How Our Community Came to Battle Cancer with the Blues
By Christian McCuaig on September 11 / 2017
[Cancer, Cancer Coaching, Events, Families, News]
There’s much more to this special music gala than two hardworking high school students trying to make a difference in their community.
Mary Bagley and Elizabeth Savoy wanted to make sure families facing a cancer diagnosis could receive the best care possible for a very personal reason: unfortunately, both of their families have been hit hard by the disease. But they knew support was available in their community at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and they wanted to organize an event to raise funds for programs which help families facing cancer cope with their diagnosis. A leadership workshop offered at their school was the final piece in helping them figure out what they could do to make a difference, and how they could make it happen.
In May, Mary and Elizabeth hosted Battling Cancer with the Blues, an evening of live music, dancing and mingling in support of Cancer Coaching and programs like C.L.I.M.B (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery) which help patients and their families through their cancer journey. Now that the event has passed, they want to share their own personal stories of how cancer has impacted their lives, and why they were inspired to help others facing similar challenges.
The Battling Cancer with the Blues Gala and giving back to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is extremely important to me because the Cancer Foundation played a key role in getting me back to my normal, bad joke making, bubbly self.
My dad has Myxoid Liposarcoma, a painless cancer that started in his abdomen and traveled up his spine. The doctors found it when one of his tumours significantly interfered with his spinal cord. They quite literally had to bring him back from the brink of paralysis.
Being told your father has a rare, incurable cancer is absolutely heartbreaking. I remember lying in bed countless nights and not being able to sleep, wondering if my Dad would be there to walk me down the aisle one day at my wedding, or if he would be there to hold my first child. I was in a constant state of unhealthy “what ifs,” so I did what I call “turtling”. I hid inside myself, not wanting to do anything I loved. Getting out of bed in the morning was a feat in and of itself; it felt nearly impossible. I would walk around like I had lead weights chained to my ankles. I didn’t want to talk to my mom about how I was feeling because I knew she already had so much to worry about, and I felt as though the way I was feeling would somehow burden her even more. I knew I needed help, and I found it at the Cancer Foundation.
Mom signed me up for the CLIMB program: Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery. I met kids there who were going through the exact same things I was, who were in the same state of mind. The wonderful community here really helped get me back on my feet, and has inspired me every day to continue giving back.
Today, dad’s treatments are going well. He’s doing okay and so am I, thanks to my wonderful family, friends and support system.
I am so proud to say that 100% of the funds we raised through Battling Cancer with the Blues will support programs that help kids like me and families like mine deal with a cancer diagnosis. The support of our community means the world to Mary and me.
My story, like Elizabeth’s, is about a parent with a cancer diagnosis. However, my experience was quite different. I was not aware of the C.L.I.M.B program and I didn’t have an outlet to let everything out.
I was only 12 when my family sat my brother and I down and told us that Mom had cervical cancer. The cancer was treatable, but all I heard was the word ‘cancer.’ After they told me the news, I went into my own little shell. I had the mindset that I would be bothering my parents with my little preteen issues if I told them how I felt. I didn’t tell my friends at school because I was afraid they might treat me differently or think I was being overdramatic. It was my first year of middle school.
So, I just kept it all inside. It was awful. I started a routine that I went about daily; wake up with a smile, go see if mom needs anything, go to and from school, eat dinner and then go somewhere else and keep to myself. It was so unhealthy.
As people who know me are well aware, I am a worrier. On the inside of my smile was a whirlwind of “what ifs” swirling around my head. Near the start of December we found out that the cancer had cleared. I felt like the biggest weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Unfortunately, that feeling did not last long. Near the beginning of February 2015 we got the news that the cancer had spread to my mom’s chest, and this time it was different. It was more aggressive, and it truly hit her and the rest of our family a lot harder than it had the last time.
March 7, 2015 was the day I’ll never forget. We were all sitting together in the cardio unit when my brother and I were hit with the news that her chemo treatments had stopped working, and the cancer was still growing and spreading. Later that month she was moved to the May Court Hospice where she died on March 28, 2015.
Everything had happened so fast. I couldn’t grasp it. After her death, the impact started hitting me hard. I went into a state of “no, no, I’m fine.” I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I once again thought I would be bothering my family.
Cancer was the worst thing that has ever happened to my family and to me. What I witnessed during those 8 months was awful. However, I’m finished talking about awful. During that time I also witnessed a lot of wonderful too. Cancer is a very serious disease and is capable of many things, but it was not capable of crippling love, destroying peace or tearing families apart.
Throughout those months I saw a family rally together and become closer than ever, I saw a whole community rally together and I saw people who I barely knew reaching out to us. Cancer taught me that the power of love and family can overcome anything.
Battling Cancer with the Blues was hosted at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and featured several local musicians who gave their time and talents to make sure no one in our community must face cancer alone. Elizabeth and Mary’s event raised an incredible $2,795 for local cancer care and every cent will go towards helping families like theirs overcome the difficulties that come with a cancer diagnosis.
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