Ottawa

'I feel really good': Deans returns to city hall 1 year after cancer diagnosis

After nearly a year spent in treatment for what she once called an "insidious" ovarian cancer diagnosis, Coun. Diane Deans has returned to work at Ottawa city hall.

Gloucester-Southgate councillor announced ovarian cancer diagnosis last September

Coun. Diane Deans formally returned from medical leave on Tuesday, Sept. 8, nearly one year after announcing her ovarian cancer diagnosis. (CBC)

After nearly a year spent in treatment for what she once called an "insidious" ovarian cancer diagnosis, Coun. Diane Deans has returned to work at Ottawa city hall.

The Gloucester-Southgate councillor returned to the office Tuesday, following rounds of chemotherapy and recovery from major surgery.

"I feel really good," Deans told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning, describing how she's gained back her strength back and is now "feeling that it's time to get back to work."

 

Deans, 62, first realized something was wrong in the summer of 2019. "I had a lot of heartburn, and it went on for a long time. I thought, oh, it's eating too much spicy food. But ... when it didn't go away, I decided it was time to go and see the doctor," said Deans.

But Deans was resolute in the face of the devastating diagnosis. "I'm not finished yet. I love my life, I love my job, I love my community, and I have a lot more to offer." 

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the five-year net survival rate for ovarian cancer is 45 per cent.

The ordeal didn't prevent Deans from keeping tabs on city business. 

"I've had a different vantage point for the last year. It's given me a new perspective," said Deans. "This council has deep divisions.... In my coming back, if I can help in some small way to heal some of those divisions, I think that will be job one for me.

"A divided council cannot make the best decisions in the community's interest, and we have huge challenges in front of us."

'Maybe I, through a more public journey than most people probably go through, can offer some sort of hope or support or help to others,' said Deans, pictured here in September 2019. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

There were times over the past year when Deans would have loved to be back at the council table, especially when access to information requests revealed that engineering giant SNC Lavalin had failed to meet the minimum technical requirements for Stage 2 of the city's LRT project.

Deans had fought to get answers about that before her diagnosis, but it was only after she went on medical leave the details became known.

"That's very frustrating. I would have like to be there to pursue some more of those vigorous questions," she said.

Deans, who has served as a councillor since 1995, will also resume her role as chair of both the Ottawa police services board and Crime Prevention Ottawa.

Offering hope to others

Deans isn't shutting the door to a possible run for mayor in 2022.

"We'll see how how everything turns out in two years, and ... we'll cross that bridge at that time," she said.

 

In the meantime, she's reaching out to other women who've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 

"At first you think, why me? But then after a while, I started to realise ... it is everywhere. It touches every family, it touches every community, it touches every workplace. And so ... why not me?" Deans asked.

"Maybe I, through a more public journey than most people probably go through, can offer some sort of hope or support or help to others."

With files from Ottawa Morning

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