What I have lost to this disease cannot be measured. Cancer took my entire right leg but even greater losses are all the family members and wonderful friends who were taken far too soon. When I think of them I choose to remember the good days, the memorable moments and dwell on the positive things that cancer cannot take away.
My name is Glenda Standeven. Besides being a wife, mother and an active volunteer in my community, I’m also an author and an inspirational speaker – and if you know me, you’ll know that my last name is more than a little ironic because in 1988 I lost my entire right leg, including my hip and pelvis, to bone cancer. Trying to stand ‘even’ is just a little tricky on one leg but I manage pretty well all things considered.
In 1990, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) helped me to get an artificial leg that would help me during my pregnancy. I was one of only a handful of women in the world with my type of amputation to have a baby and the Society was so supportive throughout my journey. I began my lengthy volunteer career with the CCS because they actually cared about an individual cancer patient.
In the cancer support group I facilitated we kept gratitude journals and every single list had three things in common: a greater appreciation for family, friends and for life, cancer did not define us, laughter really IS good medicine.
My husband was diagnosed with melanoma in 2006. Through my volunteer work with the Society’s sun awareness program I was able to spot the suspicious mole early and we caught his cancer in situ (which means it had not metastasized beyond the surface layers of the skin). In a way, volunteering with the Society possibly saved my husband’s life.
My father passed away from metastatic prostate cancer in 1993, and in December, 2011, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer as well. Thanks to my dad’s journey we recognized the symptoms early and my husband is alive and well today. I wrote a book about his cancer journey, ‘What Men Won’t Talk About … And Women Need to Know – A Woman’s Perspective on Prostate Cancer.’ I believe that if we learn from the past then our futures will be more promising.
I’ve learned not to take life too seriously and to share stories of hope and inspiration with others, to laugh at myself and make a conscious decision to choose to smile in the face of adversity. Every day I choose to smile – it sounds so simple but it’s not always easy, which is why I co-authored another book, ‘Choosing to Smile’, to help people find that optimism and hope.
I’m not sure where I would be or what I would be doing today if cancer hadn’t come knocking more than 26 years ago. Somehow, my life seems immeasurably richer because of the challenges I’ve faced and the people I’ve met on my cancer journey.
People often ask me why they should donate money for cancer research when it’s taking so long to find a cure. I just look at them and say, “If it weren’t for research dollars I wouldn’t be here today.” Cancer took my leg but it didn’t take ME and that’s why I encourage people to continue to donate their hard earned dollars for research and why my husband and I will be doing a speaking and book signing tour in the spring of 2014 to spread the ‘choosing to smile’ message.
What I have lost to this disease still cannot be measured. But I have faith and hope now that cancer will one day be beaten because I’ve witnessed the strides that have already been made. I will continue to choose to smile along with so many others who refuse to let cancer define or defeat them.
You can follow me on my website where you can read my blogs, order my book Choosing to Smile and book me for a speaking event.