Richmond’s Angela Falconer knows a thing or two about facing physical challenges.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, she endured subsequent surgeries and treatment with little down time to battle the disease into remission last November. This summer, the 33-year-old is joining her father on a two-day, 250 km bike ride Aug. 26-27 from Vancouver to Seattle in the 2017 Ride to Conquer Cancer.
“Now, I am fully in the clear and ready to come back,” Angela told the News as she enjoyed a coffee along with her parents, Harvey and Ellen, in Blenz at Garden City Centre.
“It’s my year of saying ‘yes’ to everything. Everything that’s popped up I’ve said yes to and later asked myself, ‘what am I doing?’” she quipped, adding the freedom to go out and train for the ride and a number of fun runs she’s signed up for, represent another part of her journey back to wellness from a time when her diagnosis came as a complete shock seven years ago.
“I remember, I just went to lay down on the couch on a Sunday night, wearing my pyjamas, and I scratched my armpit and felt a big lump,” she said, adding a physical just six months prior did not hint at anything being amiss.
Angela got it checked out and broke the news to her parents.
“We thought she was going to tell us she was pregnant,” Harvey joked.
“It was very shocking because we have memories of people from our youth who had cancer, and it was bad news,” said Ellen.
The cancer’s growth in Angela was remarkably rapid, but so was the resulting treatment.
“It was six weeks from diagnosis to surgery. It had already grown quite a bit by the time the doctors removed it,” Angela said, who underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. Last year, she had another mastectomy and was later given the all-clear from her doctors.
Through much of it, Angela managed to continue working. Around the time of the original diagnosis, she was starting a new job with an accounting firm.
“I told my employer that I understood if they wanted someone new, because I didn’t know what things were going to be like. But they said, ‘no,’ and promised to take care of me,” she said. “They were phenomenal and saw me through.”
After her surgery, she took a month off and went back to work.
And during her subsequent chemotherapy treatments that fell on Thursdays, she’d take the Friday off and then go back to work the next week.
“I look back now and kinda can’t believe I did that, but it was a good way to keep my mind off things and keep life going,” she said.
It’s the same now as she rolls onto another challenge to accompany her dad on the Ride to Conquer Cancer. At the suggestion of a friend, Harvey embarked on the ride back in 2014 and recalls it being quite a demanding challenge.
“It was tough, but I made it,” he said.
“I met him at the finish line,” Angela said, adding that when Harvey made the suggestion they do it together this year, she jumped onboard.
“It was his idea. He said he was doing it again and I thought it would seem silly if I didn’t do it,” she said.
The recent bout of unseasonably poor weather has prevented the pair from training together, but Angela has been able to get her legs going at spin classes in the local gym.
“Plus, I have been signing up for all of these runs,” she said, adding the Vancouver Sun Run is one of several on the horizon.
“After getting the all-clear, it’s another way of getting to the finish line,” Angela said. “It’s about being able to get to the point and say I’m finished.”
“The ride, it will be really good,” Harvey said. “It’s all about beating this disease and raising as much money as we can.”
“It’s a great feeling to be able to do it together,” Angela added. “It will be a real accomplishment.”
For more information about the 2017 Ride to Conquer Cancer, visit online at ConquerCancer.ca and click on the BC tab for the Aug. 26-27 event.