On this episode of the GOSH Podcast, we are joined by patient partner Marion Lahey. She has diagnosed in 2017 with stage 4 cervical cancer but was determined to not let her cancer diagnosis define how she was going to live her life. Marion shares how she has navigates her cancer journey with a focus on acceptance and self-love.
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Thanks for listening to the GOSH podcast. Gosh stands for the gynecological oncology Sharing Hub, an open space for real and evidence-based discussions on gynecological cancers. We'll share the stories of guiding cancer patients and survivors, and hear from researchers and clinicians who are working behind the scenes to improve the lives of people with gynecological cancers. Our podcast is produced and recorded on the traditional unceded territories of the Musquem, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
It is produced by the Gynecological Cancer Initiative, a province wide initiative in British Columbia, with the mission to accelerate transformative research and translational practice on the prevention, detection, treatment and survivorship of gynecological cancers.
Hi, I'm Nicole Keay and I'm Stephanie Lam, and you're listening to the GOSH podcast.
Welcome back to the Gosh podcast.
Today we have another patient who has graciously decided to come onto the podcast and share her story, so we're delighted to have Marion join us today.
Marion was born and raised in Kitchener, Waterloo area in Ontario until she moved to the Greater Toronto area for work. In 1999, she packed up her family to move to the Lower mainland of BC, and in 2006 she moved to Kelowna where she worked in the real estate industry. She is blessed with three beautiful daughters and two amazing grandchildren, one granddaughter and one grandson who sadly have moved back to London, Ontario with their parents. She also has two loving for grand Babies that are an integral part of her life as well.
In 2017, Marion was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer, and in 2018 the cancer had metastasized in her right lung and her neck. Luckily, this second metastasize was detected much earlier on in comparison to her first diagnosis.
So thank you so much for being here with us today Marion.
Thank you for having me.
Alright, well, why don't we just jump right in Marion.
And if you want to just, you know, expand a little bit on your your journey with cancer.
So my journey started in 2017 and it was a very unexpected diagnosis for me as I hadn't been feeling sick. I was going to the gym every day I was working out six seven times a week. I was running. I was training for 1/2 marathon at the time. And there was no indication that anything was wrong with my body.
So when I was first diagnosed. Uh, I guess one was more shocking to me than anything was the fact that all the technicians like the ultrasound technician and the gynecologist and this is before I went to the clinic, they all seemed visibly upset and I'm thinking can't be that bad. Whatever go on to the next um so my.
It turned out that I was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. Uhm, I started my treatment when I guess when all of this first started happening it was just before Christmas of 2016. So in 2017 I started my treatment probably in February.
And it was quite intense treatment in the fact that I was in for treatment every day. On Monday, I would do chemo and that went on for eight weeks and then every day I had radiation. And then when that ended I had to make it with four or six sessions of brachytherapy.
Now it was the radiation and brachytherapy that really took a toll on me for the energy level. But it it you know it is what it is and it happened for a reason.
So I'm not feeling sorry for myself. Maybe it's a good thing it happened, I don't know.
Uhm, so when I was finished with that you know I end up going back to the gym and that's when I started retraining again for the half marathon, didn't quite make it, but that's OK.
Because in 2018 during a routine or routine check up with the doctor, we detected a lump in my neck and so they sent me for a CT scan. Turned out there was also one in my lung that turned out to be cancerous. And so I started treatment again, almost identical to a year from the first treatment.
But this one was different in the fact that it was every three weeks and the chemo was extremely intense to the point this time my hair fell out. But it was intense chemo and it was all day. I go there like at 9:00 o'clock in the morning, and I probably leave at 4:00 or 5 in the afternoon.
So that was the the more difficult part. So you know you have to change your mindset though when that's happening, which I think I did. And you know, at the end of it. You know, back in the gym, the way I go until called COVID came.
But you know, everything happens for a reason and there is a saying that life never gives you more than what you can handle and I do believe that.
