Meet Mrs. BC, the queen of happiness
Resilience. It's something most of us have, to some degree.
But it seems Tetyana Golota may have more than her share.
The Coquitlam mom, who is also a core committee member for SheTalks, moved to Canada from the Ukraine 18 years ago, learning English and adapting to a new culture.
With a master's degree and engineering diploma in printing, she successfully built her career in her adoptive country while raising a son with her husband.
Two days before her 40th birthday, however, her life took a sharp turn.
For weeks before, she'd had a relentless cough and what seemed like allergy symptoms. A barrage of medical tests followed, including an X-ray, CT scan and MRI.
Results indicated the unthinkable: a brain tumour.
The tumour was fast-growing, doubling in size in a year. The pressure on her brain meant surgery was a must. While Golota survived the risky operation, she lost all peripheral vision, leaving her viewing the world as if through a tunnel.
To complicate things further, she was also handed diagnoses of arthritis and fibromyalgia – additional ailments that could well have pushed her into a dark corner. But that's a place she opts not to go.
"I live with pain every day, but choose not to be depressed about it," Golota says.
Now physically disabled, the 45 year old has had to put the brakes on her previous career, but owns a consignment store in Port Moody. She has also found joy in her hobby of fashion design, the latest results of which are Ukrainian-inspired. In fact, she showed them at Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver in April – designs that made the pages of Vogue.
A month prior, she had also been invited to walk the runway as a plus size model, something she chose to do for "the sole purpose to represent women my age and my size."
But Golota still wasn't through challenging herself, last month finding herself immersed in the pageant world.
Former title holders from the Miss BC pageant had suggested she should vie to be Mrs. BC – an idea she wasn't immediately sold on.
"After my research and talking to organizers, I found out that it was not a beauty pageant," she recalls. "It was about leadership and projecting good messages into the world and there was no swimsuit competition."
She decided to go for it and in early July, in front of a crowd of more than 300 people at Fort Langley's Chief Sepass Theatre, emerged victorious with a tiara atop her head.
The win was made sweeter by the fact the contestants raised more than $30,000 for Cops for Cancer, a cycling fundraiser by law enforcement and emergency services personnel that supports cancer research and support programs.
The Cops for Cancer - Tour de Valley 2016 takes place in September and while Golota won't physically be part of it, the freshly crowned Mrs. BC will be there in spirit.
"As a title holder, it will be my priority to support the event."
She has a fundraising page set up at http://bit.ly/2aFkolH
When she's helping, she's happy. And she wouldn't have it any other way.
- Sheila Reynolds has a BA in English from UBC and a Journalism degree from Langara College. She was an award-winning assistant editor and newspaper reporter for 19 years and now freelances and works in communications in education.