Gender identity and access to care

For members of 2SLGBTQl+ communities, there can be unique challenges and barriers that make a cancer experience even more difficult. That is why after being diagnosed with cancer, Amy Clark became an impassioned advocate for equal access to cancer care for members of underserved communities.
Amy Clark, sitting on a couch.
Amy Clark

Being inspired to live her truest self

In 2011, Amy Clark began experiencing an incredibly painful earache. She spent months trying to ignore it, but she eventually had to go to the doctor. That was when she found out she had stage 4 throat cancer. She went home and was in complete shock. “I was sitting in the chair that I’m sitting in right now and I just cried,” she recalls. 

After being scheduled to meet with several oncology specialists, Amy was approached by a nurse who asked if she would consider being a part of a clinical trial for a new chemotherapy treatment protocol.

“I asked ‘If you were me, what would you do?” says Amy. “She said ‘I would take the trial. Trust me, you will dance at your daughter’s wedding.” “So, I trusted her. And I did get to dance at my daughter’s wedding.” 

The clinical trial had four chemotherapy treatments and 38 radiation therapies. Amy was determined to stay positive throughout her treatments, even as she experienced terrible physical reactions.  

After her treatment, Amy also experienced a significant depression. The clinical treatment ultimately did not benefit her. But despite this, she knew her participation would move cancer treatments forward for others in the future. “Clinical trials are important because if I don’t, who will?”  

Realizing that life is short after her cancer treatments, she became motivated to live as her truest self. Amy decided to begin her transition after her treatments. “This experience told me that it was time to be Amy,” she says.

Advocating for equal access to cancer care

Amy Clarke, sitting on a park bench.
Amy Clark

Although her wife and kids accepted her for who she was, Amy lives in a conservative community and lost most of her friends and family when she transitioned. But she ultimately knew it was the right decision for her own happiness. 

As a result of her transition, she also faced challenges receiving cancer care. During one of her doctor’s appointments, Amy was given misinformation by a doctor, who said that she does not need to have mammograms because her breasts “aren’t real.” 

I’m being marginalized because the doctor just doesn’t believe that I’m real, that my experience is real, that my body is real.

Amy’s experiences in the healthcare system serve as a reminder to her to use her voice as a member of an underserved community.

Not wanting others to feel marginalized, Amy is dedicated to making sure her concerns for underserved communities are heard, so that everyone has equal access to cancer care. She offers her perspective on a panel that reviews applications for research funding, as part of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Patient/Survivor/Caregiver (PSC) Reviewer Program

An important moment after Amy’s transition was when she attended peer review sessions as her true self. 

I went to one of the events and I knew that nobody knew me there, so I went as me. The real me. And it was wonderful. The Canadian Cancer Society has been amazing with their acceptance.

 Amy firmly believes that she can’t move forward with her life without giving back to communities that have helped her. She continues to raise awareness for cancer research and advocates for others facing cancer diagnoses.