Wow, that sounds like a really intense journey, but uhm, you've managed to keep a really unique mindset throughout the whole. The whole thing which really struck to me when I first met you. You know we were talking a lot about the perspective that you took throughout your journey, so maybe do you want to expand a little bit on that. You know how how you arose to that perspective and why you thought it was important to maintain that throughout your both of your diagnosis as well as where you are right now.
Oh absolutely, I think perspective and attitude are key to anyone. If you're going through a journey on of this nature from the very beginning. Number one, I never called it cancer. I called it a hiccup in my body.
Now, whether that was denial, I don't think so, but for me it worked because it wasn't a part of my body or my DNA that this cancer was there. So I just made the choice from the very beginning that this was not going to define who I was as a person. It was not going to define who I was going to be. It was not going to define how long I was going to live.
Because I have a theory I'm going to live to be 130 just to bug my kids. And it’s called payback time.
But one of the things I did do was every day I would talk to my hook up and I would tell it how much I loved it and that since it was not part of my original being. It had to vacate my body, it was no longer welcome. I did this you know at least two or three times a day. For me that was the way I needed to, in my mind, eliminate a foreign object in my body that I couldn't control or take out or eliminate otherwise.
You know, and the other thing I did because the chemo days really were quite intense. I would turn them into a spa day. Because I I continued working and I did continue going to the gym as long as I could until my energy ran out. Uhm, but I I even though I was working and that got pretty hectic. But I turned in all the chemo days for spa day was my day to relax. It was my day to read, to meditate, listen to music. Come play video games on my thumb computer which I normally don't do, but it it became my day just for me and not nobody else. So that was another thing that worked for me.
One of the things in the last chemo, and even when I was going through the radiation was the appetite thing. Uh, because I wasn't hungry, I just wanted to sleep after every treatment. And my one daughter was living with me and she used to get so mad at me. You'd say, well, you have to eat, you haven't eaten yet today. I said, well, I'm not hungry so we'd have this argument and I'd finally agree that if she would just let me rest for half an hour or sleep, I would have something to eat, even if it was a cup of soup. So it would be satisfied. And she even make the soup for me. She doesn't like cooking, so that was even a a better, better for me than anything. Uhm, you know the other time when I was going through the brachytherapy too. I had to have an emergency blood transfusion because of my blood level had gotten really low and my blood pressure had dropped way below 100. Uhm again, that had to become a spa day. There was no point in feeling sorry for myself because that wasn't going to accomplish anything.
Maybe this was wrong. But it worked for me was that I didn't I made the choice again not to tell people about the diagnosis. You know, I I had to tell my daughters, which was difficult. I did wait till after Christmas though. Uhm, I didn't tell my sisters or my brother. I told you know a few friends very very few. I told my manager and my administrator at work what was going on because my administrator had to know because I was having to leave so frequently. And the reason I didn't want people to know was that I didn't want them to feel sorry for me. You know that pity party that they give to you they don't realize it. So they say, oh you, poor thing you have had big C. You got cancer. Oh my God, you're gonna die and they go on and on and I didn't want that as part of my life because that to me was a negative comment they were bringing into this positive bubble I was trying to maintain around my body.
So very few knew my some of my sisters found out after the treatment was over. They weren't too happy with me, but you know, again, that it's it wasn't their journey. This was my journey and so many people. The naysayers are so negative they they don't mean to be. You know, and they really are trying to maybe encourage you, but you know, saying oh how sorry they are or you poor thing that's not positive. That's not building somebody up when they're already in an environment within themselves that they need positivity in their life, they need uplifting. They need someone to take them by the hand and say, well there is the end of the tunnel, let's go for it. Which I found you know between the cancer clinic and all the doctors that I saw. That was my experience with them.
They were never Oh my God. This is so bad, you know, even with the stage four they never once said that I wouldn't survive. They just said, whoa treatments working, let's go for it. I was frustrated, I felt we should have started treatment sooner, but there's a process. And look, you know it all works out.
Did you find that some of the people that you did share, like your daughters or those few close friends, were they able to rally around you in that positive way, or was there any conversations or coaching that you did to help get them on that same page as you?
