Just before Jessica Dyck’s Nana Clara (in photo at left) died of cancer, she told her granddaughter that any boyfriend of Jessica’s who stayed with her throughout Jessica’s own battle with cancer was a keeper.
Two weeks after her grandmother died, Jessica was given the all-clear.
Still with her was Jeremy Larsen, who began to date her the year before she was diagnosed.
He stayed with her throughout 2013, the toughest year of her life.
“I thought I had my obstacles figured out until I was diagnosed with cancer,” recalls the 30-year-old Guildford woman. “The truth is everyone has their own battles to face.”
One of hers was cerebral palsy, coinciding with being born two months premature alongside a healthy twin brother.
She did well in school, and for several years was an ambassador for The Variety Club and Surrey’s Centre for Child Development.
Dyck was also part of several promotional posters with then-TV weatherman Norm Grohmann for BC Bowls for Kids.
By her mid-20s, she was a full-time insurance broker at Guildford Town Centre.
Physical challenges did not stop her academically or socially, but Dyck always had to deal her physical limitations – she walks with two canes – and went for annual regular medical check-ups.
One in particular, in February 2013, saved her life.
During a gynecological exam just 10 months after her previous check-up, she was diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, a pre-cancerous growth on her cervix.
An initial procedure was unsuccessful, and within months, Dyck had advanced invasive cervical cancer.
“I felt like I was punched in the stomach” upon diagnosis, she says.
The chemo and external radiation at the BC Cancer Agency’s Fraser Valley Cancer Centre in Surrey weren’t so bad. She never lost her hair.
It was the six rounds of internal radiation at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Centre that were the most taxing.
She describes being forced to stay still for eight hours in a painful position – and strapped down due to her body’s natural spasms.
Photo: Jeremy and Jessica celebrating her recovery in Whistler.
Fevers and stress throughout the year were almost overwhelming, but Dyck has nothing but good things to say about her family, friends and medical team, including Dr. Frances Wong, who is the chief physician and oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency’s Abbotsford and Fraser Valley Cancer centres.
“I wasn’t just a number to her. She was so caring with all of her patients.”
All the while, Larsen, now 26, stuck by her, driving back and forth from his home in Maple Ridge.
Her boyfriend – she calls him “Jer” – even organized a pub night fundraiser with her sister Candice Paradon and Dyck’s best friend Shawna Ferguson.
She put it out there: “Thank you to everyone in my life who chose to love me, even on my very worst of days.”
She includes her co-workers, who recently surprised her with an adult-sized tricycle.
For now, Dyck is focusing on improving her immune system (radiation and chemotherapy have serious side effects), working and continuing her relationship with her boyfriend.
Keeping connected is important. The two have a weekly date night.
And Dyck has a special date coming up:
“I will be one year cancer-free on January 21, 2015.”