November 18, 2021 by Women and Insurance Cancer Crusade (WICC)
Editor’s Note: In honour and celebration of Women and Insurance Cancer Crusade (WICC)’s 25th anniversary, Canadian Underwriter will be publishing each Friday a personal story of someone who has been touched by WICC’s fundraising activities in support of cancer care and research. In this second part of the series, there will be five stories. Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry has strongly supported WICC, which has set a goal of contributing a total of $25 million to cancer care and research by 2025.
Three words a person never wants to hear from a physician is “you have cancer”. That’s what I was told that cool November morning in 2017.
Following the initial investigations of a tumor, I was told I have colorectal cancer but at that point I didn’t know what stage it was or what I was dealing with in terms of treatment. A number of tests needed to be done to provide those answers.
So many feelings, so many questions, I needed to be patient and I needed to stay positive. I am definitely a “glass half full” kind of person and that optimistic person wanted to believe that in spite of those ugly words, I was going to be okay. I convinced myself that it was caught early. I prayed that it was caught early. Truthfully, I was scared. I was afraid of the unknown and I hated the thought of having to share this news with my family, friends and work colleagues.
When I found out it was stage 3 cancer, the first question I asked was “what is the survival rate”? I was told 70% of stage 3 colorectal cancer patients will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. The optimistic me should have been thinking I have a 70% chance of surviving this, however I couldn’t help but think there’s a 30% chance I could die. Never in my life would I have focused on 30% when the odds were clearly in my favor. It’s incredible how this diagnosis changes how you think about things.
I met with my oncologist to discuss my treatment and what my journey would look like. She said to me “Studies have shown….better results”. This meant 9 weeks of radiation, 3 weeks recovery, surgery, 4 weeks recovery from surgery and 4 months of chemo. The thought that I was going to lose a year of my life was honestly overwhelming. I wanted so badly to feel sorry for myself, but I couldn’t. I needed to be strong for me and for all of those people who were supporting me.
Speaking of people, since my questions had all been answered, it was time to share the news with my family, friends and colleagues. It was TOUGH! I can completely understand why some individuals prefer not to share too much. The conversations were difficult and exhausting but I wanted to be open and transparent about my diagnosis and prognosis. I wasn’t fighting this battle on my own. My family, friends and colleagues fought right along with me. I needed their support, their positivity, their love and their prayers. I needed to stop thinking about 30% and focus on the 70%. I will never forget how amazing everyone was throughout my journey.
It takes a team of doctors, radiologists, technicians, nurses, and so many others to get you through a cancer journey. When we discussed my treatment plan, what my oncologist said was studies have shown that survival rates for stage 3 colorectal cancer have shown to be better if radiation is done before surgery, followed by chemo after surgery. I am so grateful for those studies, for the research, technology and all the knowledge that is available because of the money we raise for organizations like WICC. I am here today because of that support.
Let us continue to support cancer research and maybe, just maybe, cancer will be a thing of the past.
Rose Cugliari is Assistant Vice President at AIG Canada. She is a strong supporter of WICC.
Help support WICC’s 25 by 25 pledge, which aims to raise $25 million by 2025. Read more here: 25th Anniversary – WICC National