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'I get up and live'

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No matter what your situation or circumstance - grab life by the horns and live it. Those are words that define Virginia Armstrong.

The Tillsonburg resident is a cancer survivor who is living life to the fullest.

“I really feel fantastic. I haven’t felt this good probably in about three or four years,” said Armstrong, executive director of the Tillsonburg Business Improvement Area (BIA). “Coming through all this, I eat healthier now and I’ve dropped 32 pounds not from being sick, it’s from better food choices.”

Armstrong was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2011, had surgery in January 2012 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation in the following months. She finished all treatments in June 2012 and is approaching her one-year cancer-free anniversary date.

“I think having several family members that have been through this, I’ve gained strength - they’ve been there to support me,” she said. “I live because of those who have gone before me - through their strength and their support.”

Being diagnosed with cancer and fighting the battle hasn’t stopped Armstrong from enjoying a full and satisfying life.

“When I was diagnosed, I was always of the mindset that it is was it is – deal with it and let’s get on with life,” she said. “I don’t have time to sit around and mope about it, I get up every morning with my feet hitting the floor running and moving forward.”

And her life is an example of just that. Recently, Armstrong returned to the Ontario BIA conference in Toronto and was chosen for the first time as an executive member.

“I was elected to the provincial board as a director,” said Armstrong. “Which is really exciting.”

The cancer survivor said she wasn’t going to let the diagnosis or disease get her down. “I’m not going to sit and be depressed about it because I have good days and I’m enjoying them. I’ve been travelling and working - I worked all through my chemo, I was fortunate I could do that.”

In addition, Armstrong has continued her duties as president of Tillsonburg Community Living, has been involved with the Lake Lisgar Revitalization Project as a committee member and looking forward to the annual Relay for Life this June.

“Last year when I did Relay for Life it was two days after my last chemo (treatment), so when I was at the relay last year I was in a wheelchair,” said Armstrong. “I was able to be in a wheelchair and be there with my family and friends and support the relay.”

This year, Armstrong will be taking on a much bigger, more active role in the annual fundraising event.

“I was asked by the Tillsonburg Relay for Life team to be their guest speaker, and I’m very honoured to be chosen to do that.”

Armstrong sees this role as an opportunity to encourage people of all ages, who may be living with and fighting cancer themselves.

“My big thing is humour, and I think you have to look at life on the humorous side of things and you have to look for the funny things.

“When I was doing chemo there was a lady there that was diagnosed and she was terminally ill, but her and her friend – we would sit there and just laugh, and laugh and laugh. We had really good times believe it or not, having chemo.

“I know some of those people, perhaps they’re not here now but they’re looking down on us, and those days that they had left – they made the most of them. I think that’s what we all have to do.”

Armstrong’s focus has been all about perspective and her approach to life and every situation in it.

“It’s how you look at it - I always said that we don’t know from one day to the next where we’re going to be or if we’re going to be here tomorrow - whether it’s cancer or whether it’s something else.”

She encourages everyone to live life for the moment, to it’s fullest and be grateful for each day that we are given.

“I don’t sit there and say oh my goodness I’m going to Toronto on the weekend I might die on the 401,” said Armstrong. “And I don’t sit there and say oh my God I had cancer and I might die – I don’t do that.

“I get up and I live.”

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