Werstroh draws strength from mother's fight

Werstroh draws strength from mother's fight

In the summer of 2014 in Lloydminster, Sask., Rhonda Werstroh brought her two daughters together for a conversation.

She told them she'd been going to Edmonton for their stepfather's treatments.

In reality, she was going for her own.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It was really shocking," admitted Bailee Werstroh, now a second-year forward for the Olds College Broncos women's hockey team. "It was a really new thing for me. I've never dealt with a family member getting diagnosed with cancer."

So began a difficult period for the Werstroh family, as Rhonda lived in the Cross Cancer Clinic in Edmonton while receiving treatment, with their grandmother moving to Lloydminster to take care of Bailee and her sister.

"It was just really hard not having her there and not being able to be there for her, and talk to her about it," she said.

Now, Rhonda is cancer-free, and Bailee will be in the lineup for Pink in the Rink when the Broncos face the Red Deer College Queens on Thursday at 7 p.m., a joint venture between the Broncos and Queens.

Being involved with Pink in the Rink this year hits home for Werstroh.

"It really makes me realize who I'm here for, and it's solely my mom," she said. "I'd do everything for her, and that's who I play for."

All proceeds from Thursday's contest, as well as Saturday's matchup at 7 p.m. at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, will go to the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Central Alberta Cancer Centre.

Werstroh is grateful for the contributions made by cancer centre employees, particularly those who helped her mother.

"You always need that extra support, that reminder to just keep going, because you can fight it, and you can beat it," she said. "It's really nice knowing that, when I couldn't be there, those workers were there making sure everyone was OK and happy."

Having lost her father at the age of 12, Werstroh gained perspective with the prospect of losing her mother.

"It really made me appreciate who I have and what I have," she said. "Time isn't forever, and one day, anything can easily be taken."

Werstroh admires the courage her mother showed throughout her treatment.

"She's a hero," she said. "The fact that she stayed strong the whole time, not giving up and really fighting, it makes me realize what a strong woman she is."

Werstroh credits her mother with single-handedly teaching her every lesson she's learned, and their bond only grew stronger as Rhonda fought.

"We're best friends now," she said. "We were both going through something really hard and really stressful, but not being able to put myself in her shoes really made me put her before me, and put her needs before mine."

Werstroh encourages anyone affected directly or indirectly affected by cancer to never give up.

"Always believe that whoever's going through what they're going through can make it," she said. "You just have to give them support and love, and let them know they're here for a reason, and just to keep fighting."

The Alberta Cancer Foundation is the official fundraising partner for all 17 Alberta Health Services cancer centres in Alberta, including the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer. 
Enhancing the lives of patients and their families is at the core of everything they do. 
With the help of donors like you, the Alberta Cancer Foundation actively seeks out supports the most promising research and care initiatives that will have a direct impact on patients, and provide real-life returns.
Thanks to your commitment, the Alberta Cancer Foundation is able to invest in research and programs that detect cancer earlier, reduce risk, treat cancer more effectively and improve the quality of life for patients and families across the province.
For every Albertan who hears the words, "you have cancer", the Alberta Cancer Foundation provides three in return – "We will help."