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'My worst fear': Sandie Rinaldo reflects on her journey with cancer


On May 6, I celebrated 50 years at CTV —yes 50!

Reaching this milestone, I am reflecting on my experiences at CTV News and the parts of my life that have been public all these years and the things about myself I’ve kept private.

With time, there is safety in revealing the most personal aspects of myself, so I am sharing with you my own cancer journey, which really started with my husband.

Michael died in 2005 after a six-month battle with cancer. Afterwards I read and reread journalist Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking.” It’s a brilliant account of Didion’s first year of coping with life after her husband’s death. She explains her grief process and how during the days and months that followed, she believed, if a person hopes for something enough or does the right thing over and over, bad events can be reversed. Didion writes about keeping her husband’s shoes, just in case he comes back and needs them.

I did the same thing. It was only when I was ready to move forward, that I was able to donate Michael’s shoes to a men’s shelter.

And then, without warning, two years after his death, I was plunged back into coping again.

An annual mammogram revealed a small lump on my right breast, unnoticed to touch or the naked eye. I was 57 years old.


I remember the day as if it was yesterday. A call from the hospital to come back for a second scan; the concerned faces of the technician, the radiologist and the biopsy that followed. I went home with a patch on my breast to wait for the results.

A call the next morning from the doctor confirmed I had breast cancer.

My worst fear was sharing the news with my three daughters who were missing their father.

I knew they would go to that dark place; losing me, too.

Let me tell you how challenging it is to focus on being optimistic when the universe is pulling you down. I had experienced far too much death; a son, when I was in my 30s; my mother in my 40s; and then at 55, my partner of 35 years.

I knew I had to find the strength for my girls and somehow I did.

I turned to music and dance to soothe and centre myself; and I spent time with those who brought me laughter.

But I focused on something far more important; my daughters. They inspired me to steady myself for what was to come.

I wanted to be around to watch them grow into the marvellous women they are today; to find love, make babies and build lives for themselves. I could not leave them.


Surgery, a lumpectomy, was scheduled to remove the tumour. A biopsy, ten days later, revealed it was small, hormone-driven and had likely not spread.

It had been caught early, which made me one of the lucky ones.

Treatment included weeks of radiation; but I opted out of the safety net of chemotherapy after consultation with my oncologist and a test to determine the likelihood of the cancer’s return.

It’s a decision my doctor told me could be the wrong one, if I let fear of a recurrence control my life. She suggested I do my best to avoid stress and focus on building tools to strengthen my resilience.

Ten years of the hormone pill tamoxifen followed; and here we are, sixteen years after the diagnosis.

Several of my colleagues have also had breast cancer or are currently in treatment. Many, if not most, have chosen to go public.

I kept my cancer secret from viewers at the time, largely because I was dealing with a lot, as a single mother of three daughters. I also worried that my aging and widowed father would be broken by the news. He had survived the Second World War, had endured loss, but watching his only child tackle cancer, would have been too much for him.

He is gone now; and with the passage of time, I am ready to reveal personal aspects of my life never shared publicly before, as part of a CTV News Special called “I’m Sandie Rinaldo” celebrating my 50 years at the network.

The Canadian Cancer Society says the five-year survival rate for all cancers, based on the most recent data collected, was 64 per cent, compared to 55 per cent in the early 1990s and 25 per cent in the 1940s; progress made through early detection and advances in treatment.

Growing up, we couldn’t say the C-word. It was as if uttering it aloud would make it a reality. Well, for the one in eight women who will get breast cancer in their lifetime, it is very much a reality, just as it is for anyone who has lost someone they love to the disease.

Cancer is very much a part of my story and I hope that sharing it now, even all these years later, will help others facing their own journey. You’re not alone.

  • In the hour-long special I’M SANDIE RINALDO, the longtime CTV anchor explores her family’s history, tracing her roots across Canada and around the world, airing Friday, May 12 on CTV, CTV News Channel,,, and the CTV and CTV News apps Top Stories

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