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‘I didn’t want to leave my children’

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

‘I didn’t want to leave my children’

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Cancer does not define who I am. Jane Date can proudly speak those words now. The vibrant Canadian native and healthy mother of two grown children is enjoying her quaint Christ Church home and family life, and basking in the fact that she just recently got Barbadian citizenship.
One would never guess that 10 years ago she faced one of the greatest battles of her life.
“It’s something that happened,” she says, of the diagnosis of breast cancer. “Everybody handles breast cancer differently. There are people that know me fairly well that didn’t know that I had it, not because I’m keeping anything from anybody, but it’s no longer part of my life.
“When you’re going through it, it’s a different thing and I have a great deal of sympathy for people going through it because it can be a horrific thing. But I don’t dwell on it.”
For Jane, her approach to the cancer was similar to the way she approaches everything else in life – she was determined to deal with it.
“My children were approximately nine and 11 at the time and my major concern was my children. I don’t mean that in disrespect to my husband, but my husband has lived his life,” she said. “I was determined I was not leaving my children. That made the decision easier for me to do what I needed to do to get this problem fixed.”
Jane’s road to recovery included surgery and radiation treatment. It meant regular trips to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and interaction with members of the radiology department, with whom she still keeps in contact.
“I chose to do what I had to do. I was extremely fortunate that I could do my radiation treatment here. I could have gone to Canada but it kept that normalcy in my life. I could wave goodbye to my children in the morning as they went to school, and then go to the hospital to do it and then come home and be here.”
Keeping that sense of normalcy was important to Jane, especially as it related to her family life. With cancer treatment, when there is so little that one has control over, Jane was determined to keep life steady and constant for them.
“At that period of time, you have no control over anything,” she said. “During the time of my radiation, I was told that you get extremely tired, but I was like I am going to the gym. I’ve been going to the gym for years because I’m severely asthmatic and it helps. Whether I had to crawl in there I was going and I continued to go the whole period of time. It wasn’t so much going to the gym, but it was the only thing I could control.”
Jane said her children, while young, also were very supportive. She recalled the Saturdays when her husband and daughter would go to the market to buy carrots because she was always consuming carrot juice.
“I think it worked, people told me I looked pretty and I would tell them it was the nuclear glow,” she said, laughing.
“On reflection, I can see that it was something my husband and daughter were doing for me. My son was amazingly positive for a child his age and I was so fortunate that we continued to lead as close to a normal life as we could.”
Jane said during her own struggles she would be brought down to earth when she would be in radiotherapy sessions sitting next to a little boy which made her problems seem miniscule in comparison.
Though Jane said she dealt with the cancer and moved on, she viewed it as a part of her journey of life.
“I had a wonderful career. I flew for Air Canada as a flight attendant. Even when my children were young, we continued to travel,” she said. “But one of the comforting things going through that period was that I never had any regrets. I had always done so much.”
“It was something that happened. I never had breast cancer in my family,” she said. “I was sitting in bed with my husband talking and I found the lump. But I dealt with it and it has passed and hopefully I won’t ever have to deal with it again.”