My Cancer Journey

Barb – Winnipeg, Manitoba


Cancer has touched us all, in one way or another. A diagnosis can be shocking, frightening and profoundly disturbing but there are people to reach out to. Barb, a Federal Retirees member who preferred not to use her full name, shares her journey here to demonstrate that a cancer diagnosis can happen to anyone. Finding comfort in those around you is critical. She and all of our members who have lived or are living with cancer certainly have the support of the Federal Retirees family.


If I can use one word to describe the past nine years, it would be “rollercoaster.” 


I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2007. I remember the look of shock on my husband’s face and the sound of shock in my Mom’s voice when they were told of my diagnosis.  I remember thinking — over and over again — “this happens to other people, not me.” 


I was very scared.  I initially had surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy.  I read a lot about cancer and followed a strict anti-cancer diet from my naturopath.  My life was forever altered.


After treatment, I was given the all-clear and returned to work.  Except for blood tests every three months — which were anxiety producing — life was good. With some colleagues from work, I’d attend exercise classes at lunch. I continued to garden, planting annuals, vegetables and herbs each year.


Then two years after the all-clear, I had bad news. Metastatic cancer had shown up in my lungs. That shock was almost as bad as the shock of my original diagnosis.  I had to go back on chemotherapy. Thankfully the chemo has significantly slowed the growth of the cancer, and I am still here nine years later. 


The support of my family has been a major contributor to keeping hope alive. My husband is my rock, and my sisters are wonderful.


I am living with cancer; chemo is what I do. I go for chemo every two weeks. I’m always tired the first week, but my energy returns after that and I’m able to do most things I want. For example, I try to get stronger. I exercise by riding a stationary bicycle in the winter and walking outside when I’m able to. I carry on and live my life to my best ability.


I take breaks a couple times a year, and my husband and I travel.  We’ve been to Europe several times, have a trip planned to the Maritimes this fall and plan to visit the Caribbean next February.


I also volunteer for two different organizations — Federal Retirees and and an ESL school. Both are quite rewarding.


For our Association, I help people navigate their health care plans.


For the ESL school, I help the instructor teach English to classes of new Canadians. Most have been in Canada for less than a year. This work is especially rewarding.


Volunteering helps me as well helps those I’m working with. It gets me out of the house, gives me something to focus on and provides an additional social aspect to my life.


Yes, life is stressful sometimes, especially when I go to get my CT scan results every three months.  That’s the rollercoaster.  But then the sun comes out, and I wander into my backyard to see if the 50 tulip bulbs I planted last fall are making an appearance yet. Nature is a beautiful and welcome reminder that hope springs eternal.