Surviving Cancer – A look back
By Gina Chavez, Major Gifts and Stewardship Officer for Wellspring Calgary
I’ve been reflecting on my own cancer experience lately and I was shocked when I realized it’s been 25 years.
I was 28 years old with an 18-month-old baby when I found out I had cervical cancer. While it was caught at a very early stage and treatable with surgery, it meant I wasn’t able to have more children and that was not my life plan at that time.
Still, even as a young adult going through this incredibly challenging ordeal, I felt blessed. I had enjoyed a great pregnancy and given birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl, who I called my miracle. I felt blessed to have wonderful doctors who saved my life, and I came to believe that God had a bigger plan for me, so I tried not to dwell on what was lost but focus on living.
While my family and friends were very caring and supportive, I didn’t feel comfortable letting them into my cancer world so I kept them at bay – away from what I was going through. I didn’t ever want to see any of my loved ones at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre so I went to all my appointments alone. This was hard for my parents and siblings but they respected my choice. Of course it was scary, there were some very hard days, but I white-knuckled my way through it, determined to protect my loved ones from the devastating parts, and I made it through to the other side.
Now, as I reflect back through the lens of someone working for a cancer support organization, I know for sure that if Wellspring had been around in 1995, I absolutely would have taken advantage of the programs and supports. I find I pay extra close attention to what Wellspring offers for Young Adults because I was one – a young adult facing cancer. When I see programs like boot camp, nutrition, yoga, I know I would have participated in those programs for sure. When I watched Mike Lang’s Digital Storytelling presentations a few weeks ago, it was a gut-punch for me – I could totally relate to their stories and it brought lots of tears and memories of that time in my life. What was most profound, was witnessing how the weight of their cancer burden was lifted off each of the participants, as they went through the process of telling their stories and sharing with others. Really, if you ask me, that is the magic of Wellspring – the sharing.
I wish I could have shared my journey with others who were going through the same thing, but it wasn’t meant to be. My journey was a solo one. But thankfully, now as a Wellspring Calgary employee I get to see the positive impacts of a support community – how every day, people’s lives are made better because they belong to this incredible community of compassion and support.
Today I am strong and resilient and I still feel very blessed. I have a healthy 26-year-old daughter, a husband I adore, a great career, and a life filled with love and joy.