Local fitness trainer Sally Feast got the news on her birthday 15 years ago.
She’d developed an unexplained rash and was being hounded by Mary Fast – one of her current co-workers at the Sportsplex – to go get it checked out.
But it was just a rash, after all, so she didn’t.
Fast didn’t give up, however, and eventually Feast relented.
When she was getting the rash looked at, the doctors suggested a physical examination as well. But she was a fitness guru.
She worked out daily – taught classes, even – and was one of the healthiest people she knew.
“So I said, ‘maybe in a month or so,’” she says between teaching classes at the Sportsplex.
But the doctors insisted, as Fast had, that she get the experts involved sooner rather than later.
“So I had the tests done, and the next week, on my 43rd birthday, I went in and found out I had cancer.
“It’s just the birthday present that keeps on giving,” she says with a smile that for some reason doesn’t seem out of place in the context of the conversation.
She says she was blown away by the support she received from the community after she got the news and started treatment.
“I’d come home from work and there would be food sitting on my doorstep from strangers. How can you beat that? How can you beat people you don’t know walking up to you to ask if they can help you or give you a poem they wrote for you?”
And that was – and is – typical for Campbell River, she says. People rally around each other here.
“This is an incredible town when it comes to support,” Feast says. “I mean, look at the little one right now (Willow) who is going through what she’s going through and getting the support that she’s getting. That’s what this town does. It supports each other.”
Which is why it’s a shame, she says, that this will be the last year for Campbell River’s Relay for Life celebration, which will run this weekend.
But life goes on, Feast says, and she would know that better than most.
“Yes, it’s a shame that we’re going to lose it, but I know we’ll come up with something,” she says. “I don’t know what it’ll be, but there will be something to replace it.”
Besides, she says, there are other fundraisers and events that serve the same purpose – to raise money for cancer research and support for survivors – such as the Terry Fox Run and Daffodil Month every April, so she doesn’t think there will be any less money going where it’s needed within the community.
It will just be taking a different route.
Like she has through life, in a way.
While she’s now closer to 60 than 50, Feast still teaches two fitness classes per day at the Sportsplex, on average, and she’s certainly not smiling any less or slowing down at all.
And she’ll still be pumping the cause, raising money and promoting fitness at various events around town, as she has consistently done through the years.
The reason she’s so involved with these efforts is to break the stereotypes people see on TV and in the movies of wheelchair-bound, haggard-looking people going through cancer treatment, she says.
“The reason I do it is to show everybody that being a survivor is not all misery. There’s life. People do survive. It’s especially important for the kids to see that,” she says, before excusing herself.
Her class is waiting for her to turn on her headset and get them going on their workout and she can’t keep them waiting.