Libby Znaimer's Cancer Story
Angelina Jolie has recently shed light on breast cancer and the precautions women can take to help protect themselves. Libby Znaimer shared her experience of “Living in Cancerland” with our readers in the first issue of Zoomer magazine.
Published October 2008
With breast cancer behind her, Libby faces another challenge with her characteristic humour and courage.
Two years ago last month, I was starting chemotherapy. I had already gone through two operations for breast cancer. I knew the agony of learning that my cancer was missed on a mammogram and the joy of discovering that it had not spread.
I had yet to lose my hair, to embrace my wigs and to learn how to live my life with “the red devil” coursing through my veins. I still faced weeks of radiation therapy, more surgery and the most difficult decision of my life — whether to have both of my breasts removed prophylactically, as a preventative measure, because I have one of the breast cancer genes. That means I’m at risk of getting cancer again.
Wait times vary from province to province. There are no national benchmarks for surgery and chemotherapy. Who gets the fastest care? According to the report card, women in British Columbia and Quebec are best served. We all deserve the same.
If you asked me how cancer changed me these last two years, I’d say the first change was on the outside. I ditched the blond hair I’ve had all my life and took inspiration for my new look from my favourite short auburn wig. And I really feel that the change on the outside mirrors those on the inside. My hip, fun hair reflects the way I feel.
Having cancer was the most vivid experience of my life. Living through it made me realize that it would be great to also experience the good things in life in the same vivid, fulsome way. Now I’m grateful for all the good things. Being happy comes naturally and I really enjoy my life.
I’ve just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unlike breast cancer, which is practically an epidemic, the numbers are smaller. And it only afflicts a tiny percentage of the tiny percentage of people who carry my genetic mutation. I am very hopeful. And I’m still trying to enjoy each day as much as I can. Wish me luck.