When I was only 10-years-old, I lost my grandfather to lung cancer and an uncle to brain cancer. My husband’s father died of lung cancer at the young age of 50. Since my husband and I got married, we have lost all three of his brothers to lung cancer, also at the age of 50, my own father at age 63 to pancreatic cancer and three of my uncles to leukemia, prostate and bowel cancers, respectively.
At 25-years-old, I underwent a procedure to remove a tumour from my breast. When I turned 40, I had to undergo a similar operation to remove another tumour. Then at 42, I made the decision to have a hysterectomy, because doctors found additional masses in my uterus. Within a year of that procedure, doctors found a third tumour in my breast, which was removed. Three months later, another tumour was found. At this point, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy. Thankfully, all of the tumours doctors have found in my body have been stage one. Still, the fear of cancer is always there.
In Canada alone, an estimated 22 people will be diagnosed with cancer each hour. Cancer is not prejudice ‘ it impacts all of us. For those who haven’t encountered cancer themselves, they’ve heard stories of loved ones and friends being diagnosed and going through treatments.
Living for most of my life in Thunder Bay, Ont., before moving to Stouffville, it was difficult to find a family doctor at the time of my original breast cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, most of my surgeries and procedures were done in Toronto, where scientists and doctors are working tirelessly to find more effective treatments, better ways to educate, earlier diagnoses and better care for cancer patients all across the country.
The financial strain on my family was huge during my cancer journey as flights were expensive to and from Northern Ontario. Fortunately, I had relatives to stay with in Toronto, who I relied on heavily.
Turning 60 this year, I am learning to live my life to the fullest. I am trying to spend as much time with my family as possible because I know that many others in my life did not get the opportunity to do so. I have taught my children to eat healthy, get plenty of exercise and laugh, because we never know how much time we have left.
Still, I worry about my children because so many people in my husband’s family were taken away too soon. Although my husband seems to have broken the mould, I’m still concerned.
After everything I’ve been through, I am encouraging my family and my community to support me in the Shoppers Drug Mart OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, a one-day 25-kilometre walk throughout Toronto, so we can band together and show all cancers the door. When a participant registers for OneWalk, a next-generation fundraiser, they can select the fund to which their dollars will go. Every penny raised is immediately put to use at The Princess Margaret, changing the future of cancer research in Canada and around the world.
As the captain of ‘Deborah’s Team,’ we are supporting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre through OneWalk to help conquer all cancers in this lifetime!
Deborah Watts (picutred below, right, with her sister and aunt) is originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario but recently moved to Stouffville. She is a cancer survivor and mother who will walk 25-kilometres in the Shoppers Drug Mart OneWalk to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre on September 12, 2015.
Click here to donate to Deborah Watts’ OneWalk campaign.