I can’t tell you how excited I was to give a speech at my daughter’s elementary school’s Terry Fox Day Celebration! Honoured, excited and unusually nervous … partly because I don’t normally speak to the Grade 1-6 set, and that kept me up late the night before, reflecting on my story.
My cancer story started at the very same time as my little girl started going to that Elementary School. I was active and healthy, with no idea that I could possibly get lung cancer. We were happy and excited about life. I had a cough after a cold at the beginning of the school year. My daughter was in grade one. The cough didn’t go away. Eventually we learned that it was lung cancer.
I was very sick and it really affected our family. I coughed all the time, and couldn’t even bend over to pick something up. We needed a lot of help with meals and cleaning and other things. There were a couple of times I even thought I was going to die.
I’m a lot better now, in fact you would never guess I had lung cancer just by looking at me. I think it’s a miracle I’m alive, and I’m incredibly thankful for innovations in cancer treatment that mean I can take pills at home every day and live a somewhat normal life.
I did not expect, didn’t even imagine there would be cancer research breakthroughs in time for me! I cannot begin to perceive all the steps that had to be in place for treatments to be available to keep me alive today. I am thankful for all of the people, every single member of that huge team, all those special someones who have made a difference, changed our story, helped to bring about life-extending innovations in the lung cancer world.
I know Terry Fox transformed the cancer universe for many of us! I’m grateful for Terry Fox, for all the runners and researchers, dreamers, donors and doctors – everyone involved in the relay race that has lead to me standing in my daughter’s Elementary school gym on Terry Fox Day 2018.
This experience was extra emotional for me too, because this wasn’t only my daughter’s elementary school: it was also my own elementary school, where I went as a little girl, walked the halls, played in the yard, laughed with friends, learned all about fractions, performed in my school play, and at piano recitals. It was also the school where I did a practicum when I was a student teacher. So many memories!
I got pretty choked up when they showed the video about Terry Fox before I spoke. Terry Fox is a hero to me. He was long before my cancer diagnosis, and even more so now.
I managed to wipe the tears from my face before the lights went back on, and told the group the good and age-appropriate part of my story, making sure they understood the connections between their Terry Fox run, the importance of cancer research, and the difference that they were making for cancer patients and our families.
When you run, you raise money
so that scientists can do cancer research
and invent medicines
that doctors can give to cancer patients like me.
Today you are making a difference for cancer patients and our families! I’m so grateful that I get to be here and say “Thank You!”
But the teacher in me didn’t stop there: I also gave them a little lesson on getting through the tough times in life.
HOLD ONTO HOPE! Be like Terry Fox: DON’T give up! There is always reason to hope!
ASK FOR HELP! friends, family, teacher… find your team of encouragers, even if only one or two others (Terry Fox didn’t do it alone: he had a lot of help, including his brother and a friend in the van!)
HELP OTHERS TO HOPE (Sometimes that can help us hope too!)
. .. … …. .. . .. …. … .. .
I received lots of positive feedback after my speech, but as I walked home I couldn’t help but think of a few of the significant things I didn’t say to those beautiful children, the teachers, the VP, the parent-volunteers …
The statistics are heart-breaking: 1 out of every 12 of them will be diagnosed with lung cancer – that’s about 2 kids from each class – all the more gut-wrenching because it’s the deadliest cancer by far.
Lung cancer research is grotesquely underfunded.
We need a lot more research, and the time is now!
I can’t bear to think of those sweet children, grown up and enjoying life with a happy family, their a precious little daughter or son in grade one, then devastated by a diagnosis of incurable lung cancer! I want a cure!