Rethink Remembers: Jaspreet Dhindsa-Sidhu
December 09, 1983 – July 27, 2018
Your passing makes me so sad. As I attempt to find the right words to honour you, there’s a giant lump in my throat because I can see your beautiful smile, hear your laugh and even feel a bit of your lovely energy as I write. I know you saved your dark moods and feelings for your raw and real blog posts that shared the dirty details of your disease and were so cathartic for you. Whenever we met, you felt compelled to put on a brave, positive face and give me a big warm smile and an even bigger warm hug. I wish I had been able to give you one last hug back. This will be your hug from me.
Thank you, Jaspreet, for giving so much to our charity and to the breast cancer community, especially those with metastatic breast cancer. I remember your first official foray into advocacy when you signed up to participate in our workshop in March 2017 to explore the importance of the voices and values of metastatic breast cancer patients. You were trekking in from outside of Toronto and you had to join the meeting a little late. Introductions had begun and we were going around the room discussing all the issues around delays in accessing innovative cancer medicines in Canada. Some of the women at the meeting were highly experienced “metsters” and knew a lot about how the drug approval system worked. You went last and said something like, “This is all pretty new to me. You ladies sound like you know a lot about advocacy so just sign me up and tell me what I need to do. I want to help.”
And help you did! I saw you transform from determined rookie to powerhouse advocate in a matter of months. You were always up for sharing your story through your blog and ours, taking on media interviews and speaking engagements to help the public understand the unique and unmet needs of women with metastatic breast cancer and helping other women with metastatic breast cancer feel less alone. You achieved the tricky balance of explaining the challenges and urgency of the situation and also showing that metastatic women are “living” with their disease. Yesterday I revisited all the pictures on your website in the “bucket list” section, those posts always inspired me so much.
Jaspreet, we are forever grateful that you lent your face and story to our #mbcinthedark advocacy campaign last fall. None of us could have anticipated just how much your face would be shared and re-shared all over social media but it worked. You helped motivate almost 10,000 Canadians to take action and sign our petition, send thousands of follow up emails to the government and even book meetings with their local representatives. Your health prevented you from being at Queen’s Park in person last October with 40 other metastatic advocates as we filled the viewing gallery and later worked a room full of politicians, presenting our petition. But you were so with us that day. You should know we are making progress in our demands for more transparency and accountable deadlines for new innovative cancer drugs to be accessible in Canada and you were a vital part of much-needed change. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Now I’m thinking of your truly special husband, Mikey—the gentle giant, always quietly, tenderly by your side when you came out to Rethink events. And, of course I’m thinking of your beautiful sisters championing your efforts. And your dad and brother. All your family and close friends. It must be such a loss for them that there simply aren’t words for. My heart broke a little when I read in one of your blog posts that you had a special relationship with your younger brother because he was quite young when your mother passed away and you became a surrogate mother to him. I know you were devastated that your metastatic breast cancer meant you would never to be a mother yourself and that your bond with him helped ease that loss a little bit. I could also tell from pictures that you were the best aunt ever to your nieces and nephews. And I also know you would have been a wonderful mother because my own daughter was so drawn to your energy the times she met you. You certainly had a way of being that touched people.
When we first met, we bonded over both being “motherless daughters” having each lost our moms in our early 20s, me to breast cancer and you to a tragic accident. You sometimes joked that a silver lining to your health situation was that you would get to see your mom sooner rather than later. Bittersweet jokes. I know you and your mom are holding each other now and I see you smiling in her embrace.
Rest in peace, Jaspreet.