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Two Lives Collide

Anne Louise Carlson's Story

Victoria, British Columbia
September 8, 2015

Anne Louise Carlson; an artist, designer and business person; was 49 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Leading up to diagnosis, she began noticing symptoms that were unusual for her after a lifetime of good health. One evening as a story about ovarian cancer aired on the news, Anne Louise realized that she was experiencing every one of the symptoms, and more.

Months before all of this single and recently unemployed Anne Louise was confidently preparing to launch a new business of her own.

Anne Louise Carlson

“I was steamrollered by cancer instead,” she says. “I had to quickly learn as much as I could about the disease as I began the fight of my life. It was like learning about cancer by fire.”

In 2005, following surgery and treatment, as she rebuilt her life, Anne Louise formed a Walk team in her hometown of Victoria, BC. Her team, “Living Out Loud and In Colour!” was named Top Team in 2007.

“Ovarian Cancer Canada was there for me and I wanted to be there for the organization,” she says.

Eight years after surgery, Anne Louise discovered a lump above her collarbone and received the traumatic news that the cancer had returned. In a phone conversation, one of the clinic staff mistook Anne Louise for a different patient from Nanaimo. Anne Louise was quick to provide clarification that she lives in Victoria, and had never lived in Nanaimo. But that was when reality hit. There was another Anne Carlson, Anne Marie Carlson to be precise, and she lives in Nanaimo.

Struck by the coincidence, Anne Louise arranged to talk with Anne Marie. Both were surprised to learn of their many similarities. For instance, they are both visual artists who have spent time teaching. They each have a strong background in the arts and in business. Carlson is Anne Louise’s maiden name. Carlson is Anne Marie’s name by marriage. They are both of Scandinavian descent with Swedish grandfathers who boarded ships to Canada, working their way across as cabin boys!

AnnesAnne Louise Carlson (left) & Anne Marie Carlson (right)

Both women are in a fight for their lives. Their care, treatment, and respective lives demand that they are properly identified as the individuals they are. Against all odds, and not ‘out of the woods’ by any means, these two women remain resilient and strong.

The first time Anne Louise and Anne Marie met in person was when a local television station in Victoria heard of their identity entanglement and featured them on the evening news. They’ve since become friends.

Last year they teamed up for the Walk. This year they’re planning to do the same.

“Our team is Anne Carlson X 2 +++,” Anne Louise says. “The plusses refer to women in our support group and the friends and family who are joining us.”

Anne Louise is currently participating in a clinical trial for ovarian cancer. Fresh off her 60th birthday, she’s celebrating this milestone, and also her life.

She has this to say about her experience with ovarian cancer:

“I’m a patient only when I am in the medical chair. My hopes and aspirations are as strong as ever - only postponed. People like myself, who are living with this disease, need to be believed to have longevity. Believe in a cure, so we can get beyond cancer and back to living our lives, as our true selves, and living ‘on purpose’ with our hopes and dreams intact. Work to help us get through this - expect more than others think is possible - together we CAN stop ovarian cancer.”

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