Thursday, September 20, 2007

I wish them all the best....

Cancer survivor wins ‘pinkover’

Murray Langdon/News contributor

Sondra and Jack Showers celebrate their “pinkover,” a top-to-bottom bedroom and home exterior makeover, from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

By Murray Langdon
News contributor

It has been a grueling five years for Sondra Showers. She’s endured two bouts of cancer, long and difficult treatments and multiple surgeries. But through it all, she’s maintained a positive outlook on life.

Even while she was coping with her own life-threatening illness, she went public with her diagnosis, spending many hours helping other cancer patients deal with their own battle, while trying to raise two young boys with her husband, Jack.

For all her efforts, she has been rewarded with a “pinkover”, a top-to-bottom bedroom and home exterior makeover, from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

“I’m really grateful for this day,” said Showers, while getting her hair cut and styled. Included in the prize is a day of pampering, including a trip to a hair salon, spa and a dinner with her family while her home is updated.

“I’m just thrilled. I was crying this morning,” she said.

The Extreme Home Pinkover is unique to Victoria, created to raise awareness about the disease and improve the life of a breast cancer survivor. Showers was nominated for the prize by her parents, who submitted a heartfelt and candid portrait of their daughter’s fight with cancer.

“She’s a lucky girl,” said her dad, John Barrand, arm in arm with his wife, Julie.

The Barrands looked on with beaming smiles as volunteers from local companies were busy, scraping, sanding and preparing to paint the outside of the Showers’ home.

“We’re so happy for her.”

Organized by Samantha Ladell, a designer, the event is meant to recognize a cancer survivor who could use some help.

“I had a girlfriend who was on the (Run for the Cure) committee,” said Ladell who oversees all the renovations. “I just wanted to give back to the community.”

Choosing only one winner was difficult, said Jessica Woodburn, with Victoria’s Run For the Cure Committee.

Woodburn said Showers’ dedication in helping other cancer survivors, such as forming a monthly support group, helping with peer counseling and setting up an information website made it clear she was a deserving winner.

“She’s done a massive amount of volunteering,” said Woodburn.

Coupled with that willingness to help was the Showers’ decision to not spend any money on themselves.

“She’s very humble and modest,” said Woodburn. “They don’t spend money on their home because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Pat Summers, a 45-year-old breast cancer survivor, came to help out with work at the Showers’ house. Also diagnosed at a young age, 38, she said the project is not only a way to support a fellow survivor, but to raise awareness about the disease.

“I’m the perfect example of the need for more education,” she offered candidly. “I found a lump the first time I did a self exam. Had I found it earlier, I could have avoided a lot of treatment.”

Uncertainty has ruled their lives since Showers was first diagnosed in 2002 at age 36. She had just finished her schooling to become a teacher. Two months into the school year, the Willows elementary school French immersion teacher received the devastating news.

“It was hard,” quietly recalling the beginning of her ordeal, “but you cope, you just do.”

Chemotherapy and a mastectomy soon followed. She became more involved in helping other young women deal with their battle. But last year, just as she was getting back to work, a new diagnosis, one she wasn’t sure she would beat. Six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, along with more surgery ensued. She said, the support of her family and friends gave her strength.

While enjoying her day in the spotlight and looking forward to the generous renovations at the family home, she’s barely focused on herself. She’s already raising money for this year’s Run for the Cure, which takes place Sept. 30, and enlisting to help next year’s makeover winner.

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