PELHAM – Doreen Leadley has terminal bone and lung cancer, but the 53-year old mother of four says she is going to fight the disease to the bitter end.
“My year is up in July and there is no way I’m going to die . . . . I know that and the Lord knows that,” she says.
As she sits in her favorite spot and gazes at the tranquil setting of the Niagara Escarpment, she says: “I accept what I have because the Lord has a lot more in store for me.”
Leadley’s doctor informed her last August that she had terminal lung and bone cancer and that it would be unlikely she would see another summer.
Since then, she has devoted her time to bible study and performing various church duties.
A devout Christian, Leadley says she could never have been able to accept her illness without the help, support and companionship of her family and congregation.
“When I was first diagnosed I said to myself ‘why did you do this to me Lord’ but he told me through prayer that I would find out,” she says. “There are a lot of people out there who have been helped by my illness. This is not a tragedy but a blessing because of my positive outlook and attitude,” says Ledley, as she joins her thin boney hands in silent prayer.
“Did you know that I was a size 18 before my cancer and even that was a bit tight for me,” she says.
Today, Leadley is a petite size six.
When the pain becomes too intense to endure with mediation Leadley travels to McMaster-Chedoke Hospital in Hamilton for radiation and pain treatments.
‘there is no way I’m going to die.’
Before these trips, Leadley was taking more than 30 pills per day – mostly morphine – to ease the intense pain.
“It costs about $500 per month for the prescription drugs that I now take,” she says.
Even though she accepts death as part of life, she says she will miss the little things that make life worth living.
“If my life is shortened it is for a good reason. My husband and I have had a wonderful life together and I will really miss him and I will miss the moment when my two children have their children.”
She says she has been blessed to know how much time she does have to live because it has allowed her to visit, comfort and talk to those she loves.
“I have thrown my love where I have wanted to and talked to those people that I will miss most dearly. I tell my husband how lucky we really are that I have time and opportunity very few people have.
“There are a lot of people killed instantly in car accidents who will not be able to say goodbye to their loved ones. I was thrilled to death to have this time to prepare myself.”
Dorie Ellen Leadley, Doreen’s youngest daughter, says, “You always hear about it happening to other people. You can either accept it and make the best of a bad situation or crawl into a hole and hide.”
Tragedy is nothing new to the Leadleys.
‘I will Miss the little things’
“I had to break the news about my cancer to my oldest daughter right after the funeral of her sister-in-law’s baby daughter. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” says the intrepid woman.
Today, she weights only 88 pounds. She doesn’t appear strong enough to perform daily tasks, but her strong mental will and determination counters her physical impotence.
She spends most of her time making crafts or watching birds, wolves and foxes run freely along the escarpment from the sun porch of her Killman Road home. Her newest project is designing the center piece for Dorie Ellen’s wedding.
“It is not the receiving of gifts but the making and giving them away to people is the enjoyment,” she says.
“I enjoy giving and I have a lot of love in my heart to give to people. I couldn’t have lasted as long as I have without the church praying for me. We have prayer groups all over North America praying for me.”
She says her final wish is to die in her own house, listening to the birds sing, feeling the sun’s warmth on her face, and hearing the fresh water creek flow freely in the background – for that last time.
“I pray every day that I can spend my remaining days in my sun room overlooking the escarpment because I love the outdoors and I loved to camp.”