Irika Haywood: Hitting the reset button on life

November 21, 2023

For Irika Haywood, breast cancer was a bittersweet diagnosis.

Just over a year ago, Irika was living a carefree life. A Healthcare Professional and a loving mother of three, she enjoyed her days off where she could let go and have fun with family or friends. Extroverted and sociable, Irika says she wasn’t paying much attention to her health. That is, until she noticed a large mass on her breast while taking a shower.

Irika’s life took a scary turn. Originally diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer, it quickly spread to Stage Four. In a matter of two weeks, everything in her life had changed.

“It all happened so suddenly. I got diagnosed June 15, then I started chemo June 28,” Irika says.

While navigating the speed at which everything was moving, Irika decided to leave her nursing job and focus on her treatment plan.

“That was probably the hardest part for me physically and emotionally. You go through a lot of changes: losing hair, feeling sick, not eating well, and not working,” she says.

Despite the emotional baggage that comes with a cancer diagnosis, Irika’s treatment was a success. In addition to undergoing a successful mastectomy, Irika had 19 lymph nodes removed from under her arm. “I am cancer free now!” she says.

However, Irika reflects on both the negative and positive outcomes of her “bittersweet” diagnosis.

“It changed my personality. I used to be extroverted, and now I am introverted. I’m not as talkative anymore.

“But this diagnosis has also forced me to look at myself. It forced me to look at my health. It forced me to look at what I’m passionate about. And it forced me to ask, ‘Am I really living to my full potential right now?’

“That’s why I am now going to new places and trying new things that I didn’t do before—like Wellspring,” she says.

Irika heard of Wellspring through her son’s diabetic appointment in November 2022. The doctor knew Irika had cancer and encouraged her to get in touch with Wellspring. Although initially hesitant to join, Irika finally overcame her anxiety and walked through its doors.

“I understand if people are hesitant to join Wellspring, but once you’re ready, I can confirm that your takeaway from it is so much more than what you fear going into it.

“When you arrive at Wellspring it’s like the hand and glove metaphor. You have found your glove,” she says.

Being a new member of Wellspring, Irika is looking forward to the abundance of programs it has to offer—particularly the yoga and art programs.

“That’s kind of where I’m at right now: putting my well-being first. Before cancer I wasn’t really doing that. It was my work and my kids and my family, and I was kind of… lost.

“I am ready to get out there and be stronger this time around,” she says.

Although Irika did her own personal self-healing over the past year, she admits that Wellspring played a huge part in getting her to where she is today.

“Wellspring is a part of the journey to me finding my well-being, putting myself first, and giving back to me. The whole self-care and love that I didn’t know I was missing before. I’d always be like, ‘I’m great!’ but I don’t think I really was. Now I’m feeling a lot lighter.

“I pressed the reset button. Now what am I going to do?”

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