First Connection Program
I knew that I wanted to connect with a survivor who had not only been through what I was going through, but someone who had overcome the challenges of cancer and was able to get back to quality of life. After reaching out to the Prairies/Territories regional office of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, they connected me with my First Connection volunteer. The volunteer gave me information of what to expect during the course of treatment, but she gave me a sense of hope. She inspired me to keep fighting, encouraged me to stay strong when times got tough, and shared her own story that made me feel like I wasn't alone.
The First Connection program helped me connect with other survivors with similar diagnosis where I felt that I had a chance to survive too and overcome this battle. I am grateful for the program and the team that coordinates it as I was able to stay strong in my own cancer journey, continue to live life to the fullest and also become a connector in helping newly diagnosed patients just like the volunteer helped me".
On August 8, 2007, my life was about to change. I went to my family doctor to have my left ankle looked at, as it had been swollen for days and didn’t feel normal. I thought perhaps it was something I had done when hiking with my husband the previous weekend or possibly gout (which runs in my family). My doctor sent me for x-rays and blood work. That very next day my doctor informed me that my white blood cell count was much higher than normal. Within hours of this news, I was in the Tom Baker Cancer Center at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, with a referral to see a Hematologist/Oncologist. That day I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) having the Philadelphia chromosome positive subtype.
Treatments started immediately. I went through an intense first round of chemotherapy, radiation and then a stem cell transplant- whom my older brother was my donor. It was a hard road, but I knew I had to take it one day at a time. The 7-months post-transplant were spent focusing on the things I love most – food and nutrition, spending time with family, and getting back to fitness...then the cancer came back. The day I relapsed I finished a 10 Km race- which I have no regrets doing.
Since 2008, I've been on the drug Gleevec – a drug that the LLSC help fund the development of. This drug has prolonged my life and I have been able to see my nephews grow up, spend quality time with my family & friends, traveling and trying to enjoy life to the fullest. I have now been able to return to work full-time, run races again, competed in a couple of fitness competitions, started my own nutrition company, JCJNutrition and celebrating life at a higher level.