Every day, 300 cancer patients walk through the doors of the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre in St. John’s. Here is the story of one.

In June of 2018, at the age of 38, I was diagnosed with Renal Cell carcinoma and only 5 short months later I was diagnosed with Melanoma. The first diagnosis was handled with a partial nephrectomy of my right kidney and unfortunately, the melanoma was a little more complicated. With one surgery in December 2018 and another in February 2019 to remove the mass and lymph nodes, I was still required to have 1 year of Immunotherapy treatment at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Center in St. Johns. To be honest, entering the chemotherapy unit for the first time was one of my hardest days, but quickly being greeted by the great nursing staff, and chatting with people from all walks of life, it was quite different than what I expected.

With two cancer diagnoses, a large amount of uncertainty, and a young family at home, there was no choice but to try and push forward in a positive manner. It wasn’t easy but with the support of family, friends, all of the people at the Cancer Center and the programs offered at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Center, it was certainly a lot more manageable to go through this diagnosis.

March 12, 2020, with my family and co-workers from the St. John’s Regional Fire Department beside me, I completed my final day of treatment and was able to celebrate with ringing the bell of hope. For me, ringing the bell symbolized the end of treatment, but also a symbol of the accomplishment and sacrifices my family made over the 2 years to ensure I was going to have a positive outcome.

It is through the support of donors that we can continue to provide the best cancer treatment equipment and care in our province – and to provide each and every cancer patient a way to celebrate their milestones – both big and small – along their journey. Cancer patients want nothing more than to treat their cancers and to get back to their lives and their families.

The Let Hope Ring Program is supported by Newfoundland Power’s The Power of Life Project.

Stories of Hope

It was a day like any other ordinary day……time to get up and in to the shower before heading off to work.

But what’s this? I hopped out of the shower and as I was drying off, I felt a lump. Not just any lump but a very unusual one. I felt it and I knew it. I proceeded to complete my breast examination and yes……that was the day I discovered I had cancer, aggressive breast cancer and a day I’ll never forget.

When anyone of us hears the “c” word, I believe it creates an  everlasting fear which in turn gives us a deeper insight on life and presents many questions such as How far along is the cancer? Will I be able to fight this cancer? Am I going to die? What about my daughter? How is she going to deal with this? What about finances? So many questions……

But the one thing I kept telling myself is you have to stay positive…..you have to keep smiling and you have to believe that there is hope.

You see, I’m not only trying to survive cancer for myself but for my daughter, Logan, most of all. She is the reason I wake up every morning and breath every day. She gives me the courage and the positivity to fight, to beat this and to win.

The experience has been overwhelming with the series of tests or scans and the poking of needles for all of the bloodwork and the intense chemo treatments thus far but I’m still continuing this journey as I still require surgery and then radiation and more tests and scans to ensure that everything will be ok.

I’m still up for the challenge and will continue to fight until cancer no longer exists and the “c” word no longer represents cancer but courage.

I would also like to pass along this courage to all of those who have had or will have or are travelling on the same or similar path to recovery, to never lose hope.

Remember…….cancer may have started the fight but you will finish it.

Lastly, I want to and cannot forget to thank all of the doctors involved or will be involved, and to my chemo team Kathy and Colleen who made my chemo treatments so much more bearable.

My mom has also been an amazing support for me as well as other family support, you know who you are and to the community. You have all helped me immensely through this difficult journey.

The day I got to ring that Bell of Hope was like no other, I had reached a milestone in my treatment and I was over halfway there!

Sharleen Skinner

I feel like I could write a never-ending book on my experience and then another book on all the people to thank throughout my journey with cancer!

When I was first told I had cancer, it took a long time before I could even say the word; CANCER. I would whisper it like it was a bad word and I couldn’t say it in a full sentence. “I have cancer” just sounded very weird coming out of my month.

I started a mantra I would say over and over in my head; during walks, at the cancer clinic, laying in the bed, etc. “I accept you cancer with love and light. You are not welcome in this body, so please remove yourself from your host and disintegrate into the universe”. I would repeat this over and over until I had surgery.

I remember the first day I started chemo, June 10, 2019. I was scared of the unknown but determined to get well. My partner, Mike, and I were amazed by the amount of people who were also present at the clinic for the same reason I was; “trying to stay alive”. The nurses at the cancer clinic blew us away by how passionate and compassionate they all are for each and every patient. I truly do not know how they do it day after day.

There was a point where I was mad with cancer however, after spending a full year of receiving chemo, 30 rounds of radiation, surgeries, scans, biopsies, and 3 rounds of a new chemo which put me in the hospital twice (one of those times was during snowmageddon)! The list seems to go on….I feel like I should have special powers right about now like a green hulk!! It did however, give me the ability to be stronger.

