Tag Archives: breast cancer awareness month

Pilates Beyond Breast Cancer


Pilates Beyond Breast Cancer is….a pilates program designed to build stamina, improve posture, increase shoulder range of motion, regain function and release neck tension. Exercises for the arm, shoulder, spine, hips and core will focus on movement as well as strength. Join Certified Body Harmonics® Pilates instructor Anne Marie Collingwood to restore your foundation of strength, mobility and balance as you experience “The art of contrology”(Joseph Pilates)

Offered on: WEDNESDAYS   11:00am to 11:45am

Location: YWCA OTTAWA ST. 52 Ottawa St. N. Hamilton 905.522.9922 press 8

Fee: $64.00 for non-members

$48.00 for members with a YWCA Fit Pass or Health Pass Fall Session Dates: October 7 to November 25, 2015 . For more information or to register contact Anne Marie Collingwood 905.545.6249 ext 24 or acollingwood@ywcahamilton.org


The bus is coming!!!

Screen for Life The Coach Bus

Its almost race day!!!!

The Road2Hope road race series is almost here….just a few more sleeps!  As many of our members, staff and supporters get ready to race in support of ywcaencore, our running coach, Coach Kim, has some great last minute advice.  Thanks Coach!

Kim’s TOP TEN Race Week Prep Ideas

#1 Stay off your feet as much as possible when you are running your last couple of efforts (avoid standing in one place)

#2 Elevate your legs in the evening or when you can

#3 Maintain a happy and positive mood…..do fun things!

#4 Try not to change your diet too drastically this week.  Simply cut back on excess fats and fiber

#5 Sip plain water frequently

#6 Start laying out everything you think you might need on race day  (it’s November,  so think in terms of layers  and gloves)

#7 Start telling all your friends and loved ones about the great run you are going to have and where they can cheer for you on race day!

#8 Stretch frequently and gently,  but avoid static stretching on the morning of your race  (dynamic R.O.M.  is fine)

#9 Attend a Yoga class or at least breathe deeply several times a day!

#10 Visualise your event and see yourself crossing the line smiling,  happy and healthy!

Best wishes for a safe and successful day to one and all.


Thank you for sharing…..an amazing woman’s breast cancer story

The ywcaencore program is a FREE health and wellness support program for woman who have had breast cancer at any time in their lives.  We have had many, many amazing women join us for this program to support their healing journey.  One woman, Amanda, has shared her story below.  As Amanda mentions, this program helps so many women, in  so many ways.  Please consider joining us November 1 and 2 at the Road2Hope to help support ywcaencore


Thank you for sharing your story Amanda



My Story

In May 2008, I was a healthy 29 year old active female who enjoyed life and was planning for the future. On May 31, 2008 I was in the shower doing a routine breast check and found a small lump on my right breast. I thought nothing of it but booked a Dr’s appointment the following week. My family Dr. was and has been amazing through everything and had me doing an ultrasound and biopsy very quickly. By the middle of June 2008 I was diagnosed with IDC stage 2 grade 3 Breast Cancer and was being told of my future; including multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, infertility and living a life with cancer and the life changing repercussions of all of these treatments. I and those around me were in shock and disbelief and we kept asking how and why? I am grateful to my husband, parents, my sister, family and close friends that did everything they could to support me and keep my spirits positive. Things moved forward very quickly from the initial diagnosis and I was told by my oncologist that I needed to act fast or the cancer would spread and I could die. His scheduled treatments were a lumpectomy with lymph nodes removed and then chemotherapy if my lymph nodes were affected.

By July 2008 I was scheduled for chemotherapy and was being referred to a fertility clinic for embryo preservation as the chemo could make me infertile. For me, infertility was worse news than the chemo. My husband and I were rushed through a cycle of fertility treatments spending over $10,000. This was not something we had planned for emotionally and financially. We were lucky to have support from family to be able to get the money in 2 weeks to go ahead with the treatments. Then moved quickly to chemo on Aug 15, 2008 and that would continue until November 28, 2014. I completed the genetic counselling and was told I had the BRAC-2 gene and I was at risk for many other cancers and the Dr. strongly recommended a bi-lateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy and I was scheduled with a surgeon to begin to discuss the options and plan for yet another surgery. My head and emotions were in a whirl wind and I couldn’t keep up.

