It’s a disease that kills thousands of Canadians every year, but a southern Alberta mom battling breast cancer isn’t letting it define her.
Throughout her journey, Haley Mulder, discovered a talent she never knew she had.
“It was supposed to be probably one of the happiest times of my life — I was pregnant with my second child,” Mulder, a breast cancer survivor, explained.
The woman from Coalhurst — a small town just outside of Lethbridge — said things took a turn in September 2017.
“I went in for a prenatal exam and they found a lump in my breast, so they sent me for some tests and found out I had breast cancer.”
Mulder was navigating one of the most difficult times of her life and she needed comfort more than ever because her life was spiralling.
“Two days before I was scheduled for surgery, I ended up miscarrying,” Mulder said. She was 13 weeks into her pregnancy. Devastated by the loss, she then began treatment to combat the cancer.
“While I was going through [chemotherapy] treatment I really felt like I lost myself and started to get pretty depressed and needed something to keep my hands and mind busy,” Mulder said.
“So I was scrolling through Pinterest one day and found some projects that I thought were absolutely beautiful and decided I wanted to give those a try.”
She discovered intarsia woodworking: a technique that uses different shapes and sizes of wood fitted together to create a mosaic-like picture that give the illusion of depth.
It was in her workshop where she found light in all the darkness. Mulder began with one piece of woodworking art, then two, then a whole lot more as demand for her work grew. It came as a surprise to her husband.
“When I first found out my wife wanted to do this art and stuff I was quite skeptical,” John Mulder, Haley’s husband, admitted.
“Then it worked quite well — suddenly the demand started to skyrocket, which is quite incredible.”
Continuing her art work and therapy, doctors eventually told her in May 2018 that she was cancer free — but there was a threat it could come back.
“It’s terrifying thinking that you’re 30 years old and this is the end of the road for you. I do have a three-year-old, so it’s sad thinking that you’re not going to be there for her,” Mulder said.
Mulder now lives life with a new outlook and looks back at her challenges in a positive — if bittersweet — light.
“I do believe that if I hadn’t been pregnant, I wouldn’t have found the cancer and it may have been too late. So I believe that little child save my life.”