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Our Own Cancer Survivor

Inspire Health Event Calendar April 22, 2014

Jocelyne Galizia has been part of the InspireHealth team for almost two years and she is also a childhood cancer survivor. That is Jocelyne above, in about 1990. She is on the right, sitting with her sister who was visiting in the hospital.

It’s been 24 years since Jocelyne was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that was found in her humerus (the upper arm bone). Her cancer experience included chemo treatments, a bone transplant, a bone graft, and the removal of several major muscles. Despite such an immense challenge as a little girl, she came through her treatments at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto with flying colours and has remained cancer free to this day. I sat down with Jocelyne and she agreed to share some of her childhood experience.

What do you remember as being the most challenging part of your cancer journey?

At the beginning, one of the most difficult experiences for me was being told I was going to lose my hair. Losing my hair meant I was going to be different from everyone else and it’s hard to be different when you’re a kid.  After the chemo shrunk my tumor a radical surgery was performed to save my arm (and life) and left me with a shoulder that looked and felt very different from what I once knew.  It took me months to work up the courage to look at my new shoulder; I remember thinking it would be very mechanical looking.  I was swimming in the pool with my dad one day, who was wearing reflective sunglasses and I caught a glimpse of “it” in his glasses.  My shoulder didn’t look nearly as bad as I thought it would!  So I ran inside to look at it in the shiny toaster and finally found the courage to look in the mirror.  I realized that I was always going to be different from this point on. It wasn’t always easy but beating cancer is something I have grown to love about myself.  

Do you have any special memories about that time that stand out from the rest?

Yes, lots of them, in fact.  One evening in my hospital room, my Nana took me for a small walk around the hospital ward. When we returned, my bed was covered in toys!  

It was as if Santa himself unloaded his sack onto my bed.  I found out later that  my dad’s co-workers had raised money to buy my sister and I gifts. My Nana was part of the plot. While we were out walking, two of the co-workers quickly arranged the toys in my room and when we returned, they were nowhere to be seen. They watched from down the hall and slipped out quietly while I looked through all my new toys.

I love this story and have come to appreciate it even more learning some of the details as I was older. The men who raised the money were tougher guys, blue collared workers  and a couple of them were in a well-known motorcycle gang. I think it is amazing to see  men who normally might not express their feelings or emotions, group together and raise money for a sick little girl.  I also think it’s incredibly sweet that the men who delivered the toys wanted to remain anonymous and not be acknowledged for such a kind and thoughtful act. 

How did your cancer experience influence other areas of your life as you grew older? 

I think the strongest influence cancer had on me was forming me into a compassionate and empathetic person. I have always been told that people feel they can open up to me and tell me things. There was a time when I did not want to talk about my cancer experience or even hear the word cancer, but over time I have become a very open and honest person and will happily chat your ear off about my cancer journey. Sure, I’m a bit of hypochondriac now and I look to Google and Web MD for almost everything but overall I think my cancer experience changed me for the better. 

 Jocelyne Galizia works full time in Operations for InspireHealth. She has completed studies in holistic nutrition and culinary arts and has an Honours Bachelors degree in Health Sciences. When she’s not here supporting our patients and our programs, she can be found photographing her culinary creations, enjoying farmers markets, gardening, and hiking with her husband and her four-legged friend, Kiema. 

 Christina Peressini, RHN is a Nutritionist and Program Assistant at InspireHealth. Outside of work, she enjoys letter writing, rock climbing and being walked by her energetic rescue dog. In addition, she is a graphic designer and enjoys writing inspiring stories about others.