Ava's letter

In April 2011, Lisa Gibbings had a lot on her plate. The Perth County woman had a busy career as a nurse, was the mother to three children under six and her mother Diane had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer a few months before. Lisa had told her kids that Grandma was very sick and they needed to spend lots of time with her because she probably was going to die.

Lisa thought she had been doing a good job at hiding her emotions from her kids until one day she was cleaning out the backpack of her 6-year-old daughter, Ava. Lisa found something that made her sit down and cry. A few days before, Ava’s teacher had given her class a colouring and writing assignment and asked each student to write down their wish. While most students had wished for candy or toys, Ava had written the following: “My wish is to give money to cancer. I really hope it will help. Because my gramma has cancer in her brain. She is really sick. My mom is sad. And I know she is going to die soon and that is going to be a sad day.”

Ava loved her “Grandma from the farm” as she liked to call Diane. The two spent much time together gardening and feeding the calves and chickens on Diane’s farm. In the weeks prior to Ava writing her wish, Lisa had told the kids that “people need to donate money so that research can be done to understand cancer better. While research could not fix our Grandma, it could save other Grandmas in the future.”

Diane Dietrich underwent radiation treatment at the London Regional Cancer Program and took chemotherapy in pill form. This treatment regime kept her tumour at bay for about six months. During that time her symptoms were managed and she was able to spend time with her children and grandchildren. In December 2011, the tumour began to grow again. Just 12 ½ months after being diagnosed, Diane passed away at hospital. She was 58 years old.

Every year hundreds of thousands of Canadians advance the fight against cancer by donating to the Canadian Cancer Society. “My mom told me she had donated to the Canadian Cancer Society in the past. It’s amazing to see all the ways donations are put to use. The contributions of donors mean so much to the families of cancer patients,” says Lisa.

Her family’s cancer story has inspired her to be a passionate supporter of the cancer cause. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Money and lifestyle does not matter. No family is immune. This disease will affect everyone in some way. Everyone needs to give,” she adds.

From prevention, to research, to support for people living with cancer, to advocacy, to end-of-life issues – no other Canadian charity attacks cancer from so many different angles. The work of the Canadian Cancer Society is supported by fundraising events such as Relay For Life.