The Joy of Cancer – Olga Munari Assaly & Kim Mecca
iUniverse 2012

One summer Wednesday night, a little over a year ago, a woman walked into our Pointe-Claire Toastmasters Club as a guest and instantly changed the aura of the room. Her effervescence, her poise, and her clear blue beautiful eyes radiated strength and confidence and determination that I would come to think of as the ‘Olga Factor’. That was my first meeting with Olga Munari Assaly.

She had come to practice her skills as a speaker, especially in English, as her mother tongue was French and she was expanding her horizons. Over the months that went by, we learned that Olga was preparing to put out a book about her cancer experience. Since I had my first book published the year before, I was excited for my new friend. If the book was anything like her personality, then for sure it would be dynamic. Being mostly French, Olga solicited the help of Kim Mecca to help her write it. This book reflects Kim as an artist coming into her own as a painter of Olga’s story. While it is true that Olga offers a rich palette of colour and experience for which to paint with, Kim’s choices of texture, shadow and light, were her own, and she captured Olga essence with mastery. Olga’s story is one that anyone facing a hardship should sit down and read in one sitting.

The title, The Joy of Cancer, is as bold and challenging as Olga herself. I can only imagine the certain percentage of people out there that will react to the title with emotions ranging from astonishment to anger. But Olga is unapologetic, and those of you who venture through her story will hopefully understand that it could not have been named anything else. To quote Chuck Swindoll - “Life is 10% of What Happens to Me and 90% of How I React to It” That may be more acceptable than the more vernacular “shit happens”, but both quotes make it quite clear that life has its unexpected turns and if you are not prepared to steer those curves, you may crash and burn before your time. Olga had no intentions of doing so.

As Kim recounts, this woman who had spent most of her life in self-doubt and insecurity took her diagnosis of cancer and spun it around her like a chrysalis, and then emerged as a transformed butterfly.

Those of you, who would contend that the title might have been different if the cancer treatment didn’t go well, would be missing the point. It was not the end result that brought the joy, rather the journey of self-discovery Olga yearned for her wings and refused the diagnosis of caterpillar.

She took charge of her treatment and understood that the doctors were wise facilitators of her treatment, not in charge of her destiny.

This is the story of a woman, whom, while still undergoing treatment, walked in The Weekend to End Breast Cancer. Not only did she walk in it, but managed to become the biggest fund raiser for the event. This once self-effacing individual gave the opening address to the event, and then did radio and television appearances, and became a major force in the awareness of breast cancer in Montreal.

This story is well crafted by Kim Mecca, and as she recounts her own personal loss of a friend to the same disease, Olga came along, I believe to give her the chance to honour her friend and Olga at the same time by telling Olga’s story with compassion, reverence, and a dash of pride.

While this is a book may seem to be about cancer, it is not. It is about what happens when any major adversity hits you. The decisions you make, the attitude you foster, and your choice to win or lose are all up to you. It is a book about love and family, support. The journey that Olga took, she did not take alone, and her children and husband, Leonard, travelled with her. They all made choices. The right choices can transform you; the wrong ones can slay you. The Joy of Cancer is a book about making the right choices.

Author's Bio: 

Phil L. Méthot is a Montreal writer, speaker, and NLP Practitioner. His first book is "Through the Door!" :A Journey to the Self