Livestrong: I have cancer; cancer doesn’t have me!

It started as a tiny lump on the side of her neck, small, smaller than a marble. Her dentist had been doing some deep cleaning, so she asked him about it. He sent her to her doctor.

Doctor to ear nose and throat specialist. ENT to ultra sound. Ultra sound to fine needle biopsies. To Princess Margaret Hospital to head. Then an MRI. A malignant tumour in her salivary gland. A benign tumour deep in her left ear canal.

Surgery. At her bedside, sleeping in a chair, her friend Janet. Post surgery. 33 radiation treatments in 7 weeks. Time at Princess Margaret lodge. Talking to others going through treatment. Music, talking, support, hope. Fatigue causes slurred speech. And right eye doesn’t fully shut. Scans ahead. Off work on sick leave indefinitely. Meaningful love from son Alex, husband Ed.

This has been the past 10 months for Anne Marie Ireland, for 24 years an administrative assistant in the mental health and addictions program at Royal Victoria Hospital. Anne Marie is a certified addictions counsellor. She’s now a cancer survivor.

Cancer expectation numbers for Canada for this year are 173,800 new cases. 97,600 of those will survive.

It’s because of these stats and her journey and the remarkable support in this community that Anne Marie is spearheading Canada’s second-ever Livestrong Day in Barrie on Saturday October 2. City Hall’s Rotunda will be bouncing with people who are participating in more than 1000 global events supporting cancer survivors. This global initiative, spawned by cycler Lance Armstrong, will unite the community with the rest of the world to honour, celebrate, inform and share. and are websites that offer people living with this disease all kinds of incredible support as they travel through their journey. The Livestrong Day is for people impacted by cancer… families, kids, youth, individuals, whether they’re on the field or in the cheering section.

Why is Anne Marie marshalling together a small army of volunteers to make this happen? Because cancer takes the lives of more people on this earth than AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria combined.

Livestrong. And wear yellow while you’re doing it. The yellow theme is founded by Texan world champion cyclist Lance Armstrong who was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer and given a 2% survival race. Since then Lance has won 7 tour de france races and has founded Livestrong to enhance the lives of the world’s 28 million cancer bearers today.

As Anne Marie says… “I have cancer. Cancer doesn’t have me.” It’s a great mandate and she enthusiastically shares the Livestrong Motto… Unity is Strength, Knowledge is Power, Attitude is Everything. Livestrong Day is set aside to honour those taken by this disease and to celebrate those who are here.

It’s an interesting coincidence, too. Last Friday, Anne Marie and I met for the first time at the official opening of Gilda’s Club and The Red Door on Quarry Ridge… the second Gilda’s Club to open in Canada. It’s a facility devoted to cancer families, in a myriad of forms and services. Many there wore red in honour of The Red Door insignia of the facility. And Saturday, October 2, people are asked to pick up Livestrong’s yellow colour and explode their energy into the Rotunda at City Hall, for Canada’s second only Livestrong Day.

The organizing group has a fabulous morning planned, with music, videos, messsages and honour. Education, awareness and 24/7 service… it’s all part of the morning. It starts at 9 am. Wear yellow.

And Anne Marie? Thanks.