Updated: May 31, 2018
Gabrielle Fecteau is a young adult cancer thriver diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in
June of 2015 at the age of 19. Two years later, she remains active in the cancer
community through her podcast and blog Soar Above Cancer, Instagram as well as
through her studies as a Master of Social Work student specializing in oncology.
I made it very clear before the drive to my radiation therapy treatment that day, that I
was going to blast music in the car—just loud enough for talking to be made impossible.
Really, I was having a very bad day emotionally. They were an occasional thing since my cancer diagnosis. These days consisted of overwhelming emotions surfacing too quickly for me to deal with them.
I was receiving my treatments at The Ottawa Hospital. Luckily, my parents, who lived in
my hometown some 800 km away, were able to take turns staying with me in my
Ottawa apartment. That week, my father was the one caring for me. He cooked my
meals and helped me run errands. More importantly, he brought me to my treatments
That specific day started out like all the other week days that month, I woke up, got
ready and eventually left for work. However, throughout my work day, my anxiety, my
frustrations and, ultimately, my madness heightened.
It was routine that I go to the gym between the end of my work day and the time we left
for my radiation treatment. During that gym session I was trying to work out all of the
anger I felt towards life and cancer and everything else by lifting the five-pound dumb
bells I had worked my way up to since the end of chemotherapy.
When I got home, I was disappointed that my tactics had not quite worked. I was still
anxious, frustrated and mad.
Unfortunately, I unintentionally redirected my madness towards my father. This left us in
the car, on some 20 minutes or so drive, with me refusing to speak.
In the waiting room, it was very clear my mood had not improved. I sat down to work on
an ongoing communal puzzle in silence. When someone spoke to me, I would only
answer in short sarcastic sentences.
Fast-forward through the treatment and dead silent drive back home, I declared to my
father that I was going to be watching a show in my room for the next little bit. As
dramatic as I was that day, I pretty much slammed my bedroom door shut — a clear sign
that I was not to be disturbed.
All these events left me sitting on my bed, watching some Netflix show I was binge
watching at the time. My heart was beating quickly and my thoughts were casting some
dark shadows on my otherwise good life.
I hate this feeling! I remember thinking. Just make it stop. I begged.
As I quite absentmindedly watched my show, I began to hear a sound. It sounded like
someone rubbing their nails on their jeans (a sound I absolutely hate by the way).
Maybe some scratching?
And it seemed to come from inside the wall. An animal scratching the wall maybe?
Of course not! That would be crazy.
I went back to watching my show. That is, until I heard it again. I quickly paused my
show to listen. Nothing.
The third time I heard the noise, I stopped my show and listened. I heard it.
It was definitely a living entity scratching from inside the wall.
A quick glance around my room reassured me that they weren’t getting in anytime soon.
Still, I needed help to deal with these living things!
Fortunately, my father was in the next room — but I had been horrible to him that day.
Slowly, I went over to where he worked. I quietly said, “Pa, je t’aime ! ” (Pa, I love you).
He looked up.
As I explained what I believed was in my wall, scratching away, he cracked a smile and
said: “So, now you need my help!”
I quickly apologized and we cracked down on fixing the issue — at least ensuring that
they could not enter the apartment.
What did I learn that day? First, my bad day doesn’t have to be everyone else’s bad
day. Second, humour is the best medicine. This continues to be one of my favourite
cancer stories. It shows that cancer life is weirdly hard and good at the same time. To
this day, this story makes me smile on my bad days, ironic.