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How an Inuvik woman is helping young Canadians navigate a cancer diagnosis

Ashley Morine felt frightened and alone after her cancer diagnosis in 2017. Now, cancer free, she's part of a national support organization helping young people navigate a life-changing illness.

A cancer diagnosis can change everything, Ashley Morine knows that from personal experience

Ashley Morine felt scared and alone after her 2017 cancer diagnosis. Now, cancer free, she's part of a national organization helping other young people navigate the life-changing illness. (Submitted by Ashley Morine )

Ashley Morine felt frightened and alone.

She was 27, and had just moved to Inuvik, N.W.T., with her husband Luke when she suddenly lost peripheral vision in her left eye. 

At first, she said her doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her eye. But after four months, and visits with doctors in Yellowknife and Edmonton, her eye specialist phoned her with the news she had eye cancer on Dec. 28, 2017. 

"Getting that phone call in the complete darkness, 24-hour darkness in Inuvik, staying so far away from family, I can't explain it," she said. "It was really, really tough."

Now, cancer free, Morine is part of a national support organization helping young people navigate a life-changing cancer diagnosis.   

"Everything just disappeared, it was just survival mode at that point," she said. "I have to put vacation planning, savings, and my dream home on hold. I just have to get through cancer. It's something that at 27, I never thought I'd have to face."     

Morine's doctors prescribed sleeping and anxiety pills, but there weren't any support groups or therapists available in Inuvik to help her deal with the life-altering diagnosis. 

"I desperately searched for people to talk to who understood it," she said. "Unfortunately, I was very alone in that month until I got to Edmonton and spoke to social workers and counsellors." 

From there, she connected with Young Adults Cancer Canada, a support organization with more than 900 young Canadians aged between 19-39 who've been diagnosed with cancer.   

Through that group, Morine was able to discuss issues like having children after cancer, paying off student-loan debts during treatment, and recovering from radiation. 

"It was shocking, I thought 'what did I do to deserve this at this age?' I'd wake up in the middle of the night and say 'this isn't happening to me right?'" Morine said.  

Now, Morine is taking on a bigger role within the group as an activist. She recently attended a conference in Toronto to meet with others and she's now sharing her experiences with people in Inuvik — including the doctor that first spoke to her when she was diagnosed. 

"We're on a mission now to make sure people do not feel the isolation that we felt," she said. "It means a lot to a cancer patients when you can connect to other cancer patients who just get it." 

Ashley and Luke Morine in a family photo in Cape Breton, just before their move to Inuvik, N.W.T., in 2017. (Submitted by Ashley Morine)
 

Written by Alex Brockman, based on an interview by Loren McGinnis

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