lock out cancer women's campaign- cheryl cullen's journey
Written by Julianna Bonnett
At the age of 51, ambassador Cheryl Cullen’s was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. After visiting her doctor about a persistent feeling of fullness, Cullen’s thought there might be something wrong but had no idea of what was to come.
“I remember going for an ultrasound the next day thinking that I was being silly, and they weren’t going to find anything,” she shares. “It was when my doctor referred me for a CA 125 test (a biomarker test for Ovarian Cancer) that it hit me, could I possibly have ovarian cancer?”
Within the next couple of weeks, Cullen’s visited a specialist and was booked for surgery and it was confirmed, she did have cancer.
“I was shocked. It was a club I never wanted to join. Things were happening so fast. I felt for my husband, my kids, my sisters, and my mom,” she explains.“This was difficult for all of us. I was amazed by the love and the support we received which helped us cope and kept us positive.”
After going through a successful surgery, doctors were able to remove all visible signs of cancer and along with using chemotherapy treatment to make sure they took care of anything potentially left over.
“The care that the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre provided was great,” she states. “They answered any and all of my questions and provided support for me and for my family.”
To Cullen’s, cancer is not only challenging physically, but mentally too.
“I am lucky to have met a number of wonderful people along the way including new friends who know firsthand of the struggles in dealing with cancer,” she says. “I have learned to be kind to myself and that while I can’t change what is happening, I can choose how I want to deal with it.”
Within time, Cullen’s was able to get back to work which felt like a triumph for her.
“Unfortunately, my return to work was short lived, and I am currently receiving treatment for a recurrence. I know this is part of the journey and I remain optimistic that my treatment will be successful again,” she shares. “There are days I still struggle, and I know it’s okay to have bad times, but then I get back up and dust myself off and move forward. As my cancer friends have said, “it’s okay to have a pity party – just don’t unpack and live there”. I have learned to focus on each day and all the good things around me.”
At first, dealing with uncertainty was difficult for Cullen’s, but the pandemic has shown her that no one really knows what will happen or how much time they have.
“I am amazed about all the good there is in the world, and know I just have to look for it. It is important to be hopeful. I have been focused on spreading awareness about ovarian cancer to others, taking part in fundraising efforts and sharing my story,” she says. “I am hopeful that someone else might benefit from my story and I am grateful to be an Ambassador for the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation. They have provided me with support as I continue on in my cancer journey with the goal of locking out cancer.”