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Gaydon Willis: an inspiration and also my good friend

When I tell people I write for the Cochrane Eagle, they immediately respond by saying “the first thing I do when I get the Eagle is open the first page and read the column written by Jack Tennant.” Well, I do too.
Gaydon Willis gave a speech at King Solomon Lodge April 12.
Gaydon Willis gave a speech at King Solomon Lodge April 12.

When I tell people I write for the Cochrane Eagle, they immediately respond by saying “the first thing I do when I get the Eagle is open the first page and read the column written by Jack Tennant.”

Well, I do too.

Jack writes about what most people are thinking, but will not often talk about. The ‘buzz word’ these days is “transparency”, which Jack has down pat. Jack lays all his cards on the table, something our local, provincial and federal politicians have a hard time doing.

In last week’s column, he directed us to page 25, Gaydon Willis’ column updating us with the struggles of her “disease” — cancer. After reading her column, I broke down in tears, which inspired me to write this story.

Gaydon is a remarkable person and a good friend. She has had the courage to provide details of her treatment side effects, which most people would like to keep private. Gaydon is as ‘transparent’ as one can get and willing to share all in the hopes it will help someone out there.

What Gaydon didn’t realize when she started writing her column six years ago was the impact it would have on her readers.

She has enlightened us by sharing her physical discomfort, combined with the emotional upheaval and fear of this disease. People who have experienced cancer know they are not alone in their struggle. Those who do not have cancer are better educated about adverse side-effects and general knowledge of the disease.

Most people are affected by cancer in one way or another, through a family member or friend. Three years ago, I lost my childhood friend and soul mate to breast cancer. When I was 29 years old, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Thanks to an amazing gynecologist and immediate surgery, I am still here.

On New Year’s Day of this year, my younger sister passed away after a seven-year battle with bone cancer. It left me devastated. After my anger and grief subsided, I reached a level of acceptance. I remember the day well last September; the phone rang as I was on my way out the door to meet Gaydon for coffee. It was my sister telling me the doctors had informed her that all areas of treatment had been exhausted and the only thing they could do for her now was to keep her as comfortable as possible with pain medication.

Guess who comforted me while sitting in the coffee shop in tears — Gaydon. She held my hand, talked to me and somehow made me feel better, even though she was going through much the same thing.

Gaydon was destined to help others all her life. She has always had a knack for making people feel better, whether it was during a massage or yoga class, in her home or her time as a yoga instructor at Seniors on the Bow…or just listening.

I am truly blessed to have Gaydon in my life. Right now she is living every wonderful minute of every day, one day at a time, enjoying life. That is leading by example.

Maybe we should all become a little more ‘transparent’ so our family, friends and neighbours can enjoy getting to know who we really are.




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