Miranda Walker: finding support through Cancer Connect in Lethbridge
Navigating the challenging path of treatment
Miranda Walker was moving cities to be closer to her life mate, and launching her career as a mental health therapist at age 28, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was pretty devastating. I couldn’t even say the words cancer or chemo without tearing up for months,” she said, adding, “They wanted to start chemo within a few weeks, so my partner and I asked to be referred to a fertility clinic. We had one day to consider if we might want to freeze embryos.”
After completing several difficult rounds of chemotherapy that rendered her so ill and weak, she was mostly confined to her bed, Miranda learned that her tumour had responded well to the treatment and doctors scheduled a lumpectomy.
After surgery she was relieved at the offer of a short break before beginning radiation.
“It was summer time and I remember I was feeling a bit like myself again… taking the dogs for walks and feeling very happy to be out in the sunshine. Then they started radiation and like chemo I felt terrible; I had every side effect imaginable,” she said.
When treatment ended, Miranda tried to return to her normal life and her career, but with her hair still falling out and unbearable fatigue, her path forward was fraught with barriers.
“Somewhere during that time, I decided to do the genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer and I found out that I do have one of the hereditary gene mutations, so I chose more surgeries; a double mastectomy with reconstruction, and I had my ovaries and uterus out too, to decrease cancer risk,” she said.
While Miranda was at the Lethbridge Cancer Centre, a nurse navigator told her about Wellspring, but at the time there were no programs online or in her area, so she continued to rely on those closest to her, including her partner Geoff, who has remained strong and devoted.
“I’ve done a lot of therapy, and leaned on friends and family quite a bit too – it’s been a heck of a journey,” she said.
Finding community through Wellspring
Last spring, when Miranda learned that Wellspring had begun offering online programs and was starting an in-person program in her area, she decided to check it out.
“Lethbridge has generally been lacking in cancer support, so I thought I should join Wellspring and give it a try,” she said, adding that she much prefers the option of meeting people in person, so she signed up for Wellspring’s Cancer Connect in Lethbridge.
“It’s been really great; I’ve made some wonderful connections – met some lovely people. Some are going through similar things, so I have a feeling of not being alone,” she said, adding. “It’s been eight years since my diagnosis and my life has not returned to what I hoped or expected. But this is what it is – I’m working to accept that. And I’m glad I have good people and the support of Wellspring.”
What is Cancer Connect?
Cancer Connect is an informal gathering over coffee, tea and snacks, open to any adult individuals living with cancer and their caregivers or support person offered in Red Deer and Lethbridge. These monthly gatherings offer a safe space to connect with others on a similar path and learn strategies for supporting the mind, body and spirit.