Friends mourn death of tireless cancer advocate

·4 min read

If anything symbolizes the incredible life and work of Susan Glynn, it would be the colour teal.

Glynn, a tireless advocate for women with ovarian cancer since 2015, lost her own battle with the disease on Tuesday.

She was 55.

“Susan was a tireless advocate. I’ve never seen anyone with such tenacity as that woman,” St. John’s Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said, when contacted July 21.

“I tell you, she kept us hopping.”

One of the main themes of Glynn’s work was to draw attention to the cause by encouraging municipalities and other government agencies to light up their buildings with teal-coloured lights every May 8 on Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day.

And not just in St John’s, where she lived.

“We worked with her on raising awareness with her proclamations each year, and also lighting our town hall up with teal,” Torbay Mayor Craig Scott wrote in an email.

“It was always a pleasure to have her attend our council meetings and listen to her story. She was an amazing advocate and I considered her a friend as our relationship grew.”

Her Women of Hope organization even succeeded in getting the CN Tower in Toronto lit up.

The ovarian cancer advocacy group Belles with Balls offered its own tribute when the news came in of Glynn’s death.

“Susan Glynn was a pioneer in our fight against ovarian cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her frontier work with advocacy and the Women of Hope organization provided comfort and awareness worldwide,” the group stated. “Her legacy will continue to be honoured in the work of many. Rest easy, teal sister.“

Contacted July 21, Belles with Balls co-founder Bonnie Morgan was clearly emotional.

“She’s helped a lot of people along the way,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s group is more of an educational and research-oriented outfit, and all their funding goes toward ongoing genetic research at Memorial University.

But she said Glynn was a huge figure not only in educating people, but supporting other women in the province and across the globe, including in Australia.

“We became good friends over the past few years,” said Rita Gibbons, who went to school with Glynn and reconnected with her in 2016 when her own sister, Alice, succumbed to ovarian cancer.

Gibbons described Glynn as “a very strong advocate” whose group had members from all over the world.

One of her biggest successes was teaming up with her original oncologist, Dr. Cathy Popadiuk, to create a “4Bs” poster describing the four types of symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer: bloating, bladder, bowel and blah.

Hundreds of the posters were distributed around the world, and Gibbons says it encouraged women to regularly check for symptoms that might be mistaken for something else, such as irritable bowel system.

“I’m sure there’s been lives saved,” she said.

Popadiuk says the poster was all Glynn’s idea.

“Susan wanted to reach women and share the symptoms of ovarian cancer to help others recognize when they should seek help, and not delay,” Popadiuk told The Telegram. “The 4Bs poster was her idea and I was happy to help with clinical content. She worked tirelessly to spread the word and have it translated into several languages.”

Popadiuk said Glynn put Newfoundland and Labrador on the map when it came to her efforts to reach others.

“She worked tirelessly to help not only ovarian cancer patients and their families, all part of the journey, but all cancer patients with their own cancer journeys,” she said. “It is so sad that her time has come to an end. She touched so many people's lives and was hopeful that they continue on with this extremely important advocacy work.”

Glynn didn’t just bring her energy to her advocacy.

She ran the Tely 10 several times, and did the Cape to Cabot run the year after she was diagnosed.

O’Leary says she remembers Glynn once walking around Quidi Vidi Lake.

“She was undergoing cancer treatment at the time. It didn’t stop her. It was amazing. It’s just like she was unstoppable,” O’Leary said.

“It’s very sad that she lost her battle with cancer, but I tell you, she has done such incredible work for the community in terms of bringing awareness. I feel for her family.”

Even as recently as June, Glynn was speaking out on Facebook on one of her other longtime causes — getting free parking spaces for cancer patients at the Health Sciences Centre.

When she ran the Cape to Cabot event in 2016, Glynn was determined to make it to the top of Signal Hill, even though she received her medal at the interpretation centre further down.

She only stopped when she reached the steps to Cabot Tower. Pictures from the moment show Glynn holding her medal with one hand and giving the thumbs up with the other.

“The first thing that came to me was that I was standing up to cancer,” she said at the time. “I did it. I didn’t let cancer get me down.”

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram

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