Focused on health
Nellie Baker doesn't allow herself to spend much time wondering about what could have been or worrying about what might happen tomorrow. But every now and then she wonders if her life might have been different if cigarettes hadn't been part of it.
Baker was an occasional smoker but kicked the habit almost 35 years ago. She and her husband Howard loved to bowl, but gave it up after she found herself heading for exits for a gulp of fresh air "because the air was just blue."
Still, her work as a waitress and in the hotel industry frequently put her in the company of smokers, so when she was diagnosed with lung cancer she did spare a moment to wonder if cigarettes were to blame. Then she got on with her life.
"Just because I have cancer I'm not sitting down and crying 'poor me.' I'll just keep going until I drop. Attitude is half the battle."
Baker comes from a tightly-knit Nova Scotia family. She and her husband of 51 years decided to move to Edmonton to be closer to their son Jeffrey and the support he could offer in their retirement years. She explains that they're equally close to their other son, Howard Jr., but he has two young children and a busy life in a rural area of the province.
They were finalizing their plans for the move to Alberta when Baker woke up one morning with a tightness in her left arm. There's a history of heart disease in the family and she suspected cardiac problems even though her brother had died at young age of breast cancer. It never crossed her mind that she might be facing her own encounter with cancer, but tests ruled out heart trouble and x-rays showed a spot on her lung. A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis.
Baker threw herself into radiation and chemotherapy treatments even as the countdown came for the move out west. She was determined to live as normally as possible without allowing cancer to define her life or her actions and it wasn't until she moved to Edmonton that she got the news that stopped her in tracks. The cancer was spreading.
"It felt like a heat wave went through me," she says, although she hid her reaction from her husband. Then she decided "to give it my best, to fight it with all I've got, and I've being doing that since."
Her battle included signing up for a clinical trial. Baker says she can't even express how important it is to research and to have access to the latest drugs. Although the medication didn't help most people in the trial, her cancer has stopped spreading. She hasn't even minded the trips for treatment. "I praise the Cross Cancer Institute and the
people, they are just wonderful. They're kind, they know your name, even the receptionist."
The treatment has allowed her to enjoy the company of her "go-getter" son, to indulge in her passion for crosswords and jigsaw puzzles, and to spread the word about healthy eating. Baker noticed that when she was undergoing treatment she felt better when she included lots of green veggies, like her favorite, spinach, and avoided unhealthy options liked fried food. Above all, it means she and the guy who has been sending her flowers
for the past year can continue their outings together.
"It will probably spread and kill me eventually, but I'm not worried about what will happen tomorrow. I'm just worried about what will happen today and everything is fine today."