Jones anxious to get back to work

James McLeod
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'I don't think I could have ever prepared myself for what I went through' —Yvonne Jones

Liberal Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones speaks to a Telegram reporter during an interview. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

It’s been a busy six months since Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones revealed she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegram, Jones said it’s been tough sitting on the sidelines through the Muskrat Falls announcement, the resignation of former premier Danny Williams and the fall sitting of the House of Assembly. She’s not prepared to sit on the sidelines any longer.

“This is the biggest year of my political career,” Jones said.

Two weeks after her last chemotherapy treatment, Jones is back in the Opposition office for meetings and this weekend she’ll be in Corner Brook to campaign for Mark Watton in the Humber West byelection.

She starts radiation therapy at the end of the month, and will be taking a five-week course of treatments.

“Once I finish my radiation therapy, I’m hoping to be back to work on a full-time basis,” Jones said. “But as I go through radiation, I intend to ease back to work, work part time, whatever days and hours that I can.”

She said the plan is to be back in the House when it opens in March, and she’ll schedule her radiation therapy around her work.

Jones was forced to step back from the leadership position temporarily while undergoing surgery, and then chemotherapy. She said the chemo was hard.

“The treatments I took were very invasive treatments; they were very strong, and I had a tremendous amount of side-effects from those treatments,” she said.

“I don’t think I could have ever prepared myself for what I went through. I don’t think it was ever possible to prepare yourself to take on chemotherapy or to fight cancer.”

The disease and the treatments drained her, but even through the worst of it, she was never able to step back from politics completely.

“I was proofing press releases from the chemo lab,” she said.

Jones joked it’s a good thing the House of Assembly sat for only eight days in the fall; any more would have been too tough to watch from home.

At the same time, she found herself immersed in the health care system, and got a first-hand education.

“It’s been a learning experience in many ways,” she said. “Nearly 300 other women in this province will go through this this year, and I met a lot of those women along the way.”

She has already said when she gets back to the House, she will introduce a private member’s bill to lower the breast cancer screening age from 50 to 40 years old.

Jones was 42 when doctors found her cancer.

More broadly though, she said the system needs to better support cancer patients, and address the financial hardships that often come with the disease.

“I met women from all over this province who have to leave their homes, who have to come and live in St. John’s while they go through these treatments,” she said.

“One woman whose child is going through cancer, you know, there’s no financial support for her,” she said. “She has to leave her job. Her child will need her for the next year and she has to be by their side to take them through treatments.”

When she makes it back into the House of Assembly it won’t just be health care that Jones wants to push.

“We’ve had the highest revenues in our history, and now we’re still forecasting deficits in the years to come,” she said. “We have people all over the province who feel that they have never gotten an adequate share of that wealth.

“In my opinion, there’s some accountability that this government needs to own up to, and my job is going to be to insure that they do that.”

This is expected to be a pivotal year for the Liberal Party, and for politics in the province.

She said with so much going on, there were days when she wished things could have been different; that the cancer hadn’t gotten in her way.

“But at the same time, you know, everybody is dealt a certain part in life and given challenges,” she said.

“Did I ever consider leaving politics? Never.

“Serving people is what I enjoy doing most.”

Organizations: Liberal Party

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Humber West

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Recent comments

  • Sarah
    February 13, 2011 - 09:17

    "She said the plan is to be back in the House when it opens in March, and she’ll schedule her radiation therapy around her work." Wow, I hope that all people who require radiation therapy are as fortunate to be able to schedule their therapy around their work schedule.

  • Frank Blackwood
    February 13, 2011 - 09:17

    There is nothing about Yvonne Jones that turns people off. The things that people like about her is she is honest, open minded, and not dreaming about oil, personal wealth,and is a family person who caeres about people. She will not govern with an iron fist and will not leave her party when it gets too hot in the kitchen.

    • sam
      February 14, 2011 - 07:04

      OMG...Frank you have to be kidding!! I wish Yvonne nothing but the best, as i would wish anyone who is fighting this awful disease. While she may not be dreaming about big oil or personal wealth, i am not sure hanging onto the leadership at this point was a smart move for the Liberal Party. For the past few months the party has been at a standstill because there has been no leadership. With just a few months before a general election this has been instrumental! I guess knowing when to leave is a personal decision, and timing is everythimg. Former Premier Williams knew that if he were to leave this time around he would have to do it when he did, leaving the party enough time to get a new leader for the election. My opinion...thank god for big oil at this time as we were able to catch up in the province when it comes to infrastructure. Just look at the roads, schools, hospitals, court houses, etc that have been built right across this province. And thank god we had strong leadership at the time!! Lets see what happens in October.

  • Ed
    February 13, 2011 - 07:18

    Really, Graham? Perhaps you'd care to share that with us or give us your opinion on why that is so. if you are going to say something like that you should at least be able to back it up.

  • Duffy
    February 12, 2011 - 19:33

    We wish her back with good health. The Liberal Party, like the Conservatives work with a sound base and committment. The NDP on the other hand can promise us anything as they know they will never be in a position - ever - to have to fulfil any promises. All they do is complain about everything.never anything positive. What a wasted position in the Legislature. Welcome back to the Liberal Leader and also good luck to Kathy D. !!!

  • Frank Blackwood
    February 12, 2011 - 10:34

    It will be wonderful to see Yvonne back in the saddle. There are tours around Newfoundland by the Liberals, showing slides as to what it might be like when the Liberals take over the reins in Newfoundland's Legislative Assembly. we need the verbal voice of Yvonne Jones not slides as shown in Port Aux Basque, We also need her carisma and openness with people around our province. She is a hard worker!

    • Graham
      February 12, 2011 - 15:26

      But people will not vote for her as Premier, there's just something about her that turns people off.

  • James
    February 12, 2011 - 08:47

    She better hope that Mark Watton doesn't get elected because there may not be a job for her to come back too if he does.

    • Thomas
      February 13, 2011 - 10:16

      Very glad to see she is on the road to recovery. I can't truly image what she has gone through but I'm sure it has been a hard journey so far. Best wishes Yvonne. On the other hand the fact still remains that she is not premier potential. While she may claim to be a voice of the people I somehow feel she is the voice of Yvonne Jones. As was mentioned in another post it is easy to complain and ask the opposition to be accountable but lets not forget this is a party that was in power and what did they do. I guess the bottom line most all politicians do or say what they think the people want to so as to hold on to their jobs. Looking out for the people is secondary.