Just a little personal story about Tuula Opheim I’d like to share with The Journal readers.
In May of 2007 I was diagnosed with renal cancer. It was the kind of shock that brings tears instant and a rush of anxiety. But Dr. Stewart of Kamloops assured me, that my chances of survival to live another day were good. The tumour in my left kidney, though quite large, had not yet spread to the surrounding tissue. Three weeks later, the good doctor was able to advise that “it’s gone”. The recovery period was long. At least it was for me. I have always been a physically active person and lying in bed gazing for weeks at the olive tree outside the bedroom window, drove me crazy. Finally, with energy still not quite up to snuff, I decided to get up and do something. That is where Tuula stepped into my life.
She asked me to write for The Journal on a freelance basis. Suggested I do some sidewalk interviews, articles. When she wanted to publish a special issue on cancer survivors, she asked me to do some sleuthing and find them. I spoke to a couple of survivors, but they decided they did not want to make their cancer experience public. Still, I was able to find four survivors, including myself, and The Journal subsequently published the special. Some time after the publication, Tuula called me. Told me how delighted she was with the cancer surviver special.
This is how she put it: “I’m over the moon!”
This is not a business where you get a pat on the back too often. If at all. But Tuula’s encouragement sustained me through that recovery period. But it wasn’t just the cancer edition, it was the general way Tuula treated people. Some people can do that. She always made you feel special. When Sherman and I married in December of that fateful year, Tuula came to the wedding.
When a good and vibrant person like Tuula dies so young, you feel a pang of sorrow. I feel it as I write this letter.
Esther Darlington MacDonald