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Celebrating Cancer Survivors: Middleton woman behind ‘Hats for Courage Campaign’ honoured at One Woman Fearless Summit in Halifax

Tanya Marie Olscamp with ambassador speaker Mpumi Nobiva at the One Woman Fearless Summit in Halifax. A mentee of Oprah Winfrey, 24-year-old Nobiva has spoken at the White House, congressional fundraisers, corporate functions and non-profit initiatives.
Tanya Marie Olscamp with ambassador speaker Mpumi Nobiva at the One Woman Fearless Summit in Halifax. A mentee of Oprah Winfrey, 24-year-old Nobiva has spoken at the White House, congressional fundraisers, corporate functions and non-profit initiatives. - Submitted

KENTVILLE, NS - After putting positivity to work to overcome cancer and inspiring others through her selfless acts, a former Queen Annapolisa continues to soar.

Tanya Marie Olscamp of Middleton was one of 16 women from across Nova Scotia and one of 50 from across Canada to receive a 2018 Fearless Women’s Award. She was presented with the Fearless in Overcoming Adversity and Helping Others award at the One Woman Fearless Summit in Halifax on April 28.

Olscamp was diagnosed in November 2016 with aggressive breast cancer. The single parent of two had a local embroidery shop make her a hat with the word “Overcomer” on it when she began chemotherapy treatments.

This gave her a sense of empowerment that she wanted to share with others. After her friends expressed that they wanted “Team Tanya” and “Overcomer” hats, too, she decided to launch the “Hats for Courage Campaign.”

The goal was to raise $2,000 to purchase 200 “Overcomer” hats to give to chemotherapy patients at Valley Regional Hospital. For every hat that was sold, one was purchased for a chemo patient. She was able to purchase in excess of 200 hats, which were delivered to the cancer patient navigator and the oncology team leader on Nov. 30, 2017. She also gave some to fellow patients during her treatments and some went to chemo patients in other parts of the country.

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Olscamp said there couldn’t have been a more appropriate time to deliver the hats, having had her final oncology appointment earlier that day.

Olscamp said funds raised through the One Woman Fearless Summit are used to help foster empowerment in vulnerable women and girls in various parts of the world and to provide food, water, education and other necessities. The summit features a number of powerful motivational speakers.

Olscamp said she was nominated for the award by a friend and chosen by the summit as the recipient. She said she feels that she has come full-circle and says it was humbling to be recognized.

“I just know that I wouldn’t have been in a position to receive an award like that without the support and help of my family and friends and especially my community,” Olscamp said.

She said people rallied around her with love - the greatest act of which was supporting her to raise enough money to purchase the 200-plus hats that she designed. Olscamp said this was incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.

Tanya Marie Olscamp with long-time friend Rose Oickle of Springfield, Annapolis County, at the One Woman Fearless Summit in Halifax. Oickle supported Olscamp throughout Olscamp’s cancer journey.
Tanya Marie Olscamp with long-time friend Rose Oickle of Springfield, Annapolis County, at the One Woman Fearless Summit in Halifax. Oickle supported Olscamp throughout Olscamp’s cancer journey.

Positive attitude

She credits a positive mindset for saving her life. When receiving her award, Olscamp said that in a world where we’re bombarded with messages of anger, hate and fear about cancer, she decided to “lean into cancer” with gratitude, love, compassion and a positive attitude.

“Each day that I practiced that, I didn’t just find that my journey with cancer became easier and more peaceful and even more joyful,” Olscamp said. “More than that, I found that my life just became more peaceful and joyful and that was a gift that I was given through cancer.”

Having been told she had only two years to live, Olscamp believes that walking out of the hospital a year after her diagnosis free of cancer really speaks to the choices she made around her mindset.

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She said it would be natural to fall into a place of worry and fear when faced with cancer but you have to decide that you want something more than your illness and focus on that. It’s important to find one thing to be grateful for or one positive thing to focus on every day throughout the experience. This may be a goal you’ve set, as it was for her with the “Overcomer” hats.

Tanya Marie Olscamp delivers a wheelchair loaded with “Overcomer” hats to give to chemotherapy patients at the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville.
Tanya Marie Olscamp delivers a wheelchair loaded with “Overcomer” hats to give to chemotherapy patients at the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville.

“It gave me not just something positive to focus on, it helped me with my will to live, and I think that is so important for people, to decide for themselves why it is that they want to live and really focus on that as opposed to what cancer may be taking away from them or fearing what it ultimately could mean,” Olscamp said.

She could have put her mind and attention on the fact that she was losing both her breasts, her long, dark, curly hair, her job and a romantic partnership, but she decided not to.

Olscamp isn’t saying that people should be naïve about their feelings when it comes to facing cancer; rather, it’s important to acknowledge them. Even though she carried an attitude of gratitude and love, it didn’t mean that she was ignoring feelings of anger and fear. She was honest with herself and allowed herself to feel the emotions she was experiencing so she could get to the bottom of them and heal them.

Olscamp dedicated her award to all the women she met over the course of her experience with cancer who didn’t survive. She said you are even more of an overcomer when you have to face your own mortality.

“I honestly believe that the most courageous and fearless thing that any of us will ever do is to face our own death,” she said. “To me, the most courageous and the most fearless are those that are facing a terminal illness.”

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In a recent interview, Diana Hutt, cancer patient navigator at the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, said it was amazing that Olscamp was consistently thinking of others throughout her journey to overcome cancer.

“Ninety per cent of the battle is attitude and her positivity, she had a smile every day she came in for treatments,” Hutt said. “It rubbed off on the patients sitting around her and how could they not smile too. She just brought joy with her every time she came.”

Hutt said the hats look great and carry an important message but they’re also very practical, helping to keep cancer patients warm. The fact that Olscamp included a short write-up with each of the donated hats makes the gifts even more special.

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