For Calgarian Grace Chantiam, 2020 was supposed to be a year she would remember for the rest of her life. As it turns out, it was, but not for the reasons she had hoped. COVID-19 brought a halt to her May wedding, and, in August, Chantiam was diagnosed with stage 2B endocervical adenocarcinoma – cervical cancer. Walking into the Tom Baker Cancer Centre for treatment at the age of 40, Chantiam was not ready to have the cancer conversation. But the support of her family and friends helped her find the strength to celebrate her small wins. She also became focused on living for the now. A lesson learned from an unlikely but very important person in her life – her five-year-old son, Alexander.
In Her Own Words
“I’ve learned that kids live now. They don’t worry about the future because they don’t think about it. Whereas all I think about is, what now? What could happen? That’s the anxiety that’s in my head. [But] I turn to my son, Alexander, and he’s just playing with his Lego. That’s all that matters to him right now. So I’ve really learned to take that perspective and live in the now instead of worrying what possibly could be in the future.
“Cervical cancer is not brought up and discussed because I don’t think a lot of people are comfortable talking about women’s health. There’s lots of talk about breast cancer – and I’m not saying that breast cancer is not important – but there is no discussion about cervical cancer. I find that very shocking.
“My advice is to find your support system. I met people during this journey who had zero support systems. It broke my heart because I had such a strong support system to cheerlead me through this journey. You need people who you’re able to talk to about what you’re going through.
“The journey keeps going. I’ve learned that this is my new life. I now have follow-up scans every three months. This journey is a marathon, it’s not necessarily a sprint.”
Sadly, Grace passed away shortly after we conducted this interview. When Grace knew she might not have much time left, she gave her blessing to publish her story, and we are honoured to share it with our readers.