Before competing in Family Feud, this Hay River mother survived cancer and bone disease

The Townend-Tybring family at Family Feud Canada.  (Submitted/Kelsey Townend - photo credit)

The Townend-Tybring family at Family Feud Canada. (Submitted/Kelsey Townend – photo credit)

Always say yes unless it’s dangerous. This has been Kelsey Townend’s motto in life since she successfully completed her cancer treatment in 2016.

And so, the Hay River, NWT, resident and her family found themselves at Family Feud Canada fighting for a chance to win $10,000 after a producer who had been following her cancer journey on Instagram reached out to her .

“At first I thought it was a scam. I didn’t think it was real,” she said. “But the more I talked to her and got to know her, I thought what the heck.”

It was 2021 when her family auditioned for the first time. The timing was perfect: she was about to celebrate the five year anniversary of her cancer journey, and she kind of wanted to honor that. What’s better than attending a national game show?

“Any opportunity now to do something exciting or different or just to be out there, I’m on board,” she said. “When you experience something like me, you realize how short life can be.”

After persuading four of her family members to do it, they auditioned via Zoom. The team, which she described as her “beautiful blended family,” included her little brother, her stepfather, her eldest son’s stepmother, and her ex-sister-in-law.

“I think when they heard that and saw us auditioning, how well we got along and how much fun we had, I think they really liked that,” she said.

Although they were all super nervous, she said they had a great turnout for the show, especially after the second round when they relaxed a little more and went into competitive mode. She said she received an extremely positive response from the community.

“Tons of positive feedback, everyone was super excited,” she said. “Everyone I spoke to was like, ‘You guys were so great!’ and ‘How funny!'”

Her family threw a party at her house for her episode, which aired March 14.

Submitted by Kelsey Townend

Submitted by Kelsey Townend

She said a key reason she wanted to do the show was to “score cool points” with her three sons, aged four, 13 and 15, who are now quite proud that their mother was on national television.

“By the end everyone was like, ‘Oh, you weren’t actually that embarrassed,'” laughed Townend. “That was cool.”

But going on the show was also a great opportunity to showcase the community that loves them.

“We live in Hay River and want to grow our community. We love our community,” she said. “Anything that helps promote it and put it on the map, I’m in.”

“I’m definitely a yes-sayer”

Townend was diagnosed with choriocarcinoma in 2016. It took four months of aggressive chemotherapy before doctors were able to remove the cancer from her body.

It’s been a long, hard road, she said, but she’s grateful to be on the other side and to be able to live her life to the fullest.

Submitted/Kelsey Townend

Submitted/Kelsey Townend

“I’m definitely a yes-saying person, as long as I don’t put myself in absolute danger,” she said. “It’s a blessing to be here and I’m grateful for that.”

Having cancer was incredibly difficult in itself, but Townend said one of the hardest parts for her was watching her mother and partner go through it with her as they both looked after her while she was being treated .

Her road to recovery was difficult. Because cancer treatment needed to be aggressive, it included the use of prednisone, which is used to reduce inflammation and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy drugs. With prolonged use, side effects may occur.

For Townend, the treatment left her with avascular necrosis in her shoulders, a bone disease that cuts off the blood supply to bone tissue.

She ended up having two surgeries on her shoulders to replace them with titanium alloy. The experience made her realize that there needed to be more support in the community for people going through cancer or going through follow-up treatment.

“Once you survive, you’re going to be a bit of a victim to the wolves, and there’s no real guidance on what to do when you go home,” Townend said.

Because of this, she decided to dedicate her Instagram profile to her post-cancer journey. She wanted to connect with people who were going through similar things.

Creating a support network

She also founded Karuna Group, a peer support group active since 2017.

“There really wasn’t a local support program for cancer survivors or people struggling with the after-effects of treatment,” she said.

The group is available to anyone affected in any way by cancer, including people in treatment, survivors, carers, or friends and family members who have lost loved ones.

“It’s important to try to heal the experience because it’s quite traumatic for everyone involved,” Townend said.

Despite it all, Townend said she’s grateful to continue to experience life, she doesn’t take anything for granted and is glad she can use her experience to help the community she loves.

She said she will continue to cherish every moment and challenge herself on a daily basis.

“You have to say yes to things, you have to try things, you have to get out of your comfort zone,” she said. “It’s so easy to feel good.”


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