Uhm, not so much coaching. I told my daughters outright I said there's no negativity. There's no feeling sorry for me. If you want to come around to visit me and we you know we did our Sunday night family dinners, we continued with it. I said you can't come if you're sick or if you have a cold. That's the only criteria, but if you do come, there's no negative conversation. There is no way you can ask me how I'm feeling how treatments going, but nothing that would give it a negative connotation as to what could happen.
I just said that. It was just a different approach I took, you know and I read a lot of books too when I was going through this, and Louise Hayes was probably one of my best mentors and that fact that she was a very positive spiritual lady in her writing.
And I took a lot out of her books and said, well, if it worked for her. It would work for me and it did.
It really did.
And the medical team you know the doctors and the nurses at the hospital at the clinic I mean. They don't get enough credit for the amount of work they do. They really don't. They there are on unsung heroes.
Yeah, they really are your cheerleaders.
So where are you at now in this journey.
Well, they're still monitoring my lungs.
Uhm, they did find another spot that developed to vote a year and a half ago. They've determined that is probably an inflammation of some sort, so I've continued on with the quarterly CT scans. Uhm, they've just recently found another spot. Uhm, not this last CT scan, but the one three months ago. So we're monitoring that to see what will develop, if anything?
It's not going to change my perspective on where I'm going or how I'm going to get there I might have a little detour. But I'll be back on track.
And so are you doing any sort of treatment at this point, or is it just monitoring?
It's just monitoring at this point in time.
It sounds like you're also a very you. You're a very active person, training for marathons and exercising and going to the gym and everything. Have you been able to kind of go back to. That, UM, since your diagnosis in 2018.
UM, I had gone back to the gym for a while. Uh, I haven’t recently with COVID.
Uhm, I do think my running days are over because some arthritis has set in my left knee which causes its regular pain. But I do plan on going back to the gym when I was diagnosed in 2018 when I started my treatment I had worked up to deadlifting a what was 178 or 180 pounds or something like that.
Wow, good for you.
You know I want to go back to that when I get back in track that my body is strong again.
Yeah yeah yeah yeah.
Yeah, I do golf a lot.
I was just going to say I love hearing your your perspective on all of this. It's very, uhm, it's very refreshing and I love how how you've managed to maintain that over the course of the last. You know 3-4 years you know when. When I was introduced to you, Marion Doctor [insert name] really highlighted this as something that was really unique about you and the perspective that you took throughout your journey. So thank you so much for sharing that with us today.
You know, kind of the last question that we'll we'll take on on the episode today is, you know, we always like to ask this to our patients that come on. But you know what is one thing that you would tell other cancer patients who are also on this journey?
What is 1 lesson that you would want to share to other patients?
I think it's a multitude of lessons actually, but I think the biggest thing is that you have to love yourself.
You have to learn to forgive yourself for your imperfection and Brené Brown has a good book is learning to live with imperfection. But you have to learn that no one is perfect. This journey is not going to be perfect, but you can make it as perfect as you possibly can. You can believe in yourself. You can believe in whatever faith it is that you believe in, but know that 100%, your journey is there for you for a reason, embrace it. Enjoy it and don't let the naysayers bring you down. Just continue on and stay focused for the end result. And and trust, trusting your doctors 110% because they are there to help you through all of it.
Yeah, absolutely, that's really great advice.
Well, thank you so much Marion. This has been a delight and I'm so grateful for you coming on and sharing your your journey and your perspective and hopefully it'll be really helpful to our listeners and they'll be able to take some of your wisdom for those who are just starting out on their journey, but also those who might be well into their journey who's also in need for some of the perspective that you bring so thank you so much for coming on today.
Thank you for inviting me, I really am grateful that you thought of me and wanted to hear my story, thank you.
Thanks for joining us on the Gosh podcast. To learn more about the Gynecologic Cancer initiative and our podcast, make sure to check out our website at gynecancerinitiative.ca.