In the nearly two years Jo-Anne Merrell spent battling breast cancer, she missed her fair share of work, holidays and special events.
But when it came time for her daughter’s high school graduation, she put on a headscarf and carried her weary body to the ceremony, determined not to let cancer keep her from that moment.
Merrell, a two-time breast cancer survivor, will be participating in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s annual CIBC Run for the Cure in Vancouver this weekend.
She said the first time she was diagnosed, there was a “real urgency” to go back to normal life, but when she was diagnosed the second time, she re-evaluated her priorities.
It was at her daughter’s graduation that she was approached by another cancer survivor, who gave her much-needed hope.
“She said, ‘Years ago, they told me to get my affairs in order, and I’m still alive today.’ That woman left a mark in my life. It really empowered me,” said Merrell.
Sandy Parson, from Abbotsford, survived breast cancer last year, and said it’s a catch-22 that when you’re sick you need the comfort of consistency, but because you’re sick you can’t have it.
“Every summer we would make a road trip to Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. I couldn’t go the summer of my radiation,” Parson said.
“I felt sorry for myself, because it’s something that we always did, and I missed (seeing) family.”
Parson said being sick was also difficult on her husband, who is disabled and couldn’t do small things to comfort her, like make her tea.
“You just have to adapt,” Parson said. “Now I don’t take every day for granted, and I don’t take our relationship for granted, because we might not have tomorrow.”