When I was just 19 years old, I felt like my life was spiraling out of control, and that I was losing everything I had worked so hard to achieve.
I had just graduated high school, began my university studies, and was making important decisions for my future. But…life had other plans.
My name is Alexandra (Bruleigh) Szeto, and a decade ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a diagnosis that changed the course of my life.
What started as a routine trip to the Well Women’s Clinic followed by an appointment with my family physician, quickly turned into surgery, a bone marrow biopsy and a devastating cancer diagnosis. Shortly after, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and countless visits to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre became my new ‘normal.’
As I took it all in, I remember feeling overwhelming sadness – I believed I was losing everything. But, looking back now, I really wasn’t. I now realize I was actually lucky. Certainly not because I had cancer, but lucky because I could fight this battle from home.
Because I was able to stay in Cape Breton for most of my treatments, I was able to continue working part-time. When I felt up to it, I could enjoy a meal and actually laugh with my friends. And, after my first day of chemotherapy, I was able to drive just five minutes to my home, celebrate my brother’s birthday with my family, and be surrounded by all of their love.
I feel fortunate that not only did I have my friends and family nearby, but I also found family in the incredible staff of the Cape Breton Cancer Centre. They knew me by name, what chemo chair was my favourite, and what snacks I’d enjoy while undergoing many hours of treatments.
When I say cancer changed the course of my life, it’s because it did. But, not just because of the diagnosis itself. The kindness, compassion and expertise of the staff at the Cancer Centre inspired me to change my entire career path. When I was well enough to return to university, I enrolled to become a nurse, so I could pass on the care that was given to me in my greatest time of need.
A decade after my cancer diagnosis, I am now proud to be a Registered Nurse and both honoured and privileged to be working at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre – first as a nurse in the Medical Oncology Department and now as an Oncology Research Coordinator. I am grateful each day that I get to work and learn alongside the very same healthcare experts who saved my life.
In my role as an Oncology Research Coordinator, I work with the team to bring research studies and clinical trials to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre, with the goal of innovating and enhancing the delivery of cancer care on our Island. It’s an exciting opportunity for me, for the Cancer Centre and for cancer patients and their families. And, in fact, it was initially funded by the incredible donors of the Foundation, like you! For that, I am so grateful.
As a former cancer patient, Registered Nurse working in Oncology, and an Oncology Research Coordinator, please trust me when I say that the Cape Breton Cancer Centre is vital to cancer care for Cape Breton. Cape Bretoners should not have to leave their community for cancer care, and they should absolutely have access to the most innovative cancer care, when they need it most.
So, if you can, please consider supporting cancer care, here at home.
Oncology Research Coordinator
Fellow Cape Bretoner