Dora Laurent listens to her body. It tells her mostly everything she needs to know and she most definitely listens.
When she was smoking she experienced severe headaches, Dora knew her body was telling her to quit and she did. She also quit drinking in 1994.
So when her body started to feel poorly in August 2010 (started on Friday, by Saturday she couldn’t lay down, couldn’t breath) she went to the doctor.
“He prescribed antibiotics for my lungs and sent me for X-rays,” she said.
“But it didn’t show anything. For the next three months I was at the doctors every two weeks.”
With nothing surfacing, in November she was sent for a biopsy of her cervix and on Jan. 4, 2011 Dora got the news it was a rare type of cervical cancer.
“I cried for two hours then had a talk with myself,” she said.
“If I hadn’t listened to my body and persisted for a proper diagnosis, this might not have been detected.”
Her very next call was to a Prince George oncology nurse. Dora demanded an immediate appointment and also insisted on the best doctors.
“The nurse was great, she set me up for surgery Jan. 27 but before they could perform the surgery they found the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Two days later I began four days of radiation and one day of chemotherapy. That lasted for six weeks.”
However, the last week was internal radiation which left Dora unable to sense when she needed to urinate.
“It was awful, the first three months I couldn’t leave the house. It lasted for an entire year.”
Ready to get on with her life, Dora signed up for a Women in Trades program and then secured a job up north. Four weeks into the job, she found blood in her urine and called her specialist in Vancouver. The entire time, from when she first felt off in 2010 to finding the most recent problem, until she was heading to PG in 2012, Dora kept track of her health, noting anything out of the ordinary.
“I hustled back from my job to Quesnel to catch the Northern Health bus to Prince George where tests confirmed the cervical cancer was back.
“I’m not afraid of dying but when I thought about my grandkids I agreed to the surgery.”
On May 2, 2013 Dora had a hysterectomy where they removed everything including lymph nodes.
“I was left with a colostomy bag.”
When they asked her to get up after surgery Dora refused until they took her off all the medications she was on.
“I wanted to know where the pain was, I know my body,” she said.
She still wasn’t satisfied until they admitted she had a pain medication implant in her back and out it came.
Still concerned her body wasn’t healing as she knew it could, Dora demanded of the doctors to tell her what else they had done to her. Baffled by her question, it wasn’t until they told her they’d given her two pints of blood during the 12-hour surgery, that she settled down, at least she knew what her body was trying to tell her.
Now, almost three years later, Dora says she’s cancer free – for now.
All her life she has relied on her native heritage to guide and protect her. Every day she gives an offering to the spirits to keep those she cares about and herself safe. She was a tree-planter for 15 years and started every day with an offering.
“Things went wrong when I forgot the offerings. These offerings help me even today, I say a prayer and offer whatever I have and lay it by a tree.”
She’s looking forward to her next six-month checkup in April and hopes she’s still cancer-free.
Relay for Life, May 27, is a celebration of people like Dora who are currently living cancer-free and a memorial for those who lost their battle with cancer.
This year, Relay is on Friday, 5 – 11 p.m. in Baker Creek Park. Watch for details of how you can get involved, form a team (register online www.relay.ca/quesnel) volunteer, drop by and encourage those participating or join in the fun. The public is invited to join the many teams already busy fundraising for a community dinner during Relay (by donation) and enjoy many fun and healthy activities. People are also encouraged to gather friends, co-workers, family, sports groups and anyone else to join a team and raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society research and services. Don’t have a team? Just call Deb Burton 250-255-8225 and she’ll help put you in touch with a team you can join. Don’t want to be on a team? Stop by the Baker Creek Park and join in the fun activities. Everyone is welcome.