Nova Scotia

N.S. cancer patient shocked and grateful for support following powerful video

Inez Rudderham said she felt broken when her family home was sold on the same day she heard that the mental health support she was seeking to cope with cancer was months away. Then she hit record.

'My community deserves more. Canadians deserve more. And I want that for them.'

Inez Rudderham, 33, says she is shocked, overwhelmed and grateful for the support she's received from her community of Windsor, N.S., and across Canada after posting an impassioned video about her cancer that went undiagnosed for two years. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Unable to work because of her cancer diagnosis and under mounting financial pressure, Inez Rudderham decided to sell her family home in Windsor, N.S.

On the day she found out the house had sold, she also heard that she would not get a mental health appointment, to help her cope, until the summer.

That's when she decided to hit record and speak directly to the premier of Nova Scotia.

"It just broke me," said Rudderham in an interview with CBC.

"It was done in a moment of emotion and passion and vulnerability. So I didn't think it through. I just shared what I was feeling and I posted it."

Rudderham, 33, challenged Premier Stephen McNeil to meet with her during the emotional video describing how her cancer went undiagnosed for two years because she didn't have a family doctor.

She said she went to the emergency room three times before she was given an exam to diagnose her stage three anal cancer.

"I dare you to take a meeting with me, and explain to me, and look into my eyes and tell me that there is no health-care crisis in my province of Nova Scotia," said a tearful Rudderham in the video.

After going through 30 rounds of radiation treatment and two rounds of chemotherapy, she is now in full remission as of January. But the fallout from her cancer has affected her physically and emotionally.

Under financial stress, Rudderham was forced to sell her Windsor, N.S., home. It sold on Tuesday, the same day she decided to record a video demanding to meet with Premier Stephen McNeil over what she calls a health-care crisis in the province. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

She began pursuing mental-health services in January. She won't be seen until July.

"I have a support network. I'm very fortunate. But not everybody has that," said Rudderham.

"My community deserves more. Canadians deserve more. And I want that for them. I want it for me."

She said she feels a responsibility to advocate for all Nova Scotians who are demanding better health care.

"I have a story that people can relate to and I think that that's important that I use my voice in a way that can help because I don't ever want to see any 31-year-old mother being told that she's crazy and that the symptoms are all in her head," she said.

Rudderham hasn't heard from McNeil or his staff. But she is preparing herself to return a phone call to the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Earlier this week, McNeil said he asked the Health Department to reach out to Rudderham to find out more about her situation.

He would not commit to meeting with her until he had heard back from the department.

"There are challenges in the health-care system in parts of accessing primary care. We've always acknowledged that," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting Thursday. "But we've continued to make adjustments."

'Denial will get us nowhere'

"I just wanted him to acknowledge the fact that there is an issue with the health care system in Nova Scotia," said Rudderham. "I'm not particular on what terms he wants to use. He doesn't have to call it a crisis. But denial will get us nowhere.

"I just want to sit down with him and I want to be educated. I want to know why this isn't working and what I can do as a citizen to help make it better."

Despite it all, Rudderham said she is resilient and sees cancer as an opportunity to grow stronger.

She is now being followed by a family doctor.

Shocked by the response

Her impassioned video, which has been viewed over 2.5 million times since Tuesday, has garnered national attention.

"Never in a million years did I think that it would reach the audience that it has," she said.

Enormously grateful for the support, Rudderham said she wants to thank everyone in her community and Canada for rallying around her.

"Thank you doesn't seem enough. But just thank you to everybody."

"When you see people who are hurting step up and support you in your own hurt that, I think, is just such an indicator of who we are as a country."

'She has a lot of power'

A friend, Mary Moore, said she hopes Rudderham's voice will help spur change in the province.

"She has a lot of power and she has a lot of passion about what she's speaking of and knows very much first hand what it feels like to be feeling stuck. That there's no real answer and no where to find that answer," said Moore.

Mary Moore said she tried to focus on Rudderham, rather than the cancer while her friend was going through treatment. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Nataly Regan, another friend, said it was Rudderham's determination that got her through cancer.

"She was not just fighting for herself, she was fighting for her daughter and her husband."

Nataly Regan said the community of Windsor, N.S., rallied around Rudderham after she was diagnosed with stage three cancer. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Regan said she is proud of the strength Rudderham has shown in sharing her story.

"It could be any one of us that is in her position. I don't think I'd be brave enough to do that video. Good on her for doing it, because people are finally listening."

With files from Elizabeth Chiu