The team at Splendor Garden is an interesting bunch of people and many of us have had our own personal battles with health. One thing you may not know is we have two people on the team who have battled breast cancer. We wanted to share one of those stories today in honour of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Pat has been with the company since it’s inception. Pat, is one of our sales representatives. She is a ball of fire, who talks fast, thinks even faster, and will let you know exactly what she is thinking. Pat is also a survivor.
It was August 2015 when Pat found the lump. It was small and just below her armpit. She explains “Of course you never think it will be you who gets cancer.” She has an upbeat demeanour and is very engaging when she speaks; her words spilling over with enthusiasm, but when she recounts her battle with cancer she stops and hesitates “The hardest part was waiting for the results to come back. Waiting to get that call.” She was diagnosed with estrogen-based breast cancer and was scheduled for a lumpectomy in November 2015. After surgery, Pat spent some time healing before starting chemo in January of the new year. Chemotherapy is an extremely difficult process for cancer patients and is rarely discussed by survivors. Pat makes light of this difficult time by comparing it to childbirth “It’s something (that) if you have to go through with it, you will, but are you looking forward to it? No! But you know something good will come out of it.” If anyone has a special superpower, seeing the good in bad situations is definitely Pat’s.
Pat said after she got over the shock of being diagnosed with breast cancer, she actually felt thankful. “You know cancer is just so common these days that odds are someone in your family is going to get it. I am just so happy it was me and not my daughter, my son, my granddaughters or my husband.” She felt fortunate for another reason too, she knew she was strong and had few health problems in the past before going into the chemo. Many people talk about the toll that cancer takes on the body, your health, your hair, but its much harder to talk about the toll it takes on your spirit. Cancer is a challenge for your mental health as well.
Pat laughs as she recalls a conversation she had with her oncologist after her diagnosis. Her oncologist said, “you need to remain positive”. Pat replied “Well I was positive the lump wasn’t cancer, but it was. I was positive I wouldn’t need chemo, but I do. How much more positive can I get?” Pat does give her oncologist credit though she says she went above and beyond her expectations when it came to care. She has a lot of praise for the health care team both the nurses and doctors that cared for her, both while doing chemo and post-cancer “I have a lot of confidence from the care that I received and I feel well guarded.”
It wasn’t just the staff that went above and beyond for Pat while she battled for her life. “You always know you have great friends and a wonderful family” Pat explained, but she didn’t actually realize how fortunate she is until she needed their support. Her son came from Edmonton to take Pat to chemo for three months, her mother in law moved in January until she finished chemo and helped make supper and do puzzles. Her daughter lived nearby to offer support and naturally, her husband as well as many friends. Pat also relied heavily on Colleen Haussecker, who had battled breast cancer a couple of years earlier “Colleen, she was my rock” Pat explained. Pat knew she needed to surround herself with positive people “The last thing I wanted was for anyone to feel sorry for me!”. Pat still will tell you she hasn’t done anything spectacular, but the impact she has had on those around her says otherwise. If I was battling for my life Pat is the type of person I would want cheering along side me.
Pat has several strategies that she credits with helping her through the battle with breast cancer. The first one was staying off the web. She acknowledges that everyone is different and has different needs at this time, but for her, searching the internet and reading about other people's stories was depressing. “You would read about some weird complication. And then you would start worrying about that thing happening to you.” There is just so much misinformation on the internet that Pat found it unhelpful, so instead, she chose to deepen her relationships with those around her. She leaned into the relationships and connections with the people in her life.
Pat also found it helpful to meditate. “Your mind is your biggest enemy.” She explained “Because you are scared. You know you are going to be fine, but you are still scared.” She found peace when she put time into meditation. She also swore by eating Chymes ginger chews to combat nausea, which was a natural way to settle her stomach. The last strategy Pat used was to accept change. “Even after chemo, your body isn’t the same as it was before chemo” Pat explains “Things aren’t the same, but it's my new normal.”
She doesn’t consider herself a hero and she certainly hasn’t let cancer define her life, but I know the people closest to her would all agree she is an inspiration. She continues to invest in herself and her health by exercising regularly, meditating, and choosing healthy foods that minimize inflammation. We thank Pat for being gracious enough to share her story with us and for all of you.