Margo McPhail: Beating Cancer and Paying it Forward to Help Others
In 2019, Margo was making the most of her retirement and spending time with her grandchildren. Life kept her busy and she found fulfillment in giving back to her local community. She began volunteering at various organizations in her hometown of Camrose, including the local Church, Victim Services, Camrose Hospice, the Library, and the local Women’s Shelter. “There were times when I was occupied the entire day. I felt great, had a lot of energy and a positive outlook, and I was excited to help people,” says Margo.
After experiencing bleeding, Margo initially thought nothing of it as she did not experience any other ailments or symptoms. Her daughter advised her not to ignore it and to seek medical attention immediately. The follow-up tests and scans revealed that Margo had Uterine Cancer. “I was fortunate that the cancer was caught very early. Everything seems to have happened so quickly after that.”
The road to recovery included a surgery and series of chemo treatments. “I think the most difficult part of my treatment journey was when my hair began to fall out in handfuls. I was scared. My poor husband attempted to assist by shaving the remaining hair, and I ended up with a nice case of razor burn. Not fun. I did get some great advice from a cancer survivor friend who suggested using hair conditioner on my bald head, which helped a lot.”
Even though it has been three years since Margo’s cancer treatment ended, the worry that the cancer will come back is still present. Accepting this uncertainty is emotionally challenging and difficult for Margo.
“I continue to struggle with the reality that I have cancer. There will be many days when I don’t think about it, and then suddenly, I will be overcome with anxiety about getting cancer again. Every unusual mole or body ailment triggers the fearful feelings that the cancer is returning.”
Margo first heard about Wellspring Edmonton while she was at the Cross Cancer Institute but at the time all she could focus on was the next chemo or her next stage of battling cancer. After she completed her treatments, she joined Wellspring and signed up for a few virtual programs. “I am currently participating in the Chair Yoga and Qigong and really enjoying it. As I live outside Edmonton, having access to these virtual programs really makes the difference. It allows me to stay connected to the Wellspring community and access a variety of resources and programs from the comfort of my own home.”
Margo recently completed her peer support training and is now helping others. “Peer support is such an important aspect of Wellspring. Giving support and guidance and helping someone who is going through what I went through makes my cancer journey more of a blessing than a curse.”
But Margo’s enthusiasm for volunteering did not end at Wellspring. In her hometown of Camrose, she also founded a Cancer Support Group through the Hospice Society. These volunteer opportunities allow her to share the hope that comes with surviving, to continue living a joyful and purposeful life, and to pay it forward. “I believe everyone copes with cancer differently, but the experience can be incredibly isolating. Joining a thriving and supportive peer community can help you overcome isolation and take control of your cancer experience. It is important to speak with someone who is currently or has recently been through the cancer journey to gain their unique perspective.”