Beth Peterson comes into her first Scotties experience with clear perspective.

The Winnipeg curler is making her Canadian women’s championship debut, and doing so required special approval from her employer for the time off.

A radiation therapist with CancerCare Manitoba, Peterson will be away for two weeks for the event plus another two weeks to quarantine upon her return home, owing to the province’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

She will be away from individuals in the midst of serious health struggles who are much more to her than simply a name on a chart.

"I get asked about my job a lot. People wonder, ‘Oh, my gosh, how do you do that? It must be so sad where you work.’ The truth is I absolutely adore my job. I loved it right from the start and I’m still early in my career," Peterson said.

"Yes, I do see a lot of things that make you come home and think about life and the tough things families go through. But it’s wonderful to be with the people that come in for treatment and help them get through things. It’s really rewarding."

Each day, she spends one-on-one time with cancer patients — of all ages, from all walks of life, from different part of the province — ensuring they are comfortable while receiving the medical treatment they need. 

The occupation has its own unique requirements — things that challenge her professionally and emotionally — but also offers tremendous rewards, said Peterson, 26.

"Sometimes, we treat patients for six weeks straight, so we really get to know them. We bond with them and bring some light into their lives. Other people are always asking them, ‘How are you doing? How are you feeling?’ We’re asking that, too, from a medical perspective, but we’re also getting to know them as people, taking their mind off things. We get to ask, ‘How was your kid’s Christmas concert last week?’" said Peterson.

"It’s not always sad like people think, because as much as we focus on the cancer we also focus on the person, as a whole, making sure they’re getting resources they need for all aspects of their life, whether it’s mental health, physical healthy, spiritual health, anything like that."

She’s keenly aware the pandemic has heightened the uneasiness new patients feel when they first enter a hospital setting.

"With what’s gone on in the world the past year, it’s pretty grounding. That’s the best word to describe it."

Peterson, third Jenna Loder, second Katherine Doerksen and lead Brittany Tran comprise the third wild-card team at the Scotties, staged in a bubble format at Markin MacPhail Centre with no fans in the stands and strict health protocols in place. 

Ranked 12th on the Canadian Team Ranking System, the Assiniboine Memorial squad slipped in as the final entry the last weekend of January when Suzanne Birt won the Prince Edward Island title.

Peterson debuts on tonight’s opening draw, set for 7:30 p.m., in a matchup with Laura Eby of Yukon. There will be no shortage of positive vibes flowing her way from co-workers and patients at CancerCare.

"They’ve been so supportive of me, making sure that shifts are covered for when I go. I’m so grateful to them all. They’re excited to watch us on TV. I know some patients found out, and some are older and are big curling fans," she said.

Doerksen, 27, making her first national appearance at any level of curling, said she draws inspiration from her skip, on and off the ice.

"A lot of us are so excited to be curling during the pandemic. It’s not something we probably thought was possible this year. But Beth is able to see the other side of the coin, that’s there’s so much to put into perspective in terms of what’s happened the last year and people that have had made so many sacrifices, and so many people that have suffered losses," said Doerksen, 27, a teammate of Peterson’s for the last three seasons.

"It’s going to make her experience here really unique. We’re all so impressed with the job they’re doing here to keep us all safe, but it’s probably something that really weighs on her heart a little than the rest of us, and it’s probably like that for any of the athletes here that work in health care."

There’s another heartening wrinkle to Peterson’s first Scotties championship. She and fiancé, David Turnbull, are expecting a child this summer.

"Being pregnant and moving into another stage of my life helps bring things into perspective, too, every day," said Peterson. "I’m feeling great. I hope my jacket fits or I’ll be playing with it wide open — which isn’t exactly ideal." 

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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