“I just wanted to start a healthy conversation about women’s health – one that shouldn’t be taboo or avoided because it’s ‘awkward”. – Danielle Michaud, Canadian sports anchor
“If you are a Canadian sports fan, then you likely know of Danielle Michaud. Michaud is a prominent sports anchor with the popular Canadian media company, Sportsnet. What you may not know is that Michaud is a health inspiration for many Canadians. At age 31, Michaud was diagnosed with cervical cancer.”
It is estimated that in 2018, about 748 women in Ontario will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can affect anyone with a cervix who has ever been sexually active.
After completing several tests and surgeries related to her cervical cancer, Michaud was relieved to know her cancer had been caught early. “I couldn’t imagine what the outcome would have been if I wasn’t up-to-date with my regular Pap test screening,” shared Michaud. “However, looking back I wish I would have received the human papillomaviruses (HPV) vaccination. I strongly urge eligible people to have a serious conversation with their health care provider about getting the vaccine.”
Working in the public eye, and in a male-dominated field, Michaud wrestled with the idea of going public to share her cancer journey. Michaud explained, “I wasn’t embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about my new reality, but was very surprised to see how uninformed many people are about the ways you can get cervical cancer. I just knew that I had a visible public platform, and even if one person was encouraged to get screened or educated themselves further, then I did the right thing.”
After publically sharing her story, Michaud was shocked to see the overwhelming positive responses through social media, other media outlets, and support from the sports community. “So many people thanked me for reminding them to schedule a Pap test or now feel more confident to have their kids receive the HPV vaccination in school after hearing my story,” said Michaud. “I was also surprised by the amount of men who wanted to ask questions and talk about my experience. I always made a point to let them know I appreciated that they wanted to understand what I was going through and to learn from my experience.”
Even though she has survived this journey, Michaud could not have done it alone. She stated, “I work in sports, so I can appreciate what makes a winning team. I’m so lucky to have my fiancé, Tim, my family and friends, and the incredible people who work at the many hospitals I frequent.”
Michaud advises others to get screened for cancer. “Either you get screened and receive the ‘all-clear’, or find out there is something suspicious, like in my case, and can act quickly – it’s a win/win,” encouraged Michaud. “I understand some people find screening uncomfortable, but I’d trade those 10 awkward minutes for a clean bill of health any day. Cancer is a scary word, but it doesn’t mean you should stop living your life. This experience will always be a part of my story but doesn’t define me, and I hope I can provide the same support to others who face a similar challenge.”
Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with regular screening, follow-up of abnormal results, and the HPV vaccine. To increase awareness and education, Prevention and Screening Services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is holding a month-long campaign titled ‘Pap-A-Palooza’. To participate or learn more about the campaign, visit www.tbrhsc.net/pap. For information on cervical cancer screening guidelines, visit www.cancercareontario.ca/ccaw.