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Optimistic • Reilient • Dependable

Her Story

Michelle Thornton

Deputy Treasurer / IT Coordinator – Township of Selwyn , Treasurer – Survivors Abreast Peterborough, Chair – Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival – 2018

Michelle's Story

Hmmm…this is hard.

I guess to start, I can tell you I’ve been married to my teenage summer love for 34 years.

I am grateful to be a mom to an amazing daughter and son, and I am so proud and happy to be gramma/namma to four precious grandchildren.

I work full time as Deputy Treasurer/IT Coordinator at the Township of Selwyn.

I love sunflowers, they make me smile and I think smiling is important.

I’m a fixer and a pleaser and a worrier.

I try not to give up on anything which could also mean I’m stubborn. I’m a big picture thinker and a multi-tasker. I sometimes overestimate how much I can get done, which pushes me to do more. I’m generous with my time and it’s hard for me to say no. Speaking up makes me nervous but I push myself to do it even if my voice shakes. I am very honoured to be included in this project. I am also an introvert so doing this is quite challenging for me.

On the other hand, challenges can be good.

Challenges make us do things that we don’t think we can. They make us learn and stretch and grow and be vulnerable. They break down barriers and remind us that we are all the same. They make us appreciate what we have. When we rise up and face our challenges, it can be rewarding and empowering.

One of my biggest challenges came late in the summer of 2014 when I heard the words “you have breast cancer”.

Although what I had was described as aggressive and even sneaky, I was super fortunate that thanks to regular screening, my diagnosis was caught in very early stages. Because of that, a mastectomy was the extent of my treatment and my prognosis and outcome have been very positive.

When the universe talks, you need to listen.

Soon after my surgery, the universe spoke to me, 3 times in one day.

It told me that I should check out Survivors Abreast Peterborough, our local dragon boat team made up of breast cancer survivors.

I had barely wrapped my head around how my life and body had changed, let alone being referred to as a survivor when I attended my first meeting just 6 weeks post-surgery. I was immediately inspired by this feisty yet compassionate group, and I sensed that there was an unspoken bond between them. I knew that at any given time you could call on any one of them. I signed up that night.

The following June I paddled in my first Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival.

The day had an amazing vibe to it and I remember standing there and being awestruck as I connected the dots. I realized that it was largely due to this annual event, and all of the generous people involved, that our hospital has such a well-equipped and well run breast assessment centre…the centre that diagnosed me. I knew I needed to be involved, even if it meant stepping out of my comfort zone.

Soon after, I got more involved with the team and was elected to the Survivors Abreast board of directors. I currently serve as Treasurer.

I also worked with the PRHC Foundation as an advocate for the campaign to fundraise for 3 digital mammography machines.

This past June, I chaired the 2018 Peterborough’s Dragon Boat Festival and I must say it has been one of my most rewarding experiences. Although chairing meetings, and speaking in public or to the media has really made me push the boundaries of my comfort zone, I got through it by reminding myself that the cause is more important than my comfort. The festival has also taught me the importance of community and volunteering… even when you “don’t have the time”. I look forward to chairing again in 2019.

As I approach my 4-year “cancer free” anniversary, I can’t help but reflect back and appreciate how my life has been enriched by the many remarkable people I have met, the new friendships I have made and the wonderful experiences I have enjoyed over the last few years…and that also makes me smile!