Alberta: Going Through Cancer at N Street Village

A few months ago, I went to the hospital thinking I had pneumonia. Within hours, I was having emergency surgery for a large mass in my stomach. Since then, chemotherapy, rehab, and doctor visits have turned my life upside down.

Now, my doctor says she can’t cure the cancer, but she can still give me the best years of my life.

I’ve lived at N Street Village for eight years, and I have to say my doctor is right – these are the best years I’ve known.

Every day I am grateful for the person I am. Grateful for all the things I have been through that have made me who I am. Grateful to be connected to my friends and family, and to have my kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

Still, having cancer has been hard. Some days, I feel tired. Some days I feel alone. Many days, people tell me I look good when I don’t always feel good.

On those days, I need the Village more than ever.

Years ago, N Street Village got me through my addiction recovery; they helped me get my housing. They’ve helped me be a mother to my kids again and have given me a huge family of sisters. Here, I’ve found my best friends.

I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have the Village. I’d be stuck in a pretty deep depression, trying to figure out this diagnosis on my own. The people here – everyone, from my roommate to my friends to my aid and the staff – are the reason I’m able to get up when I don’t feel like getting up. They remind me of why I’m here, that I’m still here for a reason. My time isn’t up yet.

I am an addict, and even though I’ve been sober for eight years, recovery is still a choice I have to make every day. It would be easy to think about throwing my hands up when the cancer feels overwhelming. But when I remember how many people are counting on me here, it keeps me on track. It keeps me focused.

Right now, that’s what I need to get through this. I need this Village around me, to remind me why I get up in the morning and the work I have left to do. That I love the person I am today. That I’m proud of the woman I have become.

Women at the Village come by my room and say hello; they knock on the door to see if I’m doing alright. The staff sit down with me and ask how I’m feeling. Everyone is supporting me through this journey. They help me go downstairs, they make sure I’m making it to classes. I go down to the Day Center and share my story, letting the newer women know that they can make it too.

Looking back, I don’t regret anything. My life has taught me a lot, and I’m happy to pass that on.

In the evenings, I’ll sit in the courtyard with my roommate and we’ll chat about the little things from the day. My birthday is coming up, so I’m working out what I want to do to celebrate being 63 years old next month.

Having cancer is a lot to deal with, but I’ve gone through a lot in my life. I know what it’s like to go through hard things, and N Street Village has taught me how to stay on track.

Living on the streets was constant chaos and commotion. Here, I’ve learned what it is like to live in peace.

I have peace, I have my freedom, I have keys to my own room. I have my family. I am N Street Village, and I thank God that after all these years, I am able to say my life means something.