Defying the odds: Terry Fox ambassador gives cancer a run for its money

Jen Levasseur is this year’s Sarnia Terry Fox Run ambassador after making a remarkable recovery from Stage 4 breast cancer.The run on Sunday in Canatara Park has raised more than $1 million locally. Glenn Ogilvie

George Mathewson

Jen Levasseur is proof that miracles of medicine do happen.

The Sarnia woman was a graduate of Lambton College and had snagged a dream job in I.T. at Ford of Canada in Oakville when death knocked on her door.

Levasseur was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, meaning it had spread to other parts of her body.

It had invaded her spine, in two places, and her liver. She had cancer in her brain.

“I was 29-years-old and healthy,” she recalled. “I had run a marathon in May and I was diagnosed in September.”

The survival rate of people with final-stage cancer is low. But instead of despairing Levasseur got busy.

She took all the recommended treatments – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – and against the advice of some worked with a naturopathic doctor.

But the drugs and treatments don’t fully explain why she’s alive today, she said.

“Most of it is attitude. I never asked, ‘Why me?’ Well, why not me? Everyone is susceptible. But I have always stayed positive. Even when I was getting the worst test results possible I stayed positive,” she said.

“And I continued to work through the whole time.”

 

That attitude is one reason Levasseur was chosen this year’s ‘Terry’s Team Member” for the Sarnia Terry Fox Run, said media co-ordinator Jo Kulik

When the Northern Collegiate grad speaks to several hundred people at Canatara Park on Sunday her cancer will have been stable exactly nine years and one day.

“She’s the face of hope,” Kulik said.

Levasseur, 38, knew she had a lump in her breast in 2005, but a mammogram and two biopsies came back negative.

The lump was removed, and when she returned to have the incision checked, she was told she had cancer.

“I was by myself. And it’s just like you see in the movies, where you can’t hear anything. That’s exactly what it was like.”

Levasseur said a co-worker was diagnosed with lung cancer and given three months to live.

“And she died in three months. Mentally, she was told she was going to die, and so she died. I just decided I am not doing that.”

Levasseur had strong support from friends, family and collegues, “but there were times I was in the hospital when it was touch and go,” she said.

Nine years later she still works for Ford, and is able to do so remotely from Sarnia. And a health team that includes her oncologist and naturopath still periodically assesses her.

“Both of them say I’m their miracle patient.”

 IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Sarnia Terry Fox Run

WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 14, Registration 8 a.m., run at 9 a.m.

WHERE: Terry Fox Loop, Canatara Park (by the cannon)

OTHER: No entry fee, no minimum donation. Rollerblade and wheelchair accessible