Then, after most of my breast was removed during the lumpectomy, I was bald, skinny, and sickly looking from the chemotherapy, I reflected in the mirror and decided that I was a strong person and I was not going to let a diagnosis of cancer slow me down. I decided that this happened to me for a reason; I was going to do everything I could to take my health in my own hands. My husband and I did research, and started to become informed about breast cancer, treatments options, side effects, natural options and continually asked questions about supports and research for young women like me and it was very hard to find. My goal was to enhance the awareness that breast cancer does happen to young women, look at alternative and complementary medicines and treatments and to find resources in the local community that could assist me and others with the struggles that cancer brings. This was a struggle but I was determined. Many programs had barriers to access, some closed down because of lack of funding and just finding the programs was difficult. My oncologists did not provide any information of supports in the area and I was left to my own devices. Instead of feeling defeated, I took my frustrations and continued to enhance my learning, attended conferences of natural healing and decided I was going to be empowered by all my new learnings. My husband and close family supported me 100% no matter how crazy some of the new foods I and supplements I was introducing them to.

I had my bi-lateral mastectomy with implants at the same time in February 2009 and was on my pathway to recovery and had declined to have a hysterectomy and any other conventional medications. I had completed my treatments was using many supplements and natural remedies to get my body healthy again. I decided to dedicate my time and energy to my own healing and supporting and connecting personally with people and supporting them through their cancer journey; giving them tips, connecting them with resources, and providing a shoulder for them through their battle so they didn’t have to endure the helplessness and loneliness that I felt when I was going through my battle. I had done some of the hard work in finding information and now my purpose was to share and share with anyone that wanted to hear about it.

It was in 2009 that my physiotherapist Jodi Steele, through a program called Cancer Rehab, informed me about the ENCORE program thought the YWCA. Unfortunately for many reasons, I did not connect to the program again until 2012 when I contacted Anne-Marie and an evening program was running at the Ottawa street program in the spring of 2013 and I registered.  It had been 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was in a much different space in 2013 then I would have been in 2009 but I was ready to see what the program offered. The program was FREE and the only stipulation was that you were either diagnosed with breast cancer or a survivor.  I enjoyed that there were people in different stages of their healing from breast cancer and Anne-Marie being a survivor herself knew what we were going through. The information and speakers that Anne-Marie brought in were exactly in line with the healthy lifestyle approach that I had adapted. I enhanced my knowledge, was introduced to some new professionals and services and some amazing people. The second half of the session was in the pool… oh how amazing to learn stretches and practice them with a group of amazing women. Each time I went to the program I wondered WHY is it not mandatory for the oncologists to promote and encourage their patients to attend programs like this. Where was this program when I was diagnosed and how come it took me researching and searching for me to find it?

ENCORE is a program that we need and we need more programs like this. Many people have donated money for years and years to find a cure for cancer. My goal now is to find supports and resources like ENCORE that works with cancer patients in teaching and support them through a difficult time and making these programs available to everyone. Make it something that is automatic for breast cancer patients to be referred to a program like this. This program needs to grow and be available at all YWCA / YMCA centers.

This year I am running the Road to Hope ½ Marathon with Anne-Marie and other participants from the ENCORE program and I have raised money that goes 100% directly to ENCORE. A ½ marathon has been on my bucket list of things to do and this year I will be able to check it off my list and support a program that I admire, love and am dedicated to spreading the word about. Through ENCORE I have met some amazing people who have become my support network and we will support one another through our different journeys in life.

