If you’ve roamed the halls of St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Windsor, you’ve likely come across Dana Stevens, one of our 2022 Lock Out Cancer Ambassadors. Dana teaches at the school, and is the Teacher Moderator for the Cancer Youth Troop Group. We asked Dana, a wife and mother, to share a little more about herself and her story. Dana’s cancer was first spotted by her husband while on a FaceTime call when he noticed a lump on her neck. He’s been by her side every step of the way.
Dana says listen to your body and ‘check your neck’.
“I had no idea what thyroid cancer was or how the thyroid affects the body. I quickly learned that the thyroid makes hormones that help control many of the body’s functions. From regulating one’s heart rate to maintaining one’s body temperature, concentration, and so much more!”
Dana says it’s been 5 years since she left cancer in her rearview mirror. She says she’s learned so much about herself through her own cancer journey, “I learned that I can overcome adversity and that no matter what life brings my way, it’s all in how I handle it that makes me who I am today”.
Read more to learn about the wisdom she’s gained, and what she’s learned about herself through this journey. You can also make a donation in honour of Dana. We thank her for her courage as a 2022 Lock Out Cancer Ambassador.
Learn More in Our Interview with Dana
When did you first discover something “wasn’t right”?
The moment I realized something wasn’t right was when my husband and I were on facetime, and he noticed a lump on my neck and brought it to my attention. At first, I thought it was odd because I hadn’t noticed it at all, and I really didn’t have any symptoms or signs that something was wrong. However, when I look back there were a couple of days when I felt very dizzy and ‘off’. So after a few visits to my family doctor, I was sent for a biopsy and that’s when everything changed – Stage 2 Papillary Thyroid Cancer was detected.
What surprised you about local cancer care here in Windsor?
The cancer care I received was amazing. My surgeon, Dr. Tietze has what I call “magical” hands. She was there for me every step of the way. The nurses at Windsor Regional Hospital were so caring, attentive and helpful, as well. The one thing I didn’t know much about, nor did I know was even available to me here were the different thyroid replacement drugs that I would need to take everyday for the rest of my life. After several dosages of different thyroid medications, I found that Synthroid works best for me! Since I no longer have a thyroid, Synthroid helps to restore my thyroid hormone levels to the range they need to be, therefore, this is a life saving drug for me so I am very grateful to have access to it!
Many have little exposure to the world of cancer treatment until they’re thrust in it. Can you impart some words of wisdom?
Firstly, what I’d like to bring awareness to is the importance of listening to one’s body and “checking your neck”. I had no idea what thyroid cancer was or how the thyroid affects the body. I quickly learned that the thyroid makes hormones that help control many of the body’s functions. From regulating one’s heart rate to maintaining one’s body temperature, concentration, and so much more! Secondly, one myth that I would like to dispel is “Thyroid cancer is the “good cancer”. After my diagnosis was made that I had Stage 2 Papillary Thyroid cancer, a health care professional said to me that I had the “good cancer”. This was one of the most misleading statements made to me after just receiving a life-changing diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong, I know there was no ill-intention when this was said to me because statistically, Papillary Thyroid Cancer is very treatable and has a high survival rate, but there are other types of Thyroid cancers that are not as ‘favorable’. Ultimately, to me, no cancer is “good”.
What aspect have you been able to view as a positive from this experience?
This experience has taught me so much about myself. It has been challenging (still is at times), but my cancer journey has given me hope, and inspiration and has made me a stronger person by viewing life through a new lens. Ultimately, I’m a better version of myself now! My perspective on body, mind and health has changed for the better! I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I am blessed to be a part of the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation and forever thankful for having them in my life. Also, I am blessed (as a Teacher) to work with a beautiful group of students who want to make a positive change in the world, as we work together on fundraising events and initiatives to raise money for cancer research. I’m forever grateful and thankful for where I am today as it has led me to new friendships and great initiatives!
What have you learned about yourself? About your support network?
It’s been 5 years since I left cancer in my rearview mirror. I have learned so much about myself through my cancer journey. I learned that I can overcome adversity and that no matter what life brings my way, it’s all in how I handle it that makes me who I am today. I’ve learned to stay positive and live life to the fullest because things can change at any moment. With that being said, my journey would not have been as comforting or successful had I not had the unwavering love and support of my husband, children, family, and friends.
We sincerely thank Dana for sharing her story. Click Here if you would like to donate to the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation in her honour.