Pureform (Tracy Work) Amazing Courage – a woman who has faced adversity with grace, dignity and spirit.
Brooke Monkman knows a lot about strength in the face of adversity: she lost her husband, Dean, last February after three decades of marriage.
Monkman spent 13 months at his side while he underwent treatment for Stage 4 lung cancer. She provided 24-hour care for her husband and didn’t miss an appointment or treatment. She was with him when he passed away and held his hand as he took his last breath. “The death of my husband, Dean, rocked my world and still continues to today. He was my soulmate, my best friend, my rock, and when he got sick it was the worst experience of my life,” she says.
I found the courage because God placed it in me
Brooke’s daughter, Ashley Monkman, is in awe of her mother’s strength and values. “My mother remains the most positive, faithful, encouraging and dignified woman I know despite enduring the hardest battle of her life,” Ashley says. “She never once complained … there was always a smile on her face and her heart was always open.”
Brooke credits her deep faith and family in helping her get through this difficult loss.
“I found the courage because God placed it in me,” she explains. ”I just needed to call upon it and to wake up each morning and say, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me 31 years with Dean.’”
Charlett Hedman is the proud matriarch of a loving family and has a job she loves – co-ordinator of seniors outreach for Community Links. But as fate would have it, at age 60, Hedman was diagnosed with sleep apnea and breast cancer – both at the same time.
“It was a large wake-up call,” she says. Faced with two daunting health concerns Hedman chose to focus on her inner self, realigning her mind and body. Luckily, treatment for her sleep apnea meant rest and, in her words, the ability to sleep – really sleep – for the first time in years.
Charlett is always looking for the lesson in the adversity of life
The breast cancer treatment, however, proved more difficult.
“The cancer medical process has been, at times, stressful, with many appointments, surgery, chemo and complications that put me in the hospital for five weeks, plus radiation, fatigue, brain fog and other unexpected bumps in the road,” she says.
Hedman remained strong and positive throughout the process and focused on herself and her recovery. She found joy in the support she received from her family and friends, welcoming the love and kindness sent her way throughout her treatment.
Her remarkable outlook did not go unnoticed. “Charlett is always looking for the lesson in the adversity of life,” says Caerol Pulsifer. “She is courageous; she has the true grit and a beautiful soul.”
Christina Sackett Toews – 2016 Recipient
Christina Sackett Toews was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) four years ago. Later that same year, her son, Myles, began to struggle with his mental and emotional health issues, as well as addiction.
“I dedicated all of my time to get him the help he needed … as any mother would,” Sackett Toews says.
Her son’s depression had gone undiagnosed until his early teen years. “Myles was placed in a residential program for his mental health and addictions just after his 16th birthday,” she explains. “However, he succumbed to his illnesses at the age of 17.”
I decided that I could either let the grief and devastation of losing a child take over my life, or I can make something positive come out of this.
Today, Sackett Toews works to make a difference for other struggling youths and their families. “After Myles passed away, I decided that I could either let the grief and devastation of losing a child take over my life, or I can make something positive come out of this.”
To honour what would have been Myles’ 18th birthday, she held a barbecue and raised nearly $16,000 for Hull Services with the help of friends and family. She and a friend are in the early stages of starting a non-profit to help provide music lessons, including to high-risk youngsters.
Sackett Toews is inspired to be a great role model for her other son, Jayden. She receives treatments for her MS and feels fortunate to have her symptoms under control.
“Christina has always been a caring, selfless lady,” says Pamela Fleischer. “You will never hear her complain about having no feeling in her legs and you never knew if she [had] lost her eyesight for days; she doesn’t tell you if her skin hurts. She just keeps going.”
Danielle Toovey’s best friend died in a tragic car accident this past year.
“Losing her was the most heartbreaking, world-crushing thing I’ve ever had to go through,” says Toovey. “She and I did everything together – she was more family than my friend. She was my person, she knew everything about me.”
The two women were close and supported each other through difficult challenges. While in high school, Toovey was bullied so aggressively, she switched to an online school.
Everyone is different and should be loved and treated with respect.
“Although it caused my life to be very different – like having social anxiety and self-confidence issues – my bullying has shown me that everyone is different and should be loved and treated with respect,” she says.
