2 Touched by Breast Cancer I moved to Canada from mainland China in 2001 with my husband. We left behind all of our family and friends to start a new life in Toronto. We settled in Toronto for 4 years where I started my post-secondary education and in my second year (2004) we moved our family to Montreal due to my husband’s work transfer. We were both very excited to again start a new journey in a new city. That’s when it happened… I began to have abnormal discharge from my right breast. The mammography came up negative however the results did not sit right with me. I took it upon myself to find a private women’s health clinic in downtown Montreal. I met with an Oncologist who then performed an ultrasound and biopsy, which identified the cancerous cells. The news was devastating and the shock resounded for weeks. I kept thinking…why me? With the help of my family and faith, I mustered up the courage to fight back. I underwent a tough mastectomy surgery, lymph node resection, breast reconstruction, and exhausting chemotherapy treatments. With the guidance of a physiotherapist, I started to engage in vital recovery sessions. The breast removal made it difficult for me to find balance in my body. My body felt completely foreign to me. I still remember going swimming at the YMCA during the chemotherapy. I felt as if people were staring; I felt like I was a monster. It was so hard to get myself out of bed and face reality, but, I kept reminding myself that everything is going to get better. I began to paint an image of myself in my mind: my hair long and curly again, my face all rosy with that familiar smile, and my body reborn with a fresh new look. I thought of it like being a newborn baby, full of curiosity and excitement for life, and that soon enough, I will look in the mirror and see that image of myself come to fruition. I stayed strong, I believed, and I prayed for the moment I’d feel life so wonderfully and beautifully again. In 2012, I unfortunately was rediagnosed and had to have another breast cancer surgery followed by radiation. I thought to myself I’ve done it once, I can do it again! During this difficult second recovery period I decided I wanted to take my journey and do something positive for other people in my position. I was inspired to establish my own charitable organization to help other breast cancer patients, survivors, their families, and community through “Art Therapy”. Throughout my recovery I discovered that it’s not sufficient enough to rely only on medical treatment during recovery. For me, positivity was the most important element that allowed me to maintain a healthy mind and an active lifestyle, which in turn, led me to a healthy recovery. I believe that by participating in different healthy living activities, patients, survivors and their families can fight this disease together. I founded the Art Saving Life Foundation (ASLF - http://aslf.ca) i n 2008. It is a registered charitable organization that is volunteer-based. Our mission is to assist in the recovery of breast cancer survivors by providing art therapy programs, healthy living programs/ fund raisers, presenting seminars on achieving a lifestyle balance, and so much more. Through our fundraising efforts we are able to fund qualified donors that are conducting research on finding a cure for breast cancer. The ASLF has also donated to support the Ville Marie Oncology Foundation, art therapy research, and the open-studio at Cedars CanSupport Clinic. We also run a scholarship program through Concordia University for students in Art Therapy masters programs. The “Art Saving Life Foundation Graduate Scholarship” has been helping students since 2011. After I started the foundation, I began to understand that this is my life’s calling. Having experienced cancer, I truly understand the double-edged sword of the mental and physical pain of a cancer diagnosis. I want to help others conquer their fight. If someone doesn’t have the care and help of family, friends, or their community, they can become isolated, or feel alone, and even fight depression. My foundation allows me to create more awareness within my community, which in turn will help fundraising efforts, then cancer research, and more resources finding a cure. After pondering the wonders of fate, I have learned that all losses are for a reason, and my foundation is now my new, positive cancer journey. A Survivor’s Story: Janet Liu - Founder of the Art Saving Life Foundation Janet Liu left / Ruby Wang right From my 10+ year recovery journey, I have learned that positivity, combined with a survivalist attitude, a healthy lifestyle, and love and support from family and friends is the perfect weapon to fight this crippling disease. The annual mammography check is recommended but do not stop at that if you still feel any abnormality like in my story. Remember you can ask for a second opinion if you feel it is necessary. Please feel free to visit the Art Saving Life Foundation website at www.aslf.ca, a nd just maybe you will feel inspired to help a cancer patient or foundation near you.