The Cancer Warriors

Models of resilience and hope

The Cancer Warriors

My aunt Linda is a cancer warrior.  Last fall she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor, throwing our family into a state of shock.  We were still reeling from the news of our uncle—her husband’s—advanced prostate cancer diagnosis from June.  He had gone through surgery and was still in the early stages of his treatment when Linda’s news came. My mind was racing.

How could this happen to my positive, fifty-nine-year-old aunt who goes to the gym with her kids and takes hip-hop classes? None of it made sense to me. It felt like a sick joke, especially when paired with my uncle’s illness. I thought of my cousins in their mid-twenties—now with both parents fighting cancer.  

Then I did something I shouldn’t have. I googled glioblastoma and obsessed over grim statistics for days.

It was an emotional time. Linda was booked for surgery right away. We had a nice visit at their home just before and she was her usual positive self which amazed all of us. It occurred to me that if Linda could be so strong and full of hope, we could be, too. After all, this is the family of longevity and resilience, beating the odds and positive energy.  If anyone could kick cancer’s ass, it was Linda.

On my forty minute drive home, I kept thinking about this post I had just written about my aunts. Linda is pictured second from the left and is definitely one of those "magic people."  She is a survivor.

When I got home, I googled glioblastoma survivors, which is what I should have done in the first place. I found another cancer warrior, Cheryl Broylesl, a twelve year survivor of glioblastoma. I emailed Cheryl, then sent the entire family the link. All of us are so grateful for her story. She has been in touch with me and Linda, and in March, had her fifth successful surgery.

The night before Linda’s surgery, we all met at a club downtown Toronto where my uncle was performing. I was amazed that Linda was less than twelve hours pre-op, sitting in a jazz club on Queen Street having a great time on a Sunday night! She, my uncle, and another cancer-warrior aunt were joking about coordinating chemo and lunch schedules (and Lord knows what else).

Linda’s surgery went well, and she thoroughly enjoyed her stay at the hospital. Apparently it brought back memories of being in having her babies. She was sent home after three days, and I received this photo text:

My aunt Linda, the cancer warrior, at home just three days after surgery (and evidence of how creative and pro-active my uncle and cousins are!)

Linda, the cancer warrior, home just days after surgery with evidence of how creative and pro-active my uncle and cousins are!

Linda returns for a second surgery tomorrow and I am expecting to get another photo just like it. Please keep her and the other cancer warriors in your thoughts and prayers.

Post-surgery update:

Linda was laughing and visiting post-op in intensive care this afternoon. So far so good! Thank you everyone for your kind wishes!

Ida Mae West is a mother of two, an elementary school teacher and teacher-author at That Fun Reading Teacher.  She has taught students of all elementary school grades and abilities in her roles as a classroom, special education and Reading Recovery™ teacher. A lifelong writer, she attended The Humber School For Writers in July 2012.  Connect with Ida Mae by email.