Toovey earned praise and admiration from those who know her and is a source of inspiration for her friend, Mackenzie Murphy.
“Danielle has fought back with her struggles, and overcome the pain of loss at the age of just 18. She has shown me and so many others how to continue on and live for those who aren’t able to live anymore,” says Murphy.
Toovey is taking life day by day. She works with her mother at their day home where together they take care of six children, and she remains positive and moves forward.
When Heather Clarke was faced with a tough decision she acted quickly. With a long history of breast cancer in her family, Clarke underwent testing to determine if she inherited the so-called breast cancer gene mutation.
“The results were inconclusive but my mom and four of her sisters, as well as their mother, all had and survived breast cancer,” she says. After talking it over with her husband and two teenagers, Clarke decided to have a preventative double mastectomy.
It’s not how I would have chosen it, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way
“We chose as a family. I want to be around for my kids,” she says. She had surgery – the mastectomy and reconstruction together – on Nov. 7, 2014. Since then she’s had complications resulting in eight more surgeries, approximately 30 hours of surgery in total. But, ever positive, the experience has made Clarke appreciate the people in her life all the more.
“It’s not how I would have chosen it, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” she says, adding that she has made peace with her decision and everything that has followed.
Clarke’s friends and family are in awe of her strength. “She has met each challenge with grace and a strength that I can’t even begin to imagine,” says friend Lucero Proudlock. “I am lucky to know her and I know that she will continue to inspire others with her tenacity and courage.”
“Natalie Barre is pure love and positivity. She shares her faith, courage, strength and hope with everyone she meets,” says Rose Hudson.
A married mother of two, Barre works as both teacher’s aide and health-care aide and feels fortunate to help people at the beginning and end of their lives.
Barre was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 31 years old. She underwent a mastectomy on the affected breast followed by chemo and radiation, only to be told she had cancer in her other breast and needed to start the process again. “It’s been eight years of ongoing challenges,” she says.
She shares her faith, courage, strength and hope with everyone she meets
Barre remained optimistic through it all and approached her treatment with a zealous determination. According to her, she was motivated to survive for the sake of her family.
“I have two beautiful children who need a mother, and a husband who married me for the rest of our lives – not just until I was 31,” she says. “I focused on moving forward and made decisions based on what would give me the most time with my kids.”
Barre urges women to know their bodies and be advocates for their health. She remains thankful for all she has, including her very life. “I’m grateful,” she says. “I’m so incredibly lucky that I get to see my children grow up, be with my husband and have jobs where I am needed. It’s such a gift.”
Teresa Philips is bursting with energy and enthusiasm. As a group fitness instructor, she makes exercise exciting and energizing for her students.
“Teaching fitness classes has been my passion for almost 30 years,” she says. “I’m not sure what I would do without it now.”
Philips was diagnosed with breast cancer last spring and had a lumpectomy in May 2015. After six weeks of recovery time post surgery, she went through six rounds of chemotherapy – one round every three weeks. “It took five to seven days to deal with the side effects [of the chemo] and two weeks to recover and strengthen my body to do it all over again,” she remembers
Phillips worked hard to stay healthy throughout her treatment and recovery, finding motivation in fitness and teaching.
The way she deals with life – even through a cancer diagnosis – has been nothing short of amazing
“Students kept telling me I was inspiring … and for me to go through chemo and still be on stage working out and teaching made them want to work that much harder,” she says. “But the real truth is they were inspiring me.”
A proud mother of two teenage boys, Philips is open about her cancer and wants to spark a dialogue. She eschews hats and a wig, so people will ask questions and give her the opportunity to speak to them about cancer. Her friends and family are in awe of her incredible outlook and strength.
“The way she deals with life – even through a cancer diagnosis – has been nothing short of amazing. She continues to remain upbeat, energetic and full of life,” says Jane LeBlanc.
Who is Tracy Work?
Tracy Work was a beautiful woman who lost her battle to breast cancer in 2011, months after being named a finalist of the Amazing Airdrie Women Awards. Her grace and dignity throughout her fight and her tenacious spirit in bringing the Relay for Life to Airdrie, is why we give the Amazing Courage Award in her memory. $5 from every ticket sold at the luncheon goes to the Airdrie Relay for Life in her honour.