A remarkable journey

By Deborah Bridgman

This month marks 26 years since I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

I remember my first visit to the Oncology Department at the Jewish General Hospital. I was nervous, a little scared but nonetheless in a good mood, smiling at others as they sat with their own private thoughts… A woman in a blue coat approached me, sat down and simply engaged in conversation with my mom and I.  This lovely lady admired my beautiful, long, strawberry-blond hair.  She pointed to a corner of the ward where I saw a little room that looked so colourful inside compared to the waiting room.  I decided to walk over and take a look. The room was tiny, and consisted of books, scarves, wigs and the smiling faces of two volunteers who warmly welcomed me. They told me if I needed anything or wanted to talk to anyone about what I was feeling, they were there for me.  I immediately felt safe and relaxed.  And that’s how my journey with Hope & Cope began.

Hope & Cope became my main mission through all these years of fighting and LIVING with cancer.  It still is to this day.  Volunteering with Hope & Cope allowed me to find my passion and my voice, to encourage others and offer hope and inspiration. Awareness and education are so critical, especially for those living with advanced and metastatic illness. I remain very active in advocating for the needs of young adults with cancer and for women with metastatic breast cancer – two populations with very specific needs and challenges that are often overlooked and underserved.

 

Over the years, I’ve held a variety of volunteer positions at Hope & Cope, and feel truly blessed to have worked with such amazing volunteers, staff and donors. Some of these positions have included:

  •  Peer mentor (over the phone) for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Member of the Administrative Committee (a decision-making body consisting of volunteer team leaders and staff)
  • A founding member of Hope & Cope’s Young Adult Division, and, for three years, Co-chair of an annual fundraising event called “Denim & Diamonds”, which raised over $1,000,000 for Hope & Cope’s Young Adult programs;
  • Volunteered for 2 consecutive years in the Oncology Department’s Young Adult Clinic, where I offered support and connected patients to Hope & Cope’s Young Adult programs.
  • Volunteered in the Palliative Care Unit for 1 year.
  • Remain active as the Young Adult Advocate on Hope & Cope’s Board of Directors

A single mom to 2 amazing daughters, now ages 33 & 29, I’ve worked full-time at a major corporation (Bell Canada) for 25 years.  Due to my metastatic diagnosis, I have been on long term disability for the past 13 years.

Shortly after my diagnosis, I began training in Martial Arts and reached my second degree black belt.

Aside from my family – my daughters and my wonderfully supportive parents – my passion in life is to share my story in hopes of helping others deal with the devastation of living with cancer. I want to encourage other advanced cancer patients to LIVE with cancer, not DIE with cancer.

In 2016, Deborah received the Hope & Cope Distinguished Service Award for her “inspiration, leadership and outstanding advocacy for young adults with cancer”.