One day at a time

The guest speaker at this year’s “Luncheon of Hope” was Rainy River District Breast Health Network chairperson Teresa Hazel.
Hazel gave a moving address in tribute to her mother, Margaret Morelli, who died of breast cancer in 1990 after battling the disease for seven years.
“I really viewed my mother as a pioneer of breast cancer awareness,” she told the large crowd on hand Saturday at La Place Rendez-Vous.
Morelli was diagnosed in 1983—two years before the Riverside Breast Education Program was established here. The program is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
“You should be very proud of what you’ve done so far and what you continue to do,” Hazel said.
She reflected on what her parents and family went through during her mother’s illness when she was only a “self-centered teenager.”
“I didn’t think about the pain and emotional distress she and my father must have been going through,” she remarked. “I learned a lot about faith through my mom.”
Besides the pain and grief, Hazel said there were good times, too.
“When my mom lost her hair to chemo, she didn’t like wigs so she wore a turban,” she explained.
One evening, a group of her mother’s friends threw a party for her—and they all showed up in bright, colourful turbans.
“It was a great night of laughter and tears,” Hazel said.
Despite chemotherapy and two mastectomies, Margaret Morelli passed away Aug. 22, 1990—on a night when the northern lights were dancing in the sky.
“I’ll never forget the peace that filled the hospital room that night,” Hazel said.
Since then, the number 22 has re-appeared frequently in her life.
“You can imagine my delight when I realized today’s luncheon was on the 22nd,” Hazel said. “I believe it’s God’s way of telling me my mother’s here with me.
“I’m very proud of my mother today, for her strength, courage, and faith.”
Everything happens for a reason, Hazel said, and her mother’s death certainly had a purpose, as well.
“I believe today my mother’s cancer saved my life in many ways,” Hazel told the women in the crowd, many of whom were crying.
“I turned 39 last month—the age my mother was when she was diagnosed,” she added.
Hazel talked about her fear of reaching that age, her fear of the heredity of cancer, and her hesitation to go for her annual breast exam.
“I’m always so glad once I’ve gone,” she admitted. “The RNs are so wonderful in there. They really help to make that experience bearable.”
Although a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer is increased if there is a family history, it no longer is the automatic death sentence it once was.
“More women are surviving breast cancer. The number of diagnoses is not going down, but the number of deaths is,” she noted.
Hazel encouraged everyone to learn from her mother’s experience, and to do three things to help detect breast cancer early:
•learn how to do and practise a monthly breast self-exam;
•have an annual professional exam; and
•have mammograms as recommended.
It is important to do all three, not just one or two of these steps, she stressed.
Since her mother’s death, Hazel said she has learned to take time to enjoy life.
“Take time for yourself first,” she said. “Get a massage. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk. Run. Dance. Sing. Just really be present in the moment.
“The only thing that is certain in life is death.”
Hazel thanked her oldest sister, Gina (Sigurdson), who “became the rock in our family,” and noted that her two young brothers, who were only children when their mother passed away, are now 27 and 23 years old.
Morelli was a gifted singer—a talent that skipped a generation, Hazel noted with a laugh, and instead went to her daughter, Jessica.
Luckily, Morelli recorded some songs with local musicians before she succumbed to cancer. Hazel said the recording is a gift she treasures—and one she listens to sometimes for strength and inspiration.
Hazel played a tape of her mother singing “One Day at a Time” while showing a power point presentation with photos of their family. She received a standing ovation.
“Just give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do.
Oh yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time.”