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Calgary woman's ride to self discovery

Ride to Conquer Cancer commemorates personal journey for local family

Brett Bergie and her son Sam.

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Brett Bergie and her son Sam.

If you use the river pathway from downtown Calgary to Edworthy Park, chances are you’ve passed Brett Bergie.

Each weekday, she cycles from Calgary’s west suburbs to her downtown job in the president’s office of Bow Valley College.

But when Bergie, a married trans woman with a seven-year-old son, bikes the 200-km Ride to Conquer Cancer this weekend, she’ll be commemorating a more personal journey.

“It’s an opportunity to go out and be myself as someone who’s trans who has a spouse who’s been through cancer — and to do something I love,” says Bergie.

I met with Bergie, her spouse Beatrice Aucoin and their son Sam at Phil & Sebastian in East Village, one of their favourite haunts.

It beats the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, where the family has spent countless days since Aucoin was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer in late 2014.

At the time, Bergie was exploring her gender identity. “Beatrice knew that I was starting to entertain the question: am I trans?” says Bergie.

Bergie, who was designated male at birth, had grown out her hair and started wearing women’s clothing as she paid attention to the tension within.

Now Aucoin, who long identified as queer, faced questions of her own about her appearance.

She chose a double mastectomy with reconstruction. “I just wanted this to be done and gone,” says Aucoin. “[Bergie’s] support was completely unqualified.”

Beatrice Aucoin (left), Brett Bergie and their son Sam.

Submitted

Beatrice Aucoin (left), Brett Bergie and their son Sam.

As they discussed it with the surgeon, Bergie was struck by how natural the conversation felt. “It was entirely about, well, how do you want your body to look?” recalls Bergie.

That night, with both of them feeling upbeat, Bergie came out to Aucoin: “I am trans.” They held each other and cried.

“I wasn’t sure what it meant for our relationship, but I knew I wanted to support her in the same way she had supported me,” says Aucoin. “I love her as she is.”

After surgery, their road took a hard turn. Aucoin’s diagnosis was incorrect. Her disease was more advanced: stage 3a. Surgery wasn’t enough.

Aucoin entered a painful world of chemo, radiation and drug treatments that lasted 18 months.

As Bergie took care of Aucoin, she continued the difficult process of coming out, first to family, then friends and colleagues. “We’ve found so much support,” Bergie says.

Last August, Bergie came out publicly on Facebook. Now, on the one-year anniversary of that declaration, she’s raised more than $2,200 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Her goal is $2,500.

“The timing of it is really great,” Bergie says. “We’re now on the other side of Beatrice’s cancer treatment.”

Bergie is jazzed about riding with a community that shares a common experience, while feeling good about where her own family has arrived.

“For us, it became something profound,” says Bergie. “What I see now is how resilient people and families can be when they’re tested.”

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