“My Voice” by Linda Ockwell-Jenner

Linda Ockwell Jenner - 'Survivor'

As I get ready to walk out onto the stage, in front of 500 breast cancer survivors, I think back to a time when I had no idea I  would be standing here today about to inspire others with my story.
I really did not like working at the shoe store, but I had to do it because after moving to Canada from the UK with a husband and 4 children, I had found myself divorced with financial challenges up to my ears, struggling to make sure my children did not feel insecure or worry too much about our situation. Our life in the UK had been almost perfect: apart from our relationship, we had enough money, we were happy and healthy; but we moved to Canada for a better life for the children and hoped our relationship would get better. You can never walk away from your challenges; you have to deal with them. I also worked as a vacuum cleaner salesperson and as a cleaner in a hotel. Three jobs that at least kept a roof over our head.

This was a time of many challenges, lots of stress, and unfortunately I did not recognise that I was stressed. Little did I know that down the road there would be a challenge so earth-shattering I would be left wondering if I would live or die.

In 1997 I discovered a lump in my left breast, and in 2000 discovered a lump in my right breast. I felt blessed both times, not only because I had discovered my lumps early but because I had been given the chance to live my life and to make changes for the better.

The first time I was diagnosed my surgeon said he was 99% sure I did not have breast cancer. I asked for a biopsy and received the results on Devils night, October 30th, 1997. The treatment was a lumpectomy and 5 weeks of radiation, 5 days a week and I had to stay in the Princess Margaret Lodge in Toronto. This meant being away from my children which was difficult for us all, but we got through it.

The year 2000 was welcomed by me with a sigh of relief! I had fallen in love with my soul mate and he had come to Canada from the UK to live with me and my 4 children. I was counting the days to being 3 years cancer free.  My fairy tale ending was not to be. I found a new lump this time in my right breast only 4 months after Dave had moved in. This time the same surgeon suggested a biopsy (before I did) and the results showed that once again my breast cancer had been found early, by me. Given my family history, a double mastectomy was the best course of action. My operation was on Friday August 13th, 2000 and I wondered how I would have felt it I was superstitious.

Once again my life had changed forever, but I knew I was blessed and would live to enjoy a happy and contented life and now was the time to help others and share my important message. I had always known the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle and all through my life I had lived by a simple philosophy, which I called APE: awareness, prevention and early detection. I decided to go back to school to complete a year’s course and even though I had no idea at this point how this would help me to help others I knew in my heart this was a wonderful opportunity and could lead me to my answer.

I realised only two weeks into my year long course that motivational speaking was my calling, and I was given the chance by a teacher to offer my first talk to her health class. After that I spoke at most of the schools in my community whilst finishing my course. I even got paid my first fee in that time period, after only 6 months, and I had been told it would take at least 3 years before anyone paid me; once again I felt blessed.

One year later I found myself busy building the foundations for my business, deciding Pink was my colour and working on my branding, marketing, sales and connections. It was not easy, I knew I had an important message to share with others, I knew how living a healthy lifestyle and practising awareness, prevention and early detection had helped me, but not everyone wanted to listen. I persevered, I worked hard and I believed in myself, and I knew that if I had not succumbed to breast cancer I would probably still be working 3 jobs, not having the confidence to believe I could do anything else.

I am one of the lucky ones; I did survive breast cancer twice. Even though I have always been a motivated and happy person who realised life is what you make it, I truly believe being diagnosed with breast cancer gave me the confidence to take the leap of faith and do something I was passionate about, helping others!

As I stand on the stage in front of the microphone ready to inspire and share with 500 breast cancer survivors my story, I feel truly blessed. I feel incredibly happy and I know I have the rest of my life to live. I have come home, this is where I was meant to be, my goals, my dreams, my hard work have all led to me being here, as a professional speaker and founder of Motivational Steps.

You too can follow your dream, live the life you truly want, just do it, I did and look at me now.