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A book of hope: stories from young Saskatchewan women who battled cancer

WATCH ABOVE: A woman who took to social media this past spring to live-stream her cancer chemotherapy treatments. Meaghan Craig catches up with Amy Smith, who is working on a charity project to tell survivor stories from women fighting cancer.

Not knowing who to turn to, especially for a young woman diagnosed with cancer, can be one of the hardest parts of the entire health journey.

“I think it would have helped to just maybe ask someone a question or what their experience was like,” Carly Lepage said.

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Lepage, who owns a fitness centre in Martensville, Sask., and was the picture of health, said something just didn’t feel right after having her second child.

“I was just extremely weak, extremely fatigued.”

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They are signs some mothers might ignore, chalking the symptoms up to having a newborn and getting little sleep, but Lepage along with her doctors started to sense there was more going on.

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Approximately six weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Lepage was diagnosed on her 28th birthday with a fast-growing cancer.

“Choriocarcinoma, so it’s a cancer that forms from the placenta.”

She underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy from the end of July 2016 to December, her last treatment ending more than a year ago.

“I would go in, stay at the hospital for about two to three nights and do two full days chemotherapy,” Lepage added.

“It was really hard to be away from my young baby, I really struggled with not being able to nurse her.”

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Lepage is now cancer-free and monitored carefully, but said at the time she wishes she had a younger woman she could have reached out to fight the same battle.

“I think it would have helped to just maybe ask someone a question or what their experience was like.”

She and 17 other Saskatchewan women under the age of 45 have now courageously stepped forward to share their stories and to let others know they’re not alone in a book fittingly named Surviv(her).

“Their stories are completely different, maybe they’re just starting their career or they haven’t had children or they have young children – their problems are just a lot different than the typical cancer survivor,” Amy Morris said.

“I wanted to showcase these women and how they overcame those issues, how they continued to fight cancer because it just looks so different from the typical cancer survivor.”

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Morris, who attended support groups, said she was often 10 to 20 years under the age everyone else was and had a hard time relating to other survivors.

READ MORE: Saskatoon woman livestreams cancer treatments to help others

After she live-streamed her chemotherapy treatments to help answer questions for other patients, an online support group started to organically form on her social media platforms.

It was then that Amy asked other women to help her with this passion project aimed at ultimately aiding and inspiring others on a similar journey.

“When you know that someone else is experiencing something similar to you it makes you feel a whole lot less alone,” Morris said.

“It also validates what you’re going through like ‘yes, I’m not the only person that’s been this fatigued from chemo, this other woman that’s similar to me had the same experience’ so it’s just makes you feel a lot more comforted in knowing that you’re not just a one-off patient.”

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Morris said 100 per cent of the proceeds from this book will go towards women’s cancer research and hopes one day that there will be less stories to tell like the ones featured in the book because there will be a cure.

People can buy the book at Joyne on Broadway Avenue or online.

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