer cause. This is why I have decided to join the BRIGHT Run’s volunteer team as a Community Connector.
As a Community Connector, I plan to visit local businesses who support women in their cancer journeys to spread the word about the BRIGHT Run at the grassroots level. I plan to visit mastectomy shops, hair salons and wig suppliers. My focus will be the running world. I hope to speak to various running groups throughout the community, encouraging them to save the date, to create a team, to fundraise.
In the longer term, I hope to touch base with local schools to encourage principals to earmark a date on the calendar to support BRIGHT in their annual fundraising. My daughter’s school last year, St. Therese of Lisieux, had a pink Civvies day, allowing students and staff to make a donation to wear pink in support of BRIGHT. In just one day, the school raised upwards of $2,000. Wouldn’t it be amazing if multiple schools followed suit? Pink Civvies Days, high school “Buy Outs for BRIGHT” – the possibilities could be endless.
If I can be an emotional support to other women through friendship and sisterhood, then my journey will be for a purpose. I hope to spread the word about the BRIGHT Run, an amazing event, and I will continue to be the captain of Team P&P (Prayers & Positivity).
I will be eternally grateful to my family and friends who stood by me every step of the way. I am volunteering today to make a small difference, to ensure there are survivors tomorrow, myself included.