Cancer never took my smile, it made me smile bigger. Cancer never took my love, my love grew stronger. Cancer never took my positivity, it made me more positive, and we never let cancer stop us from doing ANYTHING! I remember fondly my last day of receiving 30 rounds of radiation, which I like to add, was on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. My partner and I had the truck loaded up with skidoos, food, and my dog, Teddy. We took off into the country after my appointment.
This journey taught me to listen to my body and obey it even if it was telling me that I needed a nap, especially during an ice fishing expedition! I would lay flat on my back, staring at the sky, with an ice fishing pole in my hand out on the pond!!!

When I rang that bell on June 9, 2020, after taking my last chemo, marking exactly one year from my first chemo, I thought I would never stop banging on it!!!!

Due to the Covid-19 virus and the bell in the cancer clinic being removed , I brought my own bell to ring and my family watched me through the window. I just wanted to bang on the bell until my arm got sore! I rang that bell for happiness; I rang it for the angels I met during this process who lost their lives; and I rang it for all those amazing nurses at the cancer clinic, for all the doctors, staff and radiologists that have looked after me. We have met some amazing people during this journey. Ringing that bell released me from having to be strong, which I have been for the past year and ringing that bell cleared the air for new beginnings.

We have so many people to thank since we started this journey. I am truly grateful for my loving partner Mike, who has kept me focused, picked me up when I couldn’t, who looks after me and loves me for me, and to my doggy Teddy, who has been by my side the entire time especially during my couch days; he walked me and taught me to live in the now!

Deanne Dawe

On Feb 13,2020 I was told I had leiomyoscaroma, which only affect 1 in 1000 women.To hear the word cancer , was the most scariest word I’ve ever heard. I’ve had a lot of family members that went through all kinds of different  cancers and I never thought it would happen to me at such a young age   of 37.

 I started my chemo treatments on April 1, 2020 and I just finished up in   June 22, 2020.Today I can officially say I AM CANCER FREE!!
 I didn’t get a chance to ring the bell of hope because of COVID 19 but   that’s OK because I know in time I can.

Going through cancer has been the toughest roads I’ve have ever travelled on. With 2 small kids at home , it was not easy as I’m sure people doing chemo treatments know it wipes you out.
There were many many days I just wanted to give up but I knew I couldn’t for my kids and for my family. My cousin Jennifer sent me a text message one day and said you may have cancer but it doesn’t have you! Thank stuck in my head everyday and got me through my hardest days , it was a push that I needed.
I had some pretty rough days , actually more bad than good going through treatments but in the end when u hear those words “ cancer free” it’s so worth all the sickness and pain.

To all the cancer patients that are going through this nasty battle, please remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and when that day comes, you will feel the weight of the world has lifted and your life will go back to normal. Just take one day at a time. Too the nurses in the Grand Falls- Windsor cancer clinic, you guys are amazing, I cannot thank you all enough for taking care of me.

Sherri Lynn Morey
Grand Falls Windsor

At 49 I was going through life like everyone else, we all have our daily routine until something throws us for a loop and changes everything we know about life as we know it. After noticing a couple of times that something wasn’t right about my daily bathrooms visits, I went to my family doctor with my concerns, after a physical examination and a review of my family history he told me not to worry and he would send me to get a colonoscopy, because I was not a priority case I would probably have to wait 10-12 months. After thinking about this wait for quite some time I knew in my mind something wasn’t quite right so I made a few calls to see if I could be put on a cancellation list lucky for me there was a cancellation and I got my appointment for 3 weeks time.

On September 28th 2015, my wife and I were told I had stage 3 colon-rectal cancer(rectal cancer because it was lower in my bowel). This was a shock to the both of us even though I knew in my heart that there was something seriously wrong, it still was hard to accept. So many thoughts go through your mind but the first one was I’m so glad I listened to my body and didn’t wait the 10-12 months. Another one that I remember at that time was my son was starting his second year of a 3 year naval architecture program at the Marine Institute and my first thought was would I even live to be able to see him graduate. How was I going to tell him this horrible news? I remember telling him and he gave me a hug and told me “We will get through this, dad” I will never forget that and at that time that was exactly what I needed to hear from him.

