Labrador MP Yvonne Jones stepping away from politics after cancer diagnosis

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones says she is stepping away from politics following a cancer diagnosis. (Katie Breen/CBC - image credit)
Labrador MP Yvonne Jones says she is stepping away from politics following a cancer diagnosis. (Katie Breen/CBC - image credit)

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones has announced she is stepping away from politics following a cancer diagnosis.

In an announcement Thursday, Jones said her breast cancer returned in September, 12 years after she was first diagnosed with the disease. It was diagnosed early through a regular mammogram, she said, and encouraged all women who are of age to get checked for cancer.

She said she will be taking a leave of absence to undergo surgery and treatment and will assist her staff however possible.

Jones said the leave of absence will last "at least a couple of months" and she will reassess her circumstances after that, but she has the option of participating in Parliament virtually.

In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics, she said she's doing well and her prognosis looks good.

"I do regular mammography screening, it's a priority for me, and because of that there was early detection, as it was in my previous bout with breast cancer," said Jones.

"Because of that early detection, I know that I can fight this, and with treatment and surgery, I will do fine at the end."

Jones, 54, has had a long career in politics working as vocal advocate for Labrador, first as mayor of her hometown of Mary's Harbour and then in provincial politics, being elected MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair as an Independent in 1996.

At 27 years old, Jones was the youngest female MHA in the province's history when she was first elected, a distinction she held until Charlene Johnson was elected in 2003.

"It seems like it was just yesterday when I was making my way up the steps at Confederation Building for the first time," she said earlier this year.

"I look back on it now and I say, 'Where have the time gone?'"

She joined the provincial Liberal Party in 1999 and during her time as an MHA served as a cabinet minister and leader of the Official Opposition.

In March 2013, Jones announced her intention to run in a byelection for the federal riding of Labrador after MP Peter Penashue quit amid a scandal around financing for his 2011 election campaign.

She won the byelection a few months later, besting then Conservative candidate Penashue, and has held the federal seat ever since.

During an event in May, Jones said she's fought for a lot of issues over the years and has delivered for her constituents in Labrador.

"Determination and never giving up a fight on something you believe in is what makes you want to get up every morning and go back to work and tackle that same issue over and over again until you succeed," she said.

Previous cancer diagnosis

Jones has dealt with cancer in the past, being diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2010 while she was leader of the provincial Liberals.

While undergoing treatment in 2010, she pushed to have the recommended age for breast cancer screening lowered to include women in their 40s, a change that was later made in the 2012 provincial budget.

But Jones's cancer fight weakened her immune system and she resigned from her position as provincial Liberal leader in August 2011 — just two months before that year's provincial election.

She said she wasn't healthy enough to lead the party through an election campaign but was clear that she wasn't retiring from politics.

"I am sad and I am a little angry. I am feeling cheated by cancer from doing something that I have dreamed of doing my entire political life," she said at the time.

Jones was re-elected as MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair in 2011, taking more than 71 per cent of the vote.

She set the record as Newfoundland and Labrador's longest-sitting female MHA in 2012, a record that still stands, before resigning her position to run federally.

'Not going anywhere yet'

Having battled cancer before, Jones said she has a better idea now of what's to come, but said it was still nerve-racking when she found out her cancer had returned.

"This time around, I've been down that road, I know of what to expect, I understand it more, I've learned a lot, but with that also comes a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety in knowing what's coming up next," she said.

Jones also said she's "not going anywhere yet."

"This is a bump in the road, I've had many challenges in my life and in my political career, this is just one more challenge.

"There are men and women across our country every day who battle cancer, who battle tremendous sickness and illness and rise up at the end of the day and continue to live a very full life. I intend to do just that and I have every intention of running in the next election."

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