Fighting Like a Girl

Diane Deans has been taking on cancer by ‘fighting like a girl.’

And on the eve of her last cancer treatment, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans held her annual Women’s Day Breakfast with several hundred there to celebrate not just Women’s Day, but Deans herself. It was her first public appearance since announcing she’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Looking healthy and strong, Deans – in a wide-ranging talk – spoke about her constant support of women, her love for her friends and family and her tough battle with ovarian cancer. At times, it seemed the speech could well be her opening salvo in what many expect will become her entry into a mayoralty race.

The event was co-hosted by CBC anchor Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld, a fellow cancer survivor.

There were plenty of laughs and more than a few tears as she addressed the crowd.

In one of the most heartwarming moments, Deans said the most difficult part of her diagnosis of ovarian cancer was telling her daughter Megan and life partner Ron. Tearing up as she spoke, as did much of the audience, Deans said her family already knew something really bad was going on. “They knew, they really did. They’d seen the number of tests, seen me,” she said.

And while she brought audience members to tears, she also had the crowd laughing out loud, suggesting as she was feeling the effects of the undiagnosed disease, she only fully realized how sick she must be when she couldn’t finish a glass of wine! (A woman after my own heart!). She also opened up about her hair loss, something she admits she really struggled with.

In a really lovely story, she spoke about her grandson Evan, who was worried she’d be picked on if she was bald, so he asked to have his head shaven as well. Just so incredibly sweet. And when she had to accept wigs were her best option, Evan, just 10, tried one on to show her that the wig she was considering suited everyone! He was right. When friends commented that despite the fact the wig wasn’t her own hair, but looked great, Deans disagreed.

“What do you mean it’s not my own hair, I paid for it,” the councillor said. “The thing about hair is that it’s part of your identity, And now I don’t ask anyone how my hair looks, I ask if it’s on straight. Hair is part of your identity. But hair comes back. If it’s your hair or your life, you choose life.”

But as she was struggling to deal with her own reality, her daughter Megan became very ill, eventually being diagnosed with colitis and had emergency surgery at Christmas. So instead of being able to take time for herself, she was back at the hospital, spending eight hours a day by her daughter’s side. Their routine included bi-weekly get-togethers watching Ottawa City Council.

“It’s the best drama in town,” Deans joked.

Her last treatment is on Friday. There’s no set date for her return to council, but she will follow her doctor’s recommendation to take several months to recuperate. She’s anxious to get back, to work on the light rail transit file and get back to being the head of the Ottawa Police Services Board. 
“I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done, proud of the fight that I’ve put up along the way and serving this amazing community that I love. You can see the fruits of your labour. You see the difference you make, I’m proud of the fight I’ve put up along the way,” Deans said.

Deans has been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the community.

“It really does warm your heart, I’ve heard from so many people. I believe I’m going to make it, I’m going to be fine and I’m going to  fight like a girl.”

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