Amanda Rahija


My Breast Cancer Story: Appreciation

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope
My heart is so appreciative of all of the women who so openly shared their personal stories on the blog over the past month. Reading the stories again, I re-live many of the emotions that I felt seven years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As I was writing a summary of the stories, something developed on the page that I believe is a key message of these accounts. The shock and fear at diagnosis became only the backdrop on my sheet of paper. What stood out on the page and similarly in these women’s lives, are the lessons learned and messages of STRENGTH, SISTERHOOD, FAITH, SUPPORT FROM FAMILY, FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS, LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST, OPTIMISM, FRIENDSHIP, LAUGHTER, PASSION, LOVE, MIRACLES, JOY, HOPE, SEIZING THE MOMENTS, WELLNESS, LIFE IN FOCUS AND AN UNSTOPPABLE SPIRIT!
To all of the women that submitted your stories: you have taken us into your journey and we have cried with you, we have been educated by you, we have been challenged by you, we have empathized with you, we have been encouraged by you, we have been reminded by you of the importance of living every moment and we have been forever inspired by your spirit. Thank you so much for your openness and inspiration!
So the end of October and the end to our “Share your Story – Raise Awareness” campaign on breast cancer. The end – NO! These stories will be available in the ‘previous post’ section of the blog to revisit and to share with others beyond October.
As we continue our commitment to raise awareness of breast cancer and to empower women who have had to fight this disease, we hope that you will help us carry the messages forward.
with thankfulness,
Anne Marie

If you would like further information on ywcaencore, an after breast cancer exercise program, please contact Anne Marie Collingwood, ywcaencore Coordinator, at 905.545.6249 ext.24 or acollingwood@ywcahamilton.org

My Breast Cancer Story: PRESENT in My Life

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope

Hi, I’m Margaret Carter, 58 years old and retired from the Ministry of Health.

I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer from my annual mammogram, the summer of July 2006. I had my surgery within a month, followed by two-plus years of chemotherapy, radiation and five years of oral medication. Yes, I survived the full monty!

Only weeks before my surgery I was reading a Hello Canada magazine and enjoying the sun in my backyard. I thought that everything in my life was how I had hoped it would be at 51 years old.

How could I know that from the moment of my diagnosis I would be facing a situation that would impact my personal life, family and career for the rest of my life, but in a positive way?

The more I opened up to the experts at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, the more I learned of breast cancer survival.

I am blessed beyond measure by our health-care system in the Hamilton community: the professionals at the ywcaencore program and Wellwood House, that serve to benefit survivors and life after cancer. These angels that walk amongst us have taught me hope and to empower myself. I am appreciative to be a member of such a support system.

So every morning when I get up, I live with gratitude and celebrate it, and I don’t worry about tomorrow. Coping can be difficult, but the positive outcomes of breast cancer have taught me to be more PRESENT in my life and cast those dark thoughts aside.

One thing I tell myself is, since I am a survivor, I can pretty much handle any challenge or hardship life will give me. Experience is a tremendous teacher. Life is precious and I’m grateful for each moment.

My Breast Cancer Story: Family Memories

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope 

In an effort to raise awareness, I reflect on the blessings of this journey through breast cancer and understandings through adversity.

My partner saw me at my worst and loved me even more. He shaved my head and we laughed together.

My daughter expressed words through tears I never thought I would ever have to hear, and came to the “chemo parties.” We walked the “Bright Run” together in 2012 with my grandsons, six and three, who had “for my Nanna” written on their T shirts. My son-in-law hugged me tight.

My son took his family on the “Run for the Cure” in Victoria BC in 2012 and during a trip to see them in 2013 they wanted to see my scars. I explained to my thirteen-year-old granddaughter that breasts do not define a woman, while my daughter-in-law listened supportively. My other granddaughter, on seeing my bra with prosthesis, said, “See grandma, you still have a booby.” My son, who had told me he didn’t want to “go there,” was sitting on the back of his truck while his wife and I were chatting in the trailer one day. I took out my prosthesis and stuck it on the window…….he laughed, almost falling off the truck bed.
My family felt the pain that I tried to hide, bravely communicated in ways that showed their love, expressed words of support and comfort, yet maintained a sense of humour, creating fond memories to last a lifetime for us all. We face unknown journeys, yet I reflect only on the good that life has offered and will continue to live gratefully, a life of joy and faith to the fullest.

My Breast Cancer Story: Three Lessons

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope

There is a saying that I would like to share: ‘Life is a Journey, Let Faith be your Guide.’ My journey, like those of so many others, has taken me to places where I felt lost. But when I remember who is really in control, my faith takes over and it is all good….

