In the heart of Canmore, nestled in between the breathtaking landscapes, lives Nancy Ruiz – a vibrant soul with an unyielding passion for outdoor adventures. Her life took an unexpected turn in July 2023 when she began experiencing debilitating pain on her right side, setting off a chain of events that would lead her through a profound and challenging cancer journey.
Having moved from Mexico to Vancouver in 1998 and later settling in Alberta in 2005, Nancy has called Canmore home for nearly two decades. Little did she know that this picturesque town would become the backdrop for her resilience and strength in the face of an unexpected cancer journey.
An initial visit to the emergency room unveiled a mysterious presence in Nancy’s ovary. Due to a prior hysterectomy, medical professionals believed the cyst might resolve on its own. However, a subsequent ER visit, prompted by excruciating pain on her left side, revealed a harsh reality – cancer. The cyst on her ovary had spread to surrounding lymph nodes and the lining of her stomach.
Next thing she knew, Nancy was at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre receiving a stage 4 diagnosis. The cancer had moved into the liver, and the main tumour from the ovary had also attached to the large and small intestines and was moving toward the bladder.
She started chemotherapy immediately.
“It’s a wild ride,” Nancy reflects on the overwhelming diagnosis process. “I don’t think you can absorb it all.”
The suddenness and unfamiliarity of her cancer journey forced her to grapple with the reality of her situation. However, her priority remained her two teenage daughters, as she swiftly set up insurance, her will, and everything concerning their future.
“Once I was set with the girls, then it was the grieving and realizing where I was at.”
Nancy embraced a positive attitude throughout her initial and following treatments. She took on a radical and hopeful approach to treatment, viewing chemotherapy as her friend.
“I treated chemo as my friend. I know that might sound counterintuitive, but when I was receiving the chemo, I thought, ‘Thank you, you’ll heal me.’ I didn’t resist it… And since then, I’ve kept the same attitude.”
To her relief, chemotherapy treatments were working. The tumour had disappeared from her liver, and surgeons were able to successfully remove the mass on her ovary. A triumphant moment made even more significant by the proximity of her treatment at the Bow Valley Cancer Centre in Canmore.
The Bow Valley Cancer Centre’s closeness to home provided solace, highlighting the importance of a supportive and comforting atmosphere in the healing process.
With this, Nancy saw a similarity between the Bow Valley Cancer Centre’s atmosphere and what she’s heard about what’s to come at the Arthur J.E. Child Comprehensive Cancer Centre opening in 2024.
“As a healthy person, you don’t think about how much the environment and the surroundings [impact] somebody who’s really sick… It impacts healing,” Nancy says.
Throughout her journey, Nancy also found invaluable support in the cancer community, where shared experiences and advice create a network of strength. The value of keeping things both realistic and optimistic resonates deeply with her, echoing the sentiment that community support helps people navigate the challenging path of cancer.
As Nancy underwent the final stages of her treatment in January, at the Bow Valley Cancer Centre. In her own words, “Yesterday, when I went for chemo, I was actually happy. I know it sounds weird. But I was super calm.”
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