In our ongoing series about partnerships, PVN is working with the BC Cancer to make getting involved in health care improvements easier. In support of this, we are pleased to highlight patient partner Deanna Roozendaal’s story of her cancer diagnosis and how she started a new chapter in her healing journey through the BC Cancer Network of Patient & Family Partners.
“You’re coping incredibly well,” my doctor said. And I was! Until I wasn’t…And I didn’t know where to go…
When I first heard about cancer in my body, I felt shocked and numb. However, as I shared my news with loved ones, I quickly steeled up my own strength to help them with their reactions to my diagnosis. I was unshakable! I breezed through my doctors’ appointments, my surgery and my post-surgery healing. I managed to keep my work, my home, and my relationships under control. I agreed with my doctor when he said that I was managing very well!
Then I got the “all-clear” – all the cancerous cells had been removed. My reaction to this good news wasn’t at all what I expected. Instead of feeling tremendous relief and jubilation, I felt deep sadness and profound exhaustion. This counter-intuitive reaction scared me.
In March 2011, I was cancer-free, and it had been nearly three months since I’d been diagnosed with stage one melanoma. On a sunny and cold afternoon, I sat at my office desk, and my body started to shake. I desperately tried to push away the thoughts and feelings that I’d kept inside since my cancer diagnosis. My mind became fixated on one thought – I can’t do this anymore! I CAN’T do this anymore! This thought looped uncontrollably, over and over, in my mind.
As my body shook more intensely and my emotion escalated, I felt like I was going to explode. I knew that I needed to escape, to go somewhere and to get immediate support. My doctors had not referred me to cancer support services. However, I recalled seeing the sign for the Canadian Cancer Society on a close-by street. I drove there immediately, my hands shaking as I gripped the steering wheel. Tears ran down my face as the staff member at the Canadian Cancer Society let me know that I was close, but not quite where I needed to be. She promptly helped me across the street and up to the 2nd floor of the BC Cancer Centre in Victoria. There, I was given immediate support in my time of crisis. Thankfully, I found The BC Cancer Centre when I needed it most.
The BC Cancer Centre in Victoria became my haven over the next several months. The support I received there helped me through a difficult period and into the start of a new life.
With subsequent melanoma diagnoses and surgeries, Inspire Health Supportive Cancer Care provided me with a community that understands the impact of cancer. Inspire Health Victoria empowered me to make choices that have helped me live my best life possible, both during and after cancer treatment.
Most recently, my participation in the BC Cancer Network of Patient and Family Partners has started a new chapter in my healing journey. Through this network, I’ve shared my cancer story with the hope that my experience may help other cancer patients in the future. I’ve also volunteered my time to review cancer care educational materials and to participate in working groups, committees and retreats. Most importantly, I’ve made connections with other cancer patients. The BC Cancer Network of Patient and Family Partners has provided opportunities to give back in a way that’s been healing and meaningful for me.
I’m thankful that I found the BC Cancer Centre, Inspire Health and the BC Cancer Network of Patient and Family Partners precisely when I needed them. I’m not certain that every patient does. By sharing my story and participating in the network, I hope to assist cancer patients and family members to find the support they need, exactly when they need it. For more information on patient engagement in BC Cancer please see www.bccancer.bc.ca/getinvolved