Anne Marie Collingwood

Anne Marie – “A BEND IN THE ROAD”
A lump. “Feel it,” I say to my husband and sister. My heart starts to pound as I question, “Was it there before? How long has it been there?” I had it checked and it didn’t seem suspicious –relief – well, somewhat. Months later, it was still there

– no real difference. I was scheduled for another mammogram and insidious fear set in. At this point, prayer is the only thing keeping me calm. “An ultrasound – now?” – I walk in disbelief to my husband and my heart almost stops. I was told, “It has some features of a cyst – a needle biopsy is recommended.” “Hello Anne Marie” a pause, I wait, “it’s breast cancer”. I go into shock. All I can think of is my daughter, husband, family and friends. We scream, we cry, we pray, we hold each other tight. I underwent surgery, a mastectomy, complications and chemotherapy shortly thereafter.

“Be still my soul,” my God tells me as we travel this “bend in the road.” I am lifted beyond explanation from a God who cares, a husband who loves unconditionally, a young daughter who loves her mommy with “no hair and one boobie,” and an incredible family that embraces and loves me deeply. My friends, colleagues, and church family surround us with prayers, visits and genuine care. I was carried by this great outpouring of love; however, I was innately aware that many women lacked this support and face this disease alone. My faith strengthened me and gave me hope, helping me look beyond my circumstances. I knew that I had to share the message that “you too can make it to the other side.”

Everyone has a story and mine lead me to one of the greatest purposes and passions of my life – YWCA ENCORE. I am now the Coordinator of YWCA ENCORE, a free breast cancer survivor exercise program involving therapeutically designed land and pool exercises and guest presenters. I honour the many courageous and resilient women and their families that have touched and changed my life forever through breast cancer.

I remember attending one of the initial planning meetings for the BRIGHT RUN, and to see where it is today is absolutely amazing! I have been participating in it since the first year with family, friends and colleagues. Regardless of the weather, the event is always uplifting, fun and encouraging. The spirit of strength, support and determination is overwhelming from all those involved in this incredible event. One of my greatest memories was running last year with my great niece, age 7. She was committed to finishing the walk/run, and although given an easier option, she was not prepared to give up. She kept going until she ran past the finish line. To me, this captures the essence of the BRIGHTRUN. For the last four years, YWCA ENCORE has been privileged to lead the Warm Up for the BRIGHT RUN. Past graduates join us with joy and a willingness to do whatever is required – even dressing in some crazy outfits!

Every year I am so appreciative of the time and effort that is put into this successful event. My faith is renewed that the BRIGHTRUN brings a brighter tomorrow. As I participate again this year, I will be running in memory of a resilient incredible young woman Amanda, who recently passed away from breast cancer. I am supporting the BRIGHTRUN in hopes of a brighter future for my precious daughter, nieces and all of us. The BRIGHTRUN does make a difference – it offers us hope. All of us can join together and be a part of this as well!

Encore group3