Survival is a subjective experience determined by how an individual perceives the challenges in their life. A person can survive the first day on a job, holidays at the in-laws, a perilous trek through the mountains, or a debilitating disease.
Sheryl Sadorski-Gordon is a survivor. She survived living in remote areas of British Columbia. She survived grad school and received a master’s degree in special education. She survived online dating and found a keeper. She survives the weather in Prince Rupert… and she is surviving cancer.
Raised in Kamloops, Sadorski-Gordon has taught all over rural B.C. She spent years in Lytton then moved to Fort St. James to teach on the Tachie reserve where she found nothing but respect.
“When I worked at Tachie I got a knock on the door and I had two hind quarters and a calf moose, they’re like, ‘here teacher’,” she said breaking into laughter. “I didn’t even know what to do with it.”
Seven years ago Sadorski-Gordon moved to Prince Rupert after meeting her husband, Dave Gordon, online while she was in Tachie. The eight hour travel time between them was too much. Once when she came to visit him she found a job at the school district and moved to the city of rainbows.
In Prince Rupert, she took a scholarship opportunity to specialize as a teacher for students with visual impairments. She studied at the University of British Columbia and then became a learning services teacher, a vice principal at Prince Rupert Middle School and the district vision teacher.
“I was one of the first in UBC to actually go to Washington and do my practicum at the Washington State School for the Blind, which was an awesome experience,” she said.
For now, Sadorski-Gordon is taking leave from work.
In June 2014, she was diagnosed with stage one cervical cancer, which should have been a walk in the park as far as cancers go. She went for surgery to get the tumour removed but the cancer spread and another tumour developed.
“Within about six weeks it grew from five cm to 10 cm — it was the size of a baseball,” she said. She had to leave her family for two months to get a mix of chemo and radiation treatment at a cancer facility in Kelowna.
But three months after returning to Prince Rupert the cancer spread again and moved into stage four. She opted for chemotherapy treatments at the regional hospital so she could stay at home with her family.
“I had a 50-50 chance of slowing down my cancer. It’s not curable but after three sessions of chemo all my tumours are gone — they can’t find them. It was the best case scenario,” she said. She is cautiously optimistic and handles her situation with humour and compassion.
For Christmas, she decided to give experiences to her children instead of material presents. Her son, Jacob, 11, plays goalie and is a massive fan of Carey Price from the Montreal Canadiens. Sadorski-Gordon wrote everyone she could think of: TSN, SportsNet, Don Cherry, the Calgary Flames and the Habs team, requesting for her son to meet with Price at a game.
Her persistence paid off — the Habs wrote her back. When Sadorski-Gordon travelled to Calgary to watch a Flames vs. Habs game she surprised Jacob with a one-on-one meet and greet with Price who handed him a signed goalie stick that is now mounted on his bedroom wall.
“For me and my son, the first time we’ve every been speechless was the day we met Carey Price. It was pretty awesome,” she said.
Now she’s working on fulfilling an experience for her daughter, Emily, nine, who also loves hockey. “I have a lot to live up to this time,” she said with another full body laugh. They’re planning a trip to see the women’s world hockey championship in Kamloops.
Another project Sadorski-Gordon has embraced is her Relay For Life team: “Too Inspired to be Tired: Sheryl’s Warriors”. Last year, there were 22 people on the team and they took the golden baton for raising the most money after Judy Scott, Sadorski-Gordon’s sister-in-law’s mother, donated $7,000.
The relay is held in May but the team is already rounding the troops and has raised $2,300 with an auction fundraiser planned for Feb. 20 at The Crest Hotel. The commitment to the cause this year is even more dedicated. Scott was diagnosed with a rare form of gastric cancer in September and passed away three weeks later.
“We’ve done a lot of fundraising. It was part of our grieving process, my sister-in-law and I. It was just our way of dealing with things,” she said as her voice cracked, letting a few tears loose.
The air of heaviness lifted once Sadorski-Gordon switched her focus on the importance of the Relay For Life. For her the event is not only about raising money for cancer research and supporting families, it also creates camaraderie and she can share her motivation with others. “You cherish every day you’ve got. Life’s short and you spend as much time with your family and friends,” she said.