Strength in spirit: How one woman’s cancer journey sparked a movement of community care

After receiving a diagnosis last winter, Linnea Dick took to social media — and has carved out a positive and honest space that’s inspired many
Linnea livestreamed her partner shaving her head on Dec. 14, as her hair thinned due to her second round of treatment. Photo taken in Alert Bay, provided by Linnea Dick

Looking straight into the camera, Linnea Dick wears a bright smile as she prepares to have her head shaved before a live audience on Instagram.

“It’s time,” she says. “I feel a little bit emotional about it but I thought it would be fun to document since I’ve been documenting this journey of hair loss and sharing it with all of you.”

There’s an outpouring of support in the comments as her fiancé gently shaves away her braids, further revealing the courage and light she carries. Her positivity, coupled with her vulnerability, is captivating.

“I just totally inhaled hair in my nose,” she laughs, as her partner finishes up buzzing her head. When he’s finished brushing her scalp, she looks in the mirror. 

“Oh my goodness, wow. I actually am loving it,” she says. “I love you all so much, thank you for being here.”

From stories, video reels, photo essays, and poems, Linnea, who is Kwakwaka’wakw, Nisga’a and Tsimshian, has shared her journey on social media since she was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer last winter.

Linnea has carved out a bright and hopeful space online, and hasn’t shied away from sharing every aspect of her journey, from being away from home for treatment, to managing hair and weight loss. 

Linnea shares that her traditional name Malidi means to be on your way to your destination, but to be pulled in different directions, and that each stop on the way to your destiny is where you’re meant to be. Photo submitted by Linnea Dick

Linnea says that she was apprehensive at first about sharing her story online, but her initial fears about sharing her journey shifted when she recognized that leaning into community care is actually empowering.

Since she posted the head-shaving video, others have cut off their own hair in solidarity. Several fundraisers have also been set up in her honour, and she regularly receives an outpouring of comments thanking her for her powerful messaging and vulnerability.

“One of the challenges I faced when I was first diagnosed was the fear of sharing my story with others, for a couple of reasons,” she tells IndigiNews. 

“The first being that I’m a protective person, so I never want others to worry about me. I never want others to feel sad because of something that I’m going through.”

The power of matriarchs

Linnea is the daughter of the late Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief, and master carver, Beau Dick. She says she was raised to look to the women in her family, and in her community, for answers. In her healing journey, she says women in her life — her mother, her sister and her best friend — have all been crucial supports for her.

“[My father] really taught us to lean on the women in our lives and to support each other and acknowledge the unique gifts that women carry,” she says. 

“Acknowledging those gifts that women have as healers in our communities has been one of the greatest ways that I’ve been able to continue moving forward.”

Linnea wishes to recognize her mother, Pam, her younger sister, Geraldine, and her best friend Talia for their support on her healing journey. “I feel that acknowledging that matriarchal power is also really important.” Photo submitted by Linnea Dick

Linnea says that growing up, her father shared with her many stories and myths. Linnea also witnessed storytelling shared on the dance floor in the big house, through art, and her father’s iconic masks.

“My father was such a great storyteller. Through seeing the carvings in the masks, I naturally have become a storyteller and that has become a huge part of my healing journey,” she says.

“In our storytelling, when we speak of our heroes and our ancestors, they’ve often gone through so much hardship before becoming those supernatural beings or those spiritual beings.”

The first photo from Linnea’s self-acceptance series, which she took to represent the insecurities she has had to overcome in her journey with cancer. Photo submitted by Linnea Dick

Connecting the body and spirit

Linnea says it’s been important for her to acknowledge those hard times so that others don’t feel alone.

“It has been very surprising to me that so many people, even people that have never experienced cancer, could relate to my journey and find peace with what they’re going through because of my vulnerability and ability to share,” she says.

Since the diagnosis, Linnea has gone through a gruelling round of chemotherapy and radiation. After treatment, she was given the hard news that the cancer had metastasized to her lungs. She is currently undergoing a second round of treatment. She says she’s noticed that the healthcare system has been primarily focused on the body.

“The part that was really missing [for me] was spirit. My first time going through this journey, because of that lack of connection with spirit, I actually almost gave up. I said I can’t do this, I just want to go home. I had to find ways to bring spirit into my own journey,” she says.

“It really does take that heart, body, mind, spirit connection to truly heal from something.”

The last day of Linnea’s first round of treatment. Photo submitted by Linnea Dick

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