Good Friday 1973 – it was the following Tuesday that the Doctor’s office called and I was scared – the tests had come back and they were positive. I had stage 4 cervical cancer and I would need to have a hysterectomy. Fear of leaving our young without a mom was all that I could picture. It wasn’t in God’s plan and I feel so blessed everyday to be alive and healthy, sharing with family and friends.

In the winter of 2008, after a busy summer working at our resort, we were getting ready for a welcome vacation in the sunny south. Our sons and their families were also looking forward to staying with Nana & Papa. I was concerned about a larger lump in my breast but having fibrous breasts and yearly mammograms since age 40, it could wait until my next checkup some two months away, right?


Lesson #1 – Don’t Wait!!! Get two or three opinions!!!

Lesson #2 – Ask questions and seek out a support group. ywcaencore introduced me to a great bunch of survivors! It helps to be around others who have walked in your shoes and to feel grateful for the time that we have together.

Lesson #3 – ‘Turn your troubles over to God, He’s going to be up all night anyway.’

God Bless,

My Breast Cancer Story: This Bend in the Road

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope

Hmmm, a lump. “Feel it,” I say to my husband, my sister. My heart starts to pound through my body. “Was it there before? How long was it there? Thoughts run wild?” It’s checked – it doesn’t seem suspicious – relief – well, somewhat. Hmm “keep an eye on it”. Months later – still there – no real difference. “Oh a mammogram, change work schedule for it”, oh no, heart pounds…insidious fear sets in again. Sitting in the chair “we are going to get another image” my heart pounds louder – prayer is the only thing that keeps me breathing. “An ultrasound – now?” – I walk in disbelief to my husband – my heart almost stops. “Well, it has some features of a cyst but not sure” – needle biopsy recommended……. “Hello Anne Marie,” a pause, I wait, “It’s breast cancer”.

WHAT!!!!! I go into shock. My daughter, she’s only 9! My husband, my Mom, my sisters, my incredible family and friends – NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! We scream, we cry, we pray, we hold each other tight. Surgery – mastectomy, complications…more surgery then…lymph node surgery…and chemo shortly thereafter.

Our hearts, our aching hearts…and yet….. ”be still my soul” my God says to me and as we travel this “bend in the road” in our lives I am lifted beyond explanation from a God who cares, a husband who loves so sacrificially, a daughter who loves her mommy with no hair and one boobie, an incredible family that embraces me and loves me deeply and carries me through with gifts of time, meals, tattoos, shaved heads, end-of chemo parties, songs, fundraisers, words of encouragement, chemo gifts, visits, surprise trips and laughter. Yes, laughter in the storms! My friends and colleagues bless me with visits, food, flowers, cards and a blanket full of love. My church family surrounded us with prayers, visits and genuine care. How blessed was I!!!

AND so breast cancer…everyone has a story…and mine has lead me to one of the great purposes and PASSIONS of my life – ywcaencore. I knew God had a plan for my life and I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful incredible program at the YWCA that has helped so many women in so many significant ways! How blessed am I.

Carpe Diem
Anne Marie

My Breast Cancer Story: I Am Not Alone

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope

Despite having no family history, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2012, at the age of 49.
Initially the diagnosis was devastating. However, with good support and my faith I was able to find the courage and strength I needed. I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. The hair loss was difficult but I purchased a fabulous wig and had fun wearing it. To keep my spirits up, each day I made sure I put a little lipstick or blush on. Ten months later I had breast reconstruction.
Through the Canadian Cancer Society I had a peer support person who was a breast cancer survivor; her support was phenomenal. I also joined the ywcaencore program. There were many aspects of the program I found highly beneficial. The guest speakers discussing various topics relating to breast cancer, the opportunity to speak to other women facing this disease as well as the aquatic exercises to improve mobility were extremely helpful. 
My message to women is never skip your mammograms. I had a cluster of calcifications that could not be felt and only detected by mammogram and in some cases, such as mine, a biopsy revealed early stage breast cancer. This was a routine mammogram.
With the availability of programs such as ywcaencore, women facing breast cancer are shown that they are not alone and that a full recovery is possible.

– Survivor