The next few weeks seemed like everything happened fast. MRIs, Cat Scans and meetings with my surgeon thankfully with my wife, Paula who is my rock by my side through every appointment. The plan was to start with radiation and chemotherapy before the surgery to remove the tumor. I remember sitting in the cancer clinic with my wife feeling very scared and unaware of what was going to happen next. After a few initial meetings with the team who were going to guide me through the journey I was to embark on. I realized I was in very good hands and they made me feel reassured that everything was going to be okay. The cancer team decided on 28 rounds of radiation along with chemotherapy in hopes it would shrink the tumor. This is only stuff you hear other people having to go through but you never expect to be experiencing it first hand. I remember feeling very nervous for my first radiation treatment but after a few rounds I realized that the staff in the radiation department were super nice and made me feel safe. My treatments were done everyday along with a daily oral form of chemotherapy. I would count down the number of treatments in my daily journal. I remember everyday my wife would say to me “you are one day closer to getting better”. She would tell me this every morning! After getting myself ready I would look in the mirror and say “today is a good day” I continued to this every morning until I was told I was cancer free! If I had l learned anything  through my journey is  that you have to take one day at time and not look too far ahead.

Finally surgery day arrived and all the preparation such as exercise, healthy eating and my positive outlook had been my training like I was training for a marathon and my race day was here! I knew going into my surgery I going to have colostomy bag when the surgery was finished. I would not know if this would be permanent or temporary until I woke up but I had my mind set that I was okay and prepared for either outcome. I remember waking up in the recovery room and the first thing I asked was “is it on the right or left?” Right meant temporary and left meant permanent and lucky for me it was on the right, yay!

After surgery I was to have chemotherapy again, this time I would have to go into the cancer clinic to get my chemotherapy treatments which were split up over 1 infusion in the clinic for 4 hours and then I would have a chemotherapy bottle on my side which would infuse my treatment through a port in my chest. This would continue for 3 days at a time then I would get a break for 2 days and then repeat for roughly 6 months, like I said before I would get through it all one day at a time but I remember being in the cancer clinic watching some very sick people there and saying to myself “how lucky I am to not feel so sick” the ironic part is I also was there to receive my
chemotherapy as well but I think you have to know that someone out there that has it worse then you.

I had the colostomy bag for approximately 18 months after a number of tests I was a prime candidate for a reversal surgery. After my reversal surgery it would take time for my bowel to work properly again. I would have many meetings Jason, my dietitian at the cancer clinic. Jason was so awesome and helped me get back on track again, I would need to gain weight again as I lost nearly 50 pounds from the surgeries. Thankfully with Jason’s help I did gain all the weight back. It has been 4 years since my surgery and I am so grateful to say I am still cancer free and feeling awesome! When I look back at everything I went through it’s hard to believe I did it but with a positive
outlook and a good support team including my wife who I can’t thank enough for being by my side everyday it is possible to overcome anything. Many of my friends always remind me how impressed they were with my positive attitude and strength with everything I went through. You have to be positive and keep your mind strong. Never let cancer consume your mind! I’ve always been a positive person but cancer has made me even more so towards life. I look at everything different now and I never sweat the small stuff. There is so much more in life to be grateful for but we just all need a reminder sometimes. I often tell people that are going through cancer that if I can go through
it, you can too that I am not Superman, I am just a person like you so when that time comes and it will, ring that bell loud and proud!!!!

Todd Sooley

St. John’s, NL

One year ago this month I found out that I had breast cancer. I had no idea of the journey I was about to embark upon. I have finished my chemotherapy and radiation and I am continuing with my ongoing treatment plan. Yes, cancer stole some things away from me but it gave me a whole new outlook on life that I am forever grateful for. I have learned to be patient with myself and kind to myself and others. I have learned to be less judgmental of others who are on their own journey. After all, we know nothing about the adversities others face. I try to be the best version of myself each day and recognize that the best version of myself changes from day to do as it does for others. Some days my only accomplish-able goal was to drink enough water, others it was getting dressed or taking a short walk or taking a long walk or being accepting of my limitations and some days my goal was climbing a mountain which I did this Sunday past. Yes I did! It took my 9 hours to climb and complete Gros Morne mountain. It was something I had planned to do last year and then I got the dreaded diagnosis. It just made the victory oh so much sweeter this year. I cried at the summit. They were tears of accomplishment, pride and appreciation of beauty. I have accomplished a lot this year but I am so proud of my self-growth. Wherever you are in your journey, be accepting of your limitations, pat yourself on the back for your accomplishments. Remember some days your accomplishments might be putting on your socks or drinking your water or accepting it isn’t going to be a good day or walking around the block or climbing a mountain. Each and every accomplishment is important and victorious and I pat myself on the back for every one of them.”

Linda Morrissey

St. John’s, NL

All contributions to the Cancer Care Foundation of Newfoundland & Labrador directly support patients here in our province.