“I Went Pink to Educate”| An interview with Ms. Holmwood

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Censor This! recently had the chance to talk to Ms. Holmwood, who we all know as KSS’s drama teacher. In this interview, she speaks about her journey with breast cancer, and how she was able to raise over a thousand dollars for breast cancer research.

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So when and how was your breast cancer discovered?

Good question, it was found during a routine screening mammogram.

How did you and your family react?

Well, it’s like your world just turns upside down in a heartbeat, and everything changes. All the plans you had are put on hold because you have to fight a disease, and that’s the number one thing to do, to get well again. It was very hard on my family. But you move forward.

Did you have a lot of support from your family and friends?

I did, and it’s interesting because when you have a serious illness, doesn’t matter if its cancer or anything else, you really start to see who the people that are there for you are. It can be a surprise sometimes, because maybe people you don’t really connect with daily suddenly step up. Other people, you sort of have the opposite. You think they will be there, but aren’t. I don’t mean that judgmentally, because maybe they are having trouble dealing with the diagnosis. Or maybe it’s personal in a family way for them. Everybody’s different.

My daughter especially helped me out. While I was on one of the drugs I was taking, I had to be injected with a needle every day. I didn’t want to go to an appointment everyday just for this, so my daughter was trained by nurses how to administer it. The fact that she did that for me is remarkable, and really touched me.

Could you describe your journey with breast cancer? With your treatment, and how you are now?

So after you’re diagnosed, you enter the big, huge world of cancer. We’re lucky in BC, because we have a lot of support in place. In my place, it was treated surgically. I got maybe six weeks of recovery. In my place, I needed chemotherapy which is the worst. And so just as I was well enough from the surgery, they hit me with the chemo. I did that for almost four and half months, and I was on very aggressive drugs. I didn’t get any of the time off from chemo, like some people do, so it was really hard. Everything you hear about losing your hair, eyelashes, eyebrows were true for me. I developed all sorts of side effects from the chemo, which again is really standard. After that, they elected it was a good idea to do radiation treatment, so I did that. After that, they put me on a drug I have to take for about the next five years. And all of these things have side effects. So I had to make the decision of dealing with the side effects, or saying no to that particular treatment. But the cancer center decided to hit it with everything, because I’m young, and could handle it.

Are there are any stereotypes or misconceptions about cancer that you learned are not true?

It’s not that they’re misconceptions, it’s just that I learned a lot of things I never knew. People have interesting ideas about cancer, and the process. What comes to mind is when I lost my hair; it was painful, which was something I didn’t know about before. I lost my hair in a 24 hour period, and so when the follicle releases the hair, it hurts. While I love seeing people shaving their heads, the actual experience maybe completely different.

So what is Run for the Cure exactly?

So Run for the Cure is a run in which you can walk/run 1km or walk/run 5km. Since I just finished one of my treatments in July, I was wondering whether or not I could actually do the 5km run, but I decided to do it anyways, and ended up completing it. It was held in City Park this year, and there was a huge turnout. The event is run by volunteers, and at the beginning they gave a flower to all the people who have breast cancer or survivors. They actually grouped together the people with breast cancer and the survivors for how long they’ve been dealing with the illness.

The event volunteer led, and all the money raised goes towards breast cancer research, and education initiatives. It’s was so great to be out there with all the people who’ve supported me.

Why did you decide to fundraise, and how did you go about doing it?

I am all about educating and raising awareness raising awareness about breast cancer. I mean, I went pink to educate. I also really wanted to give back. I’ve met so many amazing people, like the women whom I’ve met through the Running Room. My running partners were definitely a reason why I decided to participate, because they’ve all been there for me. To fundraise, I used social media to talk about it, and it definitely spread fast by word of mouth. It was amazing, because I ended up raising over $1,000 and all the money goes towards funding research and education.

Finally, do you have any words of advice to someone with breast cancer?

First of all, I would like to tell all women to get routine screenings done, it’s so important. Don’t listen to anyone else, do what’s right for you. Early detection is key.

Second of all, I’d say that you will get through it. You have so much support during this time, and you meet the most amazing people. The unexpected friendships and bonds that you make will help you, and you will be okay again.

If you would like to learn more about Run For a Cure, and how you can help and make a donation visit runforacure.com. You can also view Ms. Holmwood’s individual fundraising page at runforacure.com/annemarieholmwood.