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Meet Wanda

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February has arrived and it is time to meet another member of our community. Meet Wanda better known on the community as Wanda Vass and learn more about her journey with Thyroid Cancer, her love of horses and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hello, my name is Wanda,
and I hail from flat and usually freezing, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!!



 I am a volunteer with Cancer Connection's, Peer Support Program, Saskatchewan Chapter, for over 15 years.  Lacey_adminCCS has asked me to share a little bit more about myself/my journey with you all.  
Here goes!   

I turned 50 in May (’16),
and proud to be Gemini!  
 I am the sign of the Twins, and that couldn’t be more accurate! 
 I am so talented, I can have multiple personalities, on some days ;-).  I consider myself an athlete and have competed for Speed Skating and fastball at elite levels.  Up until a few years ago, I was a faithful runner, but have decided to take a gentler approach to life, and have fallen in love with yoga!  I am an animal lover (meet Lund),
 and have owned Thoroughbred race horses, since a teenager.  I am now a part of a Thoroughbred syndicate, which simply allows me the opportunity to purchase shares in horses I would never be able to afford on my own or with family.
  The syndicate consists of two Stables : Dark Cloud Racing Stable and Pink Cloud Racing Stable.  Coincidentally, Pink Cloud Racing Stables donates a portion of the horse’s profit, to Breast Cancer!!  And, we won the Saskatchewan Derby 2016!  

I am a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs Fan, and developing into a HUGE Blue Jays fan! 
That should be enough personal details for you all! 
Q: Tell us a little bit about your cancer experience?
My journey takes me back into the good ole' 90's.  I was diagnosed with Thyroid carcinoma July, 1995.  I had a partial Thyroidectomy (Sept, '95), at which time, a biopsy (on the other side of gland) was revealed as benign.  After further dissection, the biopsy was identified as carcinoma and I required a full Thyroidectomy (Dec, '95).  At a follow up Dr. appointment in 1996, Lymph nodes were of 'larger than the usual size', therefore, as preventative measure, I underwent Lymph node extraction mid '96 and again at end of 1996.  I took two rounds of RAI (Radio Active Iodine), but decided against Radiation therapy. 
Q: What physical changes have you experienced as a result of cancer?
I have a fairly thick scar on my neck, where Thyroidectomy was performed.  The surgeon used the same incision for both Thyroid surgeries.  I have an additional thick-ish scar on the side of my neck where lymph node extraction was performed.  The surgeon used the same incision for both Lymph node surgeries.

Q : Did you make adjustments to your activity level after all the surgeries and RAIs?  And if so, how? 
In 1996 once I was done with said treatments, I did resume an ‘active’ but safe and balanced lifestyle.  It wasn’t until mid 40’s that I decided to turn the page on the intensity of my running and workouts and take a more gentler approach.  I now do Yoga and meditation.  This was quite a change for me, took approx 3 years for my body to adjust to the calmness.    My body loves me for it!  How did I do it?  Workout programs were a gradual return.  I was intelligent about the gradual incline to the level of activity I was at prior to the 4 surgeries. 
Q: Did you get any “words of wisdom” that inspired you, that helped you through your cancer journey?
My Mom, who I share a VERY special connection with, inspired me from the get go.  I remember her say, ‘we are one’.  “What you go through, I, too, go through”. Those words of wisdom made me feel more than one.  They made me feel like this journey will never be only me, suffering.  It will never be only me, in hospital.  It will never be only me, recovering.  Seems like a simple statement, but it meant the world to me, while embarking into this unknown experience. 
My Mom recently passed away, may she Rest in Peace. 
Q:  What words of wisdom do you want to share to those about to go thru their cancer journey?
“We are one”.

Q: What is the most important thing you learned from having cancer?
A cancer diagnosis was a wake up call for me.  I was heading down a road of too much physical abuse to my body and was not treating it with the respect it deserved.  In order to continue with the life I was leading, it took a ton of energy and I was not fueling my body with the necessary nutrition, nor was I getting enough sleep/rest.  Cancer gave me a second chance.  It gave me a do over.  Since the date of diagnosis, I now make healthy decisions.  I am a vegetarian.  I take vitamins.  I exercise (yoga).  I sleep/rest 8 hours every day.  These are very different choices, for me, that I didn’t chose before cancer. 
Q: How has helped you through your cancer experience?
A cancer experience never ends.  My life changed since the diagnosis.  I now live life differently.  I am proud to call myself a cancer survivor.  How cancer connection help me is the realization on how lucky I am to be able to help others while they go down a path I have already been down.  I am lucky to be able to listen to those people who have many unknowns and questions.  I am lucky to be able to share my story.  I am lucky to be able to put someone’s mind at ease, even just a little, to say, “ok, what I’m experiencing is normal”.  I am lucky to be able to give back to humanity.  It is my honor to help others during a difficult time.  Cancer connection is both rewarding for the patient and the Supporter!

Q  Have you made sacrifices? 
Not really, no.  I reflect on my journey and realize my diagnosis was the only way to make me have better decisions in my life.  The decisions I am referring to are a healthier diet and most importantly how critical sleep is.  When we are in our 20’s, our bodies are very forgiving and resilient.  I now respect sleep/rest and have actually implemented an 8 hour rule.  Of course, with thyroid meds, insomnia is a side effect.  I suffer and have suffered from insomnia even before my diagnosis, so the meds were not a welcomed addition for me.  Rest is now used collectively with sleep.  They are one of the same for me.  I don’t actually feel I’ve made sacrifices; I feel as if my diagnosis has made me a more intelligent person. 

Q: What have you learned since those early years of being a 'survivor' and along the way? 
I have learned a support system is key.  Family and friends were just as terrified as I was, going through the early years.  I’ve also learned those same supporters got to see me grow stronger and stronger, and more confident, daily.  I learned how proud they were to be such an integral part of my life.  I learned what REAL love is.  I learned depth of LOVE. 
Q: If you could choose a superhero power, what would it be? 
Kindness.  If I could touch an unkind person and that person automatically becomes kind to fellow humans, animals, our environment, etc, that would be supercool!!!

Thank you so much Wanda for sharing your inspirational story of conquering thyroid cancer. If anyone is interested in being featured in our monthly Meet your Neighbour post please connect with Lacey_adminCCS.



No question about you having courage, admitting to sticking up for the Leafs and living in the flatlands all in one post, wow..  Psst, Montreal Canadians are better.
​Great to hear/see something so positive
  • Posted Fri 24 Feb 2017 02:16 AM EST
Thanks for sharing Wanda! You are inspiring!
  • Posted Tue 14 Feb 2017 04:24 AM EST

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