Dianne’s story: Dauntless

Dianne’s voice [music starts as she speaks]:

I was born October the 6th, 1951 in Twillingate, Newfoundland.

Carried to my home on Little Bay Islands on a schooner that was in Twillingate picking up freight. It was called the Dauntless. Little did I know that the captain would end up being my future father-in-law, and that Dauntless would forever be my username in the computer world.

Back then, being a nurse, teacher, secretary were about the only choices for young girls. But I enjoyed playing nurse, and I always thought it was glamorous. I graduated in 1972. It wasn't quite glamorous for sure, but I loved my work, and I cared about and for my patients. So much so that at the age of 60, when my friends were considering retirement, I was skydiving and starting a new position as a travel nurse in northern Labrador.

I always seemed to leap before I looked. The northern clinics in Labrador gave isolation a whole new meaning. Medevac planes that were dependent on the unpredictable weather, ambulances that couldn't get through to the clinics, and I knew so little about the supports available there for my patients, especially cancer patients.

At the age of 66, I was finally ready to retire. Plans of travelling the world were waiting for me, including a trip to Disney World with my grandson, and doing some of the things that I had been doing throughout my life, I guess, skydiving, zip lining, white water rafting, and parasailing were all calling my name. But life had other plans for me.

A mass was found in my lung. Cancer had shown up unannounced to my retirement party. Didn't seem quite fair, since I was a non-smoker all my life. But I didn't let it slow me down. I kept on living the way I always had. I did all the scans and tests required, and my surgery was scheduled for March the 18th, and I thought I had the luck of the Irish with me, as it was the day after St Patty's Day.

Two days before my scheduled surgery, I was admitted to the hospital. I spent the next 30 days in the hospital, with 10 of those in ICU. Just when I started to feel better, that's when everything changed.

The doctor came into my room and closed the door. I wondered why he closed the door. But he closed the door to hope, to my future adventures, and to the surgery itself. Stage 4 lung cancer, my only option to see an oncologist, and start the lines of treatment. For me, this is when my cancer journey really began.

Line one, line two, line three. You never go back, only forwards. I was surprised to learn that there was actually no me, there were just the lines. Chemotherapy, targeted drugs, radiation, a never-ending cycle with horrible side effects, and still the cancer continued to spread. I had to fight for my life, telling a roomful of doctors please look outside the line. Look at me.

After a lot of tears and pleading, my oncologist agreed to go back to a treatment that worked for me in the past. I went backwards in treatment protocols, but forward with living. My travel plans and adventures with my grandson have not completely gone, they have just changed.

I get to watch from the sidelines now, watch him play, slide, and grow. I still get to be his Nana. That door has come slightly ajar for me from time to time, but it is never fully opened. After being diagnosed with cancer, I asked myself, who do I call? Where do I go for support? What information is available?

I thought back to those hard times working as a northern travel nurse and how difficult it was for people with cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador that lived out around the bays or in those small communities. Through the Canadian Cancer Society, I was able to find support, support that I wish I knew about back then, support that my patients needed.

I used to pray for me. But now, I pray for more research, treatment options, and awareness so that soon, that door can swing wide open and stay open for not just me, but for others in the same situation.