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'Learning is ageless': Cancer survivor pursues dream, becomes nurse at 60

Personal support worker, who is set to become a registered practical nurse this September, has written a book about her journey
Liz Bryk's new book, Uplifting Tales from Goodness County, tells short stories about her life in Simcoe County, her battle with breast cancer, and her attempt to become a registered practical nurse.

An breast cancer survivor has inked a new book to share her unlikely journey as she chased her dreams in an effort to land her dream job at 60 years of age.

Liz Bryk, who grew up in Toronto, moved north to Oro-Medonte with her husband five years ago. Three years ago, after a battle with breast cancer, Bryk decided she wanted to chase her dream of becoming a nurse.

"Having breast cancer really knocks the stuffing out of you," she said. "I thought I was going to die and went through all of those emotions."

After going through treatment, Bryk continued her 40-year career in long-term care. One day, a 19-year-old colleague told Bryk, a personal support worker, that she should follow her dreams of being a nurse.

"I didn't come from a rich family," Bryk explained. "I didn't have the chance to go to university."

After giving it some thought, Bryk inquired with Georgian College about joining the nursing program. She was told to send in her transcript if it wasn't more than seven years old.

Bryk's transcript was so old that it had been written on a papyrus with a quill, she joked. As a result, she had to attend the adult learning centre to obtain her Grade 12 chemistry, biology, and math credits.

"Then I applied and got in," Bryk explained of Georgian's nursing program. "Three years later, I'm on the dean’s list and I'm in the home stretch now of my 450-hour" placement at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.

During her first day of class at Georgian, Bryk was asked by an 18-year-old student about her age.

"When I told her she said, 'You're two years older than my Grandma,'" Bryk chuckled. "Learning is ageless and it's been an amazing experience."

Bryk is set to become a registered practical nurse by September of this year.

"Right now, in long-term care, I help with personal grooming, feeding, dressing, and those are all really important things," she said. "If I can come back to long-term care as a nurse, I can make a bigger difference and can advocate on my patients' behalf."

Bryk hopes the collection of short stories she has penned in her book, Uplifting Tales from Goodness County, will inspire others in the community.

She isn't sure she would have ever chased her dreams without the support of the community and personal support worker colleagues.

"Simcoe County is like a huge family here," she said. "Healing and recovering in this township has just been second to none. There is a magic here in the hills of Oro-Medonte that I've never seen anywhere else."

Uplifting Tales from Goodness County is now for sale in the OSMH gift shop, Manticore Books, and Amazon. The paperback version of the book costs $12.95 and all proceeds will be donated to the hospital.

"I feel good knowing that I'm helping my community and the OSMH foundation," Bryk said. "That gives me wealth."

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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