Like so many people, Valerie Cousins took up walking to be active. One day she felt a pain in her right leg, similar to an IT band injury. Valerie was treated by a physiotherapist and two sports physicians, but the pain kept getting worse.
Her doctor eventually sent her for an ultrasound and then an x-ray. In December 2014, wheelchair-bound from the extreme pain, Valerie met with an orthopedic surgeon at The Ottawa Hospital. He told her that the breast cancer she had been treated for in 2005 was now in both femurs and her left hip, and left her bones in danger of serious fractures.
“The shock for me was that I was having a great life and didn’t feel ill at all,” says Valerie, who lives in Ottawa. “It didn’t feel like anything but too much exercise. No one had connected the dots.”
Valerie was scheduled for the first of two surgeries within four days.
“My son, husband and I were so devastated. I didn’t know if I wanted to go through with the surgery,” recalls Valerie. “The surgeon at The Ottawa Hospital convinced me otherwise.”
During the first surgery, a titanium rod was inserted through the middle of her right femur from the hip to the knee. Less than two months later, Valerie underwent partial hip replacement and the insertion of a titanium rod in her left femur.
“I’m a very optimistic person normally, but I just didn’t see a mobile future for me,” says Valerie. “If you saw me today, you wouldn’t know I had anything wrong with my legs. It’s just amazing; I walk really, really well.”
Although her surgeries were successful, her battle isn’t over yet.
“My only sadness is that it couldn’t cure the disease,” says Valerie, who is currently undergoing treatment at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre for cancer in her spine, rib and pelvis.
Retired from a career in corporate communications, Valerie now owns a small publishing company that works mainly with local writers. She is also researching and writing a novel about the experience of women in Ontario during the First World War. It should come as no surprise that Valerie is a proponent of research.
“The statistics for women getting breast cancer is appalling and outrageous, and many of those women will get it in their bones,” she says. “Any way that bone cancer research can keep people mobile and independent is a huge benefit to society. And bone cancer is excruciating; who wouldn’t want to relieve someone of that?”