Watching Amy Smith-Morris play with her and her husband’s dogs in their Saskatoon home, it’s easy to see that the 32 year old has a whole new appreciation for the little things in life. She is happy, healthy and expecting their first child. All of this would seem very ordinary if it wasn’t for the fact Amy is an Ovarian Cancer survivor.
Back in 2016, there was a lot going on in Amy’s life. She had just completed her Doctorate in Pharmacy with a specialty in cancer care. In September, she got married and went on a dream honeymoon to Italy and Greece. She says they took the time to enjoy everything those two countries are known for. Being active as a nationally ranked power lifter, Amy expected the anticipated travel weight to come off once she was back into her routine, but it didn’t. She also had intense heartburn.
The situation, while unusual for her, was nothing that caused any alarm. Weight gain from a vacation and heart burn are very common. “ I don’t know if it’s nagging in your gut, or nagging in the back of your mind but just something is saying, ‘You know what, I’m just going to go ahead and do this,” Amy says.
A trip to her doctor and an ultrasound revealed a mass on one of her ovaries. It was 21 centimetres by 10 centimetres in size. Her medical background, training and research told her that even though there was a mass, it could still be many things.
“But in that moment, you’re in shock and I definitely was. I laid down on my bed and called my Mom because who else do you call,” she says with a smile.
A CT scan eventually revealed the one thing she didn’t want to hear. She had cancer. In Amy’s case, it was Ovarian Cancer. “Your world just kinda stops.” That was Remembrance Day of 2016.
Always one to attack a problem head on, she wanted to know who was the best oncologist and where was the best place to have surgery. Amy’s research told her the best oncologist for her was at the Saskatoon Cancer Centre. On November 25, she had surgery to remove the tumour and affected ovary and then began four cycles of chemotherapy.
“Chemo is tough. I knew what was coming, which is good and bad. I knew it was going to be more of a marathon than a sprint.”
While at home over Christmas, Amy says she got all sorts of questions about what chemotherapy was and how it worked. She felt there was a disconnect over what was happening to her and perceptions about chemotherapy. She decided to make her treatments public through Facebook Live. She also started a blog. Her hope was to dispel the myths about how the life saving cancer treatment worked. Her videos were viewed over twenty thousand times.
“If I can sit there and say, I’m going through chemo and this is what it looks like, this is what it feels like then all of a sudden it’s a lot more doable to the next person,” Amy says.
By sharing in such a public way, Amy says she received hundreds of comments from people who saw her story. They wanted her to know that sharing her treatment made things less scary for them.
Today, Amy is cancer free and life for her and her husband Marc has settled into a new normal. There are still doctor appointments, but less of them. She’s working, lifting weights and expecting their first child in March. Amy jokes, “Turns out you can put all your eggs in one basket” referring to only having one ovary. She says they are taking joy in the little things today and enjoying life as it unfolds. They are looking forward to just getting old.
Amy hasn’t stopped sharing since being cancer free. She still receives messages from cancer patients and tries to help them in any way she can. She even published a book of stories from young female cancer survivors named The Surviv(her) Book. She hopes people learn from her experience.
‘When you are diagnosed with cancer, you have to pull on any resource you might have. Whether it be any friend or any connection to get whatever you need in the end because you only have one life and you need to do whatever you can do,” says Amy.
She says, supporting the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan, you are guaranteed to make an impact on a patient’s life in the province.
“When you give to the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan you are giving to people in your community. All of us have been touched by cancer in some way. These funds help treat our mothers, sons, aunties, neighbours, co-workers. There are few opportunities when you can be certain that every dollar donated stay right within Saskatchewan – the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan is your chance to support cancer fighters in your community.”