“ Hang in there, take one step at a time, keep informed and most importantly, listen to your heart and the loved one who has been diagnosed.
Lorna Larsen is another international mAss Kicker from Canada! We met her in Austin, Texas years ago and have stayed in touch. Lorna is a registered nurse and health promotion specialist with over 30 years of public health experience in the province of Ontario. Primarily in Family Health, Lorna has worked in all regions of the province for both local public health units and the provincial government retiring as Senior Nursing Consultant for Reproductive and Child Health with the Ministry of Health Promotion. Lorna brings her public health and senior management expertise to her role as President of Team Shan Breast Cancer Awareness for Young Women (Team Shan). Team Shan is a national Canadian charity dedicated to educating young women about their breast cancer risk and breast health. Team Shan’s mission is to educate the public, health care professionals and young women about early detection, risk reduction and prevention of breast cancer. Lorna has published and presented on the issue of breast cancer in young women in multiple conference and college campus venues. She has coordinated numerous community and post secondary campus awareness campaigns across central and western Canada. We are very honored to feature her on our website.
mK: Thanks for doing this Lorna! First question… how did your daughter find out about her diagnosis?
LL: Shan’s symptoms were repeatedly misdiagnosed by medical professionals. They were not looking for cancer in an otherwise healthy, active young woman. The breast cancer had time to spread and she was informed that she had cancer when a liver function test came back abnormal and a bone scan confirmed the diagnosis. As a mother, what you fear the most, but never think will happen, becomes a reality. The reality was devastating and life changed in the instant. As a mother and a nurse, I hoped Shan could be treated and have some time.
mK: Why did you start Team Shan?
LL: Team Shan was created to make a difference for young women following in Shan’s footsteps. We wanted to fill a gap in breast cancer awareness and education for young women, increase early detection and help improve outcomes for young women diagnosed with breast cancer. I am proud to say that we are realizing these goals!
mK: What motivates you?
LL: My passion is motivated by Shan, her love of life and dream to teach. Through Team Shan her spirit continues to teach. I am also motivated by the young women who have been diagnosed early because of Shan’s Story and Team Shan messaging. Young women, who were diagnosed early, completed their treatments and have been able to get on with their lives.
mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
LL: My grandson! He gives me the strength to carry on, to stay grounded and optimistic about the future. In my eyes, young adult advocates are also heroes.
mK: Totally agree! Let’s get to know you better… What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
LL: Friends and colleagues make me laugh through ordinary life experiences. The loss of young lives and missing Shan make me cry. On the lighter side, bag pipes and singing Oh Canada also make me cry. Weaknesses in the health care system, political indifference and ill-informed media professionals make me angry.
mK: What is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
LL: The fear of cancer coming back. In my experience, getting their next test results seems to be the toughest challenge for survivors.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
LL: I enjoy a glass of wine or single malt whiskey. Not a guilty pleasure, but time with nature is one of my greatest pleasures.
mK: Getting away from the hustle and bustle recharges you! OK, here’s a hypothetical question for ya… If time travel were possible, what one event would you like to go back and change?
LL: The time when I spoke to our family physician about my concern regarding Shan and her symptoms. I would go back and ask the question ‘Could this be cancer?’
mK: What are is next on your agenda?
LL: To write and hopefully publish the health promotion research Team Shan has conducted on breast cancer awareness and education for young women over the past eight years.
mK: Very cool! Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
LL: Hang in there, take one step at a time, keep informed and most importantly, listen to your heart and the loved one who has been diagnosed.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
LL: I am pretty open about who I am in the cancer world. People may not know that losing a child from cancer and working hard to get through the grief also makes us survivors. You never get over the loss, but you can learn to live again in a new normal.
Personally, from time to time, the ocean calls me and I need to hear the surf and smell the sea air. I think the call reflects my Scandinavian heritage, but it also nourishes my soul.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
LL: Keep on kicking mAss!!
Lorna Larsen: Scandinavian nature lover, “sea-air sniffer”, whiskey and wine connoisseur, world traveler, “emotional bag-pipe listener”, proud Canadian, passionate young breast cancer patient advocate, and great friend. Check the Team Shan website to see what they are up to… Thanks again for sharing your passion and we look forward to collaborating in the future!