Hit with a double whammy, Abbotsford's Feather Bryce is one strong woman.
She has to be.
The single mom of two young girls, she's doing everything she can to be there with them for the long haul. Bryce was just 23 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time.
"It is rare but not as rare as people think," said Bryce of the disease that struck her in her prime.
"In my journey, I'm quite surprised at how many young people get cancer. Cancer is much more aggressive when you're young; the chances of surviving are much less."
Bryce was a fitness instructor at the rec centres in Abbotsford and by her own admission, she was "really fit."
"How can I get this when I'm so healthy?" she remembers thinking.
Upon her diagnosis, she immediately thought of Terry Fox.
"I grew up knowing about Terry Fox as a young girl. He was another young person who had [cancer]," she said.
"I felt very encouraged and inspired by him, but prayed that [unlike Terry]; I wasn't going to lose my life."
Bryce came through the surgery and treatment well and went back to teaching fitness. But she was also a changed person.
Fifteen years ago, in 1997, she spoke at the annual Terry Fox Run in Abbotsford and met Terry's parents and sister.
"I felt very honoured to speak with them. It was a real inspiration for me," she said. She even did the five-kilometre run with Terry's sister and they talked the whole way.
"I wanted to change the face of breast cancer in our country," she said after that. "People didn't even know what the pink ribbon was for. I was on a mission to inform people."
Bryce spent the following years travelling all across Canada and talking to people and groups about cancer. She even found herself on the cover of the Globe & Mail and on Canada AM.
"This was my mission. I wanted to empower people," she said.
In 2003, she gave birth to her first daughter, Carmelle, and Cadence followed two years later.
She was happy, healthy and married with two beautiful children. Then in 2007 her biggest nightmare came true.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time. It was a totally different form of the disease."
At 35, Bryce was now facing a very aggressive cancer.
"My daughters were turning two and four; I just went into fight mode to stay here as long as I could," she said.
Now she had a new mission statement: "I wanted my girls to know that their mom did everything possible to stay here for them."
What followed was 18 months of intense treatment including more surgery, six months of strong chemotherapy, 28 radiation treatments and another year of IV drugs.
There were complications with the treatments that threatened her life but she never gave up.
"I worked really hard taking care of myself and had the mentality that I was going to recover," she said. "I wanted to keep living, creating memories with my children."
The treatments ended in 2008 and Bryce has gotten her life back.
She's working at Columbia Bible College and has gone back to school to be a fitness instructor again, where she hopes to inspire other cancer survivors.
She will also be at the Terry Fox Run in Abbotsford on Sunday, hoping to talk to others about their journey.
"It's an amazing community event. It's a way to come together to show support and connection and not feel alone."
- The annual Terry Fox Run is Sept. 16 at Ellwood Park, 31419 Maclure Rd., Abbotsford on the Discovery Trail. Register at 8:30 a.m., run starts at 10 a.m. with three distances: 2 km, 5 km and 10 km. Walkers, bikes, wheelchairs, strollers, rollerblades and dogs on leashes are welcome.
In Mission, the run starts at 9 a.m. at the Mission Leisure Centre, 7650 Grand St. Registration is at 8 a.m. for two distances: 5 km and 10 km.