Mr. Speaker, when I ran to be a member of Parliament in beautiful Newfoundland and Labrador, I did not expect to be standing here today resigning from a job I love, representing people I love, and spending time with an incredible caucus, but as well, in the company of incredible individuals on both sides of this place. That includes you, Mr. Speaker, the table officers, pages, security, and all who work in the public service.
We work here, because we know we can play a part in making a difference in our country. As MPs, we are here, because others made it possible for us to have the privilege to serve. I am so thankful to my constituents for giving me this opportunity. It has been an honour to be here. It has been an honour to serve with all fellow MPs, and it has also been an honour to serve for 10 years as cabinet minister in Newfoundland and Labrador and here in Ottawa, supported by a dedicated public service, men and women who are committed to doing their very best.
I have also been blessed with very caring and capable constituency employees in both Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa. They worked tirelessly with me over the past 20 years to respond to the issues facing our constituents. To the many volunteers who worked on my campaigns over the past 20 years, there are no words to express just how much I appreciated their commitment and hard work.
Making my decision was not an easy one for all of the reasons I just stated. However, given my reasons for reaching that decision made it easier, and the outpouring of support for and appreciation of that decision has been overwhelming. No one has been more understanding and supportive than my seatmate and friend, the Prime Minister. He continually reminds his caucus to put family first, because it is so easy for us as MPs to get caught up in our work, work that we love, but can consume us if we let it, and many of us do that.
Standing here saying goodbye, I think of our friend and colleague Arnold Chan, who was taken from his family and friends way too soon. I think of all who battle cancer, and do so with courage. I can think of no one who faced a battle with cancer with more courage than Arnold.
I was the whip when he was elected in 2014, and in addition to other responsibilities in that role, became a confidante and source of strength when needed. For Arnold, I know that sharing my experience with cancer helped in some way as he fought to survive while doing a job he loved. We often spoke about how staying involved and keeping one's mind occupied really does help. He was such a kind, courageous man who fought until the end, and inspired many, including all of us in the House.
Things happen in life to all of us that impact, and sometimes change completely the direction in which our lives go. Things also happen in life to help prepare us for those changes, and while we may not realize it when they happen, it does become apparent that strength and courage are needed to get through difficult times.
The memories I have of the strength and courage of another young man, who dipped his leg in the Atlantic Ocean in Newfoundland and Labrador before starting his marathon of hope, will always stay with me.
I was a reporter with CBC at the time and assigned to cover the story. Terry and I talked about his bout with cancer, and his vision of using his experience to bring a focus to the need for research. As the interview ended, I commented on his curly hair. He had a lot of it. He told me it was a positive outcome for him, having lost his hair while being given chemotherapy drugs to battle the cancer. As anyone who has fought cancer will say, remaining positive is half the battle. Unfortunately, there are other factors beyond our control.
I followed Terry's trek across the country and, like other Canadians, was saddened when it was reported he could not continue. While Terry could not complete the marathon, he made a difference, and 37 years later, people throughout our country take part in the annual Terry Fox Run. In fact, this week is the Terry Fox school run throughout Canada. Terry inspired many, and just as I was inspired by Arnold, I was inspired so many years ago by Terry.
Little did I know that several years later I would be diagnosed with breast cancer, not once but twice, most recently three years ago. Like Terry, I lost my hair, and while it may not look like it now, it grew back curly. As it grew back, I thought of Terry and his curls, but especially his positive attitude.
When illness strikes a family the natural thing to do is pull together and go in survival mode. I saw that with the Fox family, and that is what happened in my family. No one was more determined that I was going to survive my first bout with cancer than my daughter Carla, who was only 25 at the time.
Carla sat through all of my chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and made sure a chart was prepared listing all of the medications I needed to take if I was going to survive. She was determined to make sure I did not miss any. Needless to say, she has a full appreciation of the toll cancer can take, but she also knows surviving cancer is possible.
Being aware of that became even more important, when it was discovered two years ago that I carried a BRCA gene. Having the BRCA gene means the body is susceptible to any number of cancers. It also means those closest to the person are at risk. Getting my head around what having the gene could mean for my children Carla, Jason, and Heidi, and their children, if they inherited it from me, was difficult, and needless to say remains so, because unfortunately, two of my three children did.
While we believe knowledge is power, very personal decisions that involve taking measures to prevent cancer require a lot of courage.
Having a BRCA gene also means running the risk of dealing with genetic discrimination in areas like insurance access and workplace practices. No one should be discriminated against on the basis of his or her genetic characteristics.