Cancer wasn’t going to be her story.
Breast cancer ran in Sandra Jones’ family. Her mother had it the first time when she was 40, and her grandmother died of it when her mother was young.
“I got to be in my 50s and thought, ‘Oh, dodged that bullet, it’s not my story’,” she said.
Then she found a lump.
Jones has worked for the Prince Rupert School District since 1982 and she was officially named the superintendent of the district in 2013. Before coming to the North Coast, she was teaching high school in Australia, where she was born and raised.
In Prince Rupert, she had the lump checked out, and it was cancer. She considers herself lucky to be able to stay in the regional hospital for most of the treatment. As a patient, she would sit in on teleconferences with team of doctors from Prince George who would break down exactly what kind of breast cancer it was.
“First I had a small surgery. Right away the difference between what my mom and my grandmother experienced was amazing because my mom had a radical mastectomy, which was the treatment of the day. It was very invasive and difficult and required a long recovery period and I had a tiny lumpectomy,” Jones said.
The treatments were tailored to her particular cancer.
“So everyone’s cancer is different, even in breast cancer, and people think cancer is cancer and whatever, and it’s not,” Jones said.
The most common forms of breast cancer is in the milk ducts, glands or lobules. But by observing a section of the tumour through a microscope a pathologist can note the differences.
Jones went through chemotherapy in Prince Rupert, which allowed her to go to work most days. Occasionally she had to take a day off. When she went through the second round of chemo it took five hours to administer and naturally she missed work on those days.
“Sometimes I’d have a board meeting that night and I’d go to the board meeting,” she said, acknowledging how hardcore that was.
At the school district meetings the only thing she requested was that she would not be filmed. She would offer a sound bite but there was no way she was going on camera with no hair.
The timing and location of her treatments fit right into Jones’ busy work schedule. Over the summer, she went to Vancouver for a month to get radiation.
“I did that and then I’m back and recovered,” she said with a smile.
All this happened last year. If someone only just met Jones they wouldn’t be able to tell. She is already back into running and setting goals for herself.
Jones said the whole experience was relatively easy and she was grateful for all the kindness from people in the community while she was going through it.
But cancer isn’t her story. She knows it may recur and she will keep an eye on that.
“I know many other people who have had cancer that are much more invasive and much more tragic and difficult and my journey was a fortunate one and fortunate because there’s been great research into many cancers, and particularly breast cancer. It changes all the time. There is so much more knowledge now,” she said.
She had a team in the Relay For Life event once, a long time ago when she was the principal of Charles Hays Secondary School and she donates to people who have teams.
Last year, she went to the relay and walked for a few laps but she’s more of a quiet supporter. This year she is supporting her colleague, Sheryl Sadorski, and her team’s efforts in raising money and rallying the community to be a part of the event.
“I’m grateful to them. I feel that in some small way my recovery is due to people like that.”