Lifestyle & Parenting

Catherine Perka’s Inspiring Cancer Story

February 2, 2023

With World Cancer Day coming up on February 4, we’re bringing you a heartwarming community story highlighting the experience of a young, local cancer patient in the Lower Mainland, whose experience may be incredibly impactful to others. —Noa Nichol

Hi Catherine! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.

I am a 36-year-old accountant from Surrey, B.C. I have been with my husband for about 10 years and we have two cats and a dog. I am an animal lover and enjoy being outdoors (mostly in the sunshine!). I am pretty fast-paced and enjoy exercise and being busy, but also love my downtime with a glass of wine.

When were you diagnosed with cancer? How did this change your life?

I was diagnosed almost four years ago, on May 8, 2019. I started having rectal bleeding as well as extreme abdominal discomfort and bloating, which led to my diagnosis six months later. I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer. My husband and I were recently married in August 2018, and I was nicely settled into my career at an accounting firm near our home. We were excited about the future and had found out that we were expecting our first baby. My diagnosis changed everything. In order to get the treatment I needed, we had to terminate our pregnancy, and I had to take a leave from work. I was thrown into the life of cancer treatment with radiation, chemotherapy, and surgeries.

What did your cancer journey from there look like?

I started out exploring my fertility options, and my husband and I were able to successfully freeze embryos for the hope of a family down the road. I then started 25 rounds of radiation and chemotherapy every day for five weeks. After recovering from radiation and chemo, I had a bowel resection where an ileostomy was placed. I learned how to live with an ileostomy and continued with six months of further chemotherapy. After recovering from treatment, I was able to successfully have my ileostomy reversed.

We hear you and your husband, Dan, also got involved with raising some funds for the BC Cancer – Surrey chemo suite. Tell us about that effort and how you see community support impacting those facing cancer.

Dan and I truly felt cared for by BC Cancer when I was a patient there. Through our journey, we realized how much of a community it really is and how much goes into patient and family care. We wanted to give back and decided to host a fundraiser. Seeing so many of our friends and family in the community come together for the same cause was incredible. Having been a patient in the Surrey chemo suite, we could see exactly where these funds were going—to help drastically increase the number of patients that can be treated within the first two weeks of their diagnosis. Being able to have a treatment plan in place and the ability to get started quickly is critical for every patient both physically and mentally. I encourage anyone who is interested to visit the BC Cancer Foundation’s website to learn more about supporting BC Cancer.

How are you doing now?!

I am very fortunate to be doing well! I do not take this for granted and not a day goes by that I am not thankful. I am currently two years and nine months of No Evidence of Disease (NED) with my surveillance scans showing no signs of cancer. I returned to work back in November 2020 when treatment had finished and have done my best to return to normal life. I will always carry this journey with me as it is a part of who I am today.

In sharing your cancer story, what do you hope to accomplish? What one thing would you like other women your age to know about cancer?

My hope has always been that my story will bring awareness to cancer (specifically rectal cancer with my experience) in young adults; to share symptoms and show that you are never too young. The main thing that I want women to know, is to trust their gut and be their own advocate when it comes to their body. Being a young and healthy woman means symptoms will often be brushed off. Keep pushing for answers because it could save your life.


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