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Standing tall against cancer in Chilliwack
More than 20 years after Glenda Standeven lost her right leg to bone cancer, she’s never been more steady on her feet.
She made a conscious choice to focus on the positive aspects of recovery, and in 2010, Choosing to Smile became the title of a book she co-authored with close friends Michelle Rickaby and Julie Houlker. All three women fought cancer, adopting a positive philosophy despite the terrifying disease.
Now Standeven is back on the book tour, after writing a second book about cancer: What Men Won’t Talk About… and Women Need To Know—A Woman’s Perspective on Prostate Cancer.
After her husband Rick was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006, the couple thought they were through with the disease for good.
“We thought, ‘Okay! That’s it! We’re done! One for me, one for you—we’re good.’ But it doesn’t always play fair,” Standeven says.
Luckily, they caught the melanoma early—in part thanks to Standeven’s volunteer work with the B.C. Cancer Society.
“I’d handed out enough pamphlets to know what the heck that meant and what it looked like,” she says with a laugh. “My experience with cancer saved him. All he needed was surgery, which is so not often the case with most melanoma.”
Having both successfully beaten the disease, neither of them expected a third brush with cancer. Again, their experience with cancer protected them from the worst.
“It was a bit of a shocker for sure,” Standeven says. “I thank my father for that, because he died of prostate cancer in ‘93, and watching his journey I knew what to look for.”
She says it would have been easy to miss the signs—the test results that tipped them off to the disease still fell within normal guidelines.
“But because he’d been doing the tests annually, we knew the number had doubled from what it was the year before,” Standeven says.
The couple’s battle against prostate cancer was relatively quick and painless—Standeven thanks her doctor for being on the ball again and again, glad they caught it before it spread or required radiation treatment.
The worst part about fighting the disease, she says, was trying to understand the process.
“We had stacks and stacks of literature to go through. It was just way too much,” Standeven says. “All I wanted was one book I could pick up and say, oh, okay—this is what PSA means, and this is what the options are, and this is how recovery is going to go.”
And as the process continued, it slowly dawned on her that the solution was to write that book herself.
The result is What Men Won’t Talk About… and Women Need to Know, designed to help both members of a couple recognize identify and deal with prostate cancer.
Standeven mixed their personal experience with a basic how-to guide—which was easier said than done.
“The first volume was way too much over-sharing,” she says with a laugh. “Poor Rick read it and said, ‘Honey, if you put this out, we’re moving and we’re changing our names.’”
A few drafts later, she found a balance between information and narrative, using their experience as a way to open the conversation. It explains the treatment process for anyone diagnosed with the disease and ultimately stresses the importance of getting tested—a message the Standevens have taken on their cross-Canada book tour.
They’ve visited a plethora of bookstores and non-profit organizations over the last 10 weeks, from Kelowna to Edmonton. Finally, the couple is heading home, finishing off with a book signing session at the Chilliwack Coles bookstore.
They’ll be back in town just in time for Rick and their two sons to participate in the annual Walk for Dad in support of prostate cancer awareness.
“It’s the third time my husband’s going to walk it. The first year he did it right after his surgery, and they were dead last. The year after they were not dead last, and this year I know we’re going to see improvement again,” she says. “It’s so heartening to see him getting stronger and better, and walking with his two sons. Coming home to two wonderful, positive events is just perfect timing.”
• Glenda and Rick Standeven will be at the Cottonwood Coles on June 14 from noon to 4 p.m. for book-signing and conversation. Both What Men Won’t Talk About and an updated and expanded collection of Glenda’s stories from Choosing to Smile will be available.