KENTVILLE, NS - Faced with a life or death battle against cancer, she stayed positive and she overcame.
Tanya Marie Olscamp of Middleton was diagnosed in November 2016 with aggressive breast cancer. The single parent of two had a local embroidery shop make her a hat with the word “Overcomer” on it for when she began chemotherapy treatments.
This gave her a sense of empowerment that she wanted to share with others. After her friends expressed that they wanted “Team Tanya” and “Overcomer” hats too, she decided to launch the “Hats for Courage Campaign.”
The goal was to raise $2,000 to purchase 200 “Overcomer” hats to give to chemotherapy patients at Valley Regional Hospital. For every hat that was sold, one was purchased for a chemo patient. The campaign received support from as far away as California.
The campaign was a success and Olscamp overcame her cancer. She was able to purchase in excess of 200 hats, which were delivered to the cancer patient navigator and the oncology team leader on Nov. 30. She also gave some to fellow patients during her treatments and some went to chemo patients in other parts of the country.
Olscamp said there couldn’t have been a more appropriate time to deliver the hats, knowing that she had just had her last oncology appointment. It provided a sense of closure. She said her heart was filled with love in that moment and she felt “amazing.”
“It’s been an incredible year. The hats were part of this whole journey for me,” Olscamp said. “It was something that I could put my mind into, my heart into, and it helped so much in terms of keeping my mind positive and just keeping the positive in this journey.”
Every patient an ‘overcomer’
She said each chemotherapy treatment was like a mountain to overcome. Every person who gets through a treatment is an overcomer and she wanted to share that positive message with everyone else going through treatments, regardless of the individual prognosis.
Olscamp said she knows the hats are going where they’re meant to go, keeping patients warm during chemo treatments and helping to empower them. So many go through the journey feeling isolated and alone.
“What I also hope for each patient who receives one is that they’ll know that they’re loved because the amount of love that went into collecting these hats by the donations and the community was incredible,” she said.
Olscamp credits her faith with helping her keep such a positive attitude during her battle against cancer. She had an “inner knowing” that the experience would be so much more than a physical journey for her: it would be a spiritual journey as well.
She said she decided to love the cancer cells in her body with the hope that they would go away and she believes this has happened. Olscamp woke up every morning telling her self that she was cancer free, that she was healing easily and effortlessly and that she was going to live a long life.
“I never got out of bed before I finished saying those things to myself,” she said.
Attitude 90 per cent of battle
Cancer patient navigator Dianna Hutt said it was amazing that Olscamp was consistently thinking of others throughout her journey to overcome cancer. They met after Olscamp called her and said that she wanted to raise money to buy Overcomer hats for chemotherapy patients at Valley Regional. The selfless act greatly impressed Hutt.
“90 per cent of the battle is attitude and her positivity, she had a smile everyday she came in for treatments,” Hutt said. “It rubbed off on the patients sitting around her and how could they not smile too. She just brought joy with her every time she came.”
Hutt said the hats look great and carry an important message but they’re also very practical. The fact that Olscamp included a short write-up with each of the donated hats makes the gifts even more special.
Registered nurse Cathy Hale, oncology team leader, said it’s been “totally amazing” watching Olscamp overcome cancer. She said they always learn from their patients and Olscamp has inspired them with the compassion she has demonstrated. She said the patients would love the hats.
“The support from each other, the patients, it just means so much to them,” Hale said.
Olscamp “an inspiration”
Rachel MacLean said she and Olscamp have been great friends since she was First Lady in Waiting during Olscamp’s time as Queen Annapolisa the 60th. MacLean was on hand to witness the hat delivery.
MacLean said Olscamp’s mindset was that she was going to get through the ordeal looking, feeling and being healthy. At the same time, she expressed concern for everyone else. MacLean said Olscamp is an inspiration.
“There is certainly enough evidence in the power of positivity,” MacLean said. “It can do really big things.”
She said it was wonderful to see the “Hats for Courage Campaign” snowball. MacLean was very happy to be there as Olscamp delivered the hats following her friend’s final oncology appointment. She said it was incredible to see Olscamp looking so vibrant.