From diagnosis to being cancer free, survivor has had plenty of ‘wow’ moments

Diane Crocker
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Laura Lee Parsons is photographed with son Jacob, 4, and daughter Lila, 4 months at their home in Meadows Thursday.

CORNER BROOK  At 29, there were times when Laura Lee Parsons wasn’t sure if she’d be around to see another birthday.

With a diagnosis of ovarian cancer the Meadows woman said, “I didn’t know if I’d come through it.”

But that was 11 years ago.

Now 40, Parsons recalls how she was at work one morning and took a pain in her side. She thought she had stretched a muscle, but after a couple of visits to hospital was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst.

By mid-January 2002, just after her birthday she had surgery on that cyst and that was followed by another surgery in St. John’s and then the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

“I don’t know if I had much of a reaction” she said of the news. “It was so surreal, because it had happened so quickly. Everything was so quick that I really didn’t have a chance to think about it.”

What followed was a whirlwind year.

“I started treatment in March, finished in July, married in October and back to work in December,” she said. “Everything just went from one to the other to the other.”

Parsons said luckily the cancer was caught very early and that she received prompt medical attention. In the first few years following her diagnosis and treatment she continued to be monitored by an oncologist in St. John’s. That meant appointments every three months for the first year, and as time went on the frequency diminished. By the time she reached the five-year mark she was declared cancer free.

That milestone was in some ways just as terrifying as the cancer diagnosis.

“I didn’t want to leave,” she said, adding she asked the doctor to continue to see her. She said the monitoring provided her with security.

“Then you don’t know,” she said. “Any cancer survivor will probably tell you the same — any little ache or pain, it’s always in the back of your mind. So leaving that expert care, it was kind of scary.”

In the years since being declared cancer free Parsons happily said “life’s been crazy.”

Four years ago she and husband Jim welcomed son Jacob to their family. Four months ago another “wow” moment occurred when daughter Lila was born.

Sitting at home with Lila cuddled on her shoulder and Jacob nearby Parsons said it’s all hard to believe at times.

“Is this my life really,” she said, “to be blessed with two healthy wonderful children.”

Not to mention a “wonderful” husband who has been one of her greatest supporters through it all. “He’s just a fantastic man and a fantastic dad.”

Even with all the happy things in her life there has been some sadness. This past November Parsons’ dad Dave Miller died after his own battle with cancer.

Facing the disease with him saw father and daughter go through a role reversal.

“I was in the supportive role and he was in the patient role,” she said. “And it felt good for me to be able to support him because he gave so much to me.”

On Saturday, Parsons and her mom Winnie Miller, a 23-year cancer survivor, will participate in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Like they have since 2003, mom and daughter will take part in the survivors events. But Parsons said it won’t be the same without her dad there.

She said the event is a really emotional one for her. “You’re seeing friends and maybe not seeing friends.” She said it’s hard and while it makes you grateful for your own survival, you’re sad for them on the other hand.

The 12-hour Relay for Life begins at noon in Margaret Bowater Park.

Organizations: Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Margaret Bowater Park

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