Every once in a while you come across someone who just blows you away.
Jill Latendre is one of those people.
She is the feisty, happy proprietor of Daisy-A-Day, a whimsical garden centre in the tiny Ontario town of Burk's Falls (not quite an hour north of where I live in Bracebridge). It's the kind of place you want to hang out in; the kind of place you can always find a funky gift for your mother or your aunt or someone hard to buy for.
One of the coolest things Jill ever did was get married, a few years ago, in a spectacular "redneck wedding," complete with camouflage pants and boots for the boys and all manner of fun stuff.
But she has outdone herself in the cool factor.
This Saturday she is having a party to say farewell to her breasts – and everyone is invited.
Jill has breast cancer and on the first day of spring she is having a double mastectomy. Not one to sit around a feel sorry for herself, Jill's party is a celebration of her body and her beautiful breasts. More than that, it's a fundraiser for cancer research.
If you can't make it to the party on Saturday, Jill has other ways you can contribute – she has all the information you need at the end of this post.
The following is the story she wrote for her local newspaper, the Almaguin News. It's one of the papers I do design work for and when I read her story I was literally blown away by her heart and her determination to make the most out of life – no matter what life serves up.
No, I don't have a #fridayflash this week. I thought Jill's story was far more important than anything I could write.
Mr. C Comes A Knocking
by Jill Latendre
Yahoo! Life is grand. I have finally reached that wonderful plateau. I have become a Snow Bird. Kick back and relax with fun in the sun. After nine months and seven days a week, work on my garden centre is now complete. I am so looking forward to the whole winter off, in a warm climate. But wait, what is this? I have just discovered a long, strange lump on my breast. Not to worry, I'm due for my yearly mammogram in October; it will prove to be a newly formed muscle.
My results are in. To my surprise I must have an ultrasound, no big deal; I've had to do that before. It is now November; our friends have stopped in for a visit. We are laughing together and sharing funny stories. The telephone rings and interrupts our visit. It is my family doctor; he is calling to let me know that my results are in. I am rather surprised when he tells me he will be scheduling an appointment with a specialist for further investigating.
Our doctor is aware that we are going away this winter, however I remind him again. There is quiet on the other end, then a sigh. A pause ... "Jill, you may have to make some alternate plans for your winter holiday. I'm sorry to have to say this over the phone, but we have found something suspicious looking with regards to your tests. I do not believe we can wait until April to check into this matter." A cold shivering feeling went down my spine; my arms are covered in goose bumps. I'm not sick. I feel great.
It is now December 15th and I am on my way to the specialist's appointment. My girlfriend Jenny decides to join me. We have just been advised that I have lumps in both breasts. I am a little shocked to hear that I must have a biopsy done for both breasts. This would determine if they are malignant or benign.
This appointment will not happen until January 4th, so I have decided to join my husband for a short two week holiday in Florida. Still feeling very confident about results, I will fly home for the test.
My doctor believes that the tumours are malignant and I must now have a series of tests to confirm his certainty.
I was about to embark on an adventure that was not a part of my plan this year. My husband Dave is now frantic and hundreds of miles away; he wants to come home. I am still insisting that all is well and I will be back in a few weeks time.
Wrong. In less than two months I would undergo eight separate tests. A few would be very invasive; the rest left me waiting with the fear of the unknown.
Looking on the bright side, I feel very lucky. I believe that my doctors and their assistants have pushed and demanded for these tests in quite a speedy fashion. I am convinced that I have the greatest doctors in the North. However a roller coaster of emotions have set in to invade my body. I felt as if I was losing complete control of my mind and my actions.
I now realize that my role as a mother, who has always had a good outlook on life, has changed. My two daughters, Shyla and Ashley, are now consoling me. They are making decisions for me and keeping me calm. I love them both so very much.
My Guardian Angel, Jenny, has been with me from the beginning. She would even fast when I had to and keep my spirits lifted lifted. Feeling each and every emotion, she has now become me. Jenny is now my brain, my heart and my soul. Thinking of me, listening for me, acting on my behalf, feeling my heart beat and my head pound.
Wayne, Rene, Barb and Darin are there for my every want or need. My family and all my friends are also close to my side. Saying prayers, cooking for me, hugging me and holding my hand.
Judgment Day is approaching. Sleepless nights and anxious thoughts will not let me have peace. Today is January 28th; I will meet with the surgeon and two specialists at Saint Michael's Hospital in Toronto. My sister Robin and Jenny are by my side. Along with thoughts, prayers and love from my family and friends.
Questions are being asked of me by the doctors; my mind is frozen. Jenny and Robin have become my voice. What are they saying to me? Double mastectomy. Chemotherapy. Possibly radiation, too. My stomach is churning inside out; my eyes swelling with tears; my mind racing out of control. No this is not happening, not to me. I am a good person; a great mother; and friend to all. I have worked hard all of my life and have given myself to everyone who needs me. I have volunteered for my communities in every venue possible. How will I tell my husband? My family? My friends?
How will I operate my business, my contracts, clean my house, care for my gardens, look after my family? Is this possibly the worst day of my life?
I am now joining thousands of other people who have met Mr. C.
The task of calling my husband, family and friends will be even more difficult. I can hardly speak. Robin and Jenny must take on yet another role to assist me. It is a gruelling day, tears are shared by all. People begin to offer words of hope; trying to comfort me. However, some do not give me any comfort at all.
These are some of the spoken words that a person who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer does not need to hear:
• You don't need those breasts anyway.
• They are just boobs.
• They have caught yours in time; my sister wasn't as lucky.
• My cousin died of breast cancer but treatment is better now.
• You can get a new set; pick the style and shape.
How would you like it if I said, "you don't need those lips; nose; leg or arm." I'm sorry, but losing ones breasts could be just as devastating as any other body part.
The good news is that I know that I am not going to die, nor am I alone. Thousands of women have been through this ordeal and are now much stronger for their life changes. I will survive, with a lot of help from my wonderful support team of family and friends.
Did you know that 500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each week in Canada? I do now and now so do you.
Each person deals with a tragic event in their own way. Hence this is the reason I wish to share my story. This is not for self-recognition, but to bring awareness to all who are reading. Mr. C can come a knocking when you least expect him. My mission now is to help others who have and will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future. To many, my method may seem a bit bizarre, but it might just bring a smile or some laughter to your day: I will be hosting a party like no other before. Are you ready?
I invite everyone from far and wide and across the globe to support me in my fundraising event.
"A GOING AWAY PARTY FOR MY BREASTS"
I will be saying goodbye to my breasts at Saint Michael's Hospital on March 21, 2011.
There are three ways in which you could make a donation to Breast Cancer Research in my honour:
1. Join me for my party, March 19, 2011 at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 405, Burk's Falls from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.
2. During the month of March 2011 visit the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 639 in Restoule, Ont. Pledge forms will be available.
3. Go online to the Canadian Cancer Society www.cancer.ca in honour of Jill Latendre-Langerud for Breast Cancer Research.
Tax receipts can be issued for donations of $20 or more providing that your name, address and postal or zip code are included.
Thank you to all who have read and participated in my fundraising event.
Sincerely and forever grateful,