Archives for category: Personal Story

In 1999, Carrie Walker-Boyd learned she had stage 4B Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood system cancer diagnosed in an estimated 1,000 Canadians yearly. Initially, Carrie was relieved. She finally knew what was going on in her body.

Diagnosed at only 26, Carrie quit her new job to undergo treatment but wanted to keep busy. With a Canadian Cancer Society office around the corner from her house, Carrie walked in to get information about Hodgkin lymphoma and walked out with a new opportunity: a volunteer role requiring only a few hours a week, in a warm and welcoming environment that lifted her spirits between treatments.

“Volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society opened my eyes to just how much work they do for people fighting cancer,” remarks Carrie. “The stem cell transplant I underwent as part of my treatment was a result of research funded by the Society. I’m a strong supporter of their fundraising events as I know firsthand what type of impact the money raised can have.”

That same year, Carrie attended her first Relay For Life event in her community. She was so moved the event, by the end of the night, Carrie had signed up to participate and volunteer for the following year’s Relay.

“What I enjoy most about being on the Relay For Life committee is that everyone is there for the same purpose — to fight cancer and ensure the event is a success,” says Carrie. “Several of us have been affected by cancer in one way or another. The better we make the event, the more people we will draw in and the more donations we can collect.”

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by Jacinthe Guitard

The first time I heard about cancer, I was 9 years old. My mother had just learned that she had breast cancer. It was in 1971 and at that time, cancer research and treatments were not very advanced. Four years later, her cancer had generalized and I lost my mother. She was 59 and I was 13. For a young girl, it was a harsh reality. Because of this terrible disease, all my life events – my graduation, my wedding, and the birth of my children – were marked by a huge void.Jacinthe

In 1997, my brother was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancer that typically affects children. My brother was one of the rare adults to be diagnosed with this type of cancer. He endured 14 months of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments. After 18 months of treatment, he was finally cured. He had 16 beautiful cancer-free years, but then, two years ago, he learned that he had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma as well as leukemia. He just completed 8 months of chemotherapy and is now in remission.

During the years when my brother was healthy, cancer came back to touch our family too many times. My sister had a cancer of the meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) and had no chance at all. She died only a few months after the diagnosis. My two other sisters also had breast cancer. Fortunately, because of advancements in research and treatments, they are now proud cancer survivors.

So, if you ask me why I Relay, the answer is simple. I Relay to help fund research that will ensure that my family and others do not lose the people we love too early. Research can change the world and I know it. I have lost loved ones but some are also still with me and that is fantastic!

I also raise funds and walk the track at Relay For Life so that one day, no other 13 year old girl will have to face growing up and living through her life’s most important moments without her mother by her side.

By Johanne Roy, The Blue Butterflies Team Captain

A few years ago, my father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was from that moment that I realized the importance of participating in Relay For Life. I always knew that cancer was a terrible disease and that it affects many people, but before being directly touched by this awful disease, I had never thought about getting involved in fundraising events. I was very proud when I heard that people in my community had raised money for the cause, but I was never conscious of what I could do to contribute. In fact, it was much easier to tell myself, from the comfort of my home, that the people who participated in fundraising events were doing hard work and that they were very brave. When I think about it, I regret that I did not realize the importance of giving my time to fight cancer until someone close to me was touched by it.

This message certainly does not mean that I blame those people who stay in their routine and believe they don’t have the time or the talent to make a difference, because I was in their shoes not so long ago. On the contrary, this message is simply to tell everyone that it is easy and gratifying to get involved. You can go gradually like I did. Here is my story.

When my father told me about his experience as a survivor at his first Relay For Life, I had tears in my eyes. I was surprised to hear that he felt like a real Hollywood star when he walked around the track proudly wearing his yellow t-shirt. From that moment, I told myself that I absolutely had to participate in the event. So I registered in a team and had my first experience as a member of the Blue Butterflies team the next year. That night changed my perception of the disease. From that moment, I knew that I had to fight until it did not exist anymore. I don’t know if it was fate that was giving me a sign or if it was only a coincidence, but I learned that the team captain could not assume her role anymore. So I followed my instincts and decided to take charge of the Blue Butterflies team. Thanks to the recruitment of an exceptional team that always gets deeply involved, we have managed, in the last four years, to organize fundraising activities that are very successful. Whether it is a hockey pool, a bottle drive, the organization of a fashion show or a curling tournament, my team knows how to step up. It is indeed because of my team’s determination that we have had so much success.

Since I took over the role of team captain, many people around me have been touched by cancer. In fact, this terrible disease took my little nephew’s life. He was only four years old. I told myself that with research, experts will eventually find a cure and that one day another child like him will see his fifth birthday. That is why I encourage you to get involved. You will quickly realize that any action to fight cancer is rewarding. I sincerely believe that with the incredible effort of all the volunteers, one day, we will eradicate cancer.

When Sheena Laidlaw was in the hospital getting treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, she struggled to stay positive.

As a second year nursing student, she was accustomed to a busy lifestyle of exams, clinic education sessions, as well as time with friends and family. But over the months that she was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy, she felt defeated.

“I felt so helpless and alone,” Sheena said as she thought about her months in treatment. Struggling to keep an optimistic attitude, her brother gave her the push she needed to stay strong.

“My brother told me that I was a survivor and that I had to stay strong so I could be part of Relay For Life,” explains Sheena. “Time goes by so slowly in the hospital. I was starting to feel like I would never go home. Relay For Life gave me something to look forward to,” she says.

The pep talk from her brother gave Sheena the motivation she needed to focus on healing and keeping a positive attitude. After several months in the hospital, she was finally able to go home and continue her maintenance therapy with oral chemotherapy drugs to prevent a relapse, as well as take part in her first Relay For Life.

“I’ve been leading a Relay For Life team in Windsor every year since 2011 and I’m excited that so many people in our community take part,” Sheena says. “Whether you’re a survivor or you know someone who has beat cancer, is fighting it now, or has lost the fight, Relay unites us. I felt so alone at the hospital but walking the Survivors’ Victory Lap made me realize we are all in this together.”

Margaret Cadman’s journey with cancer began in 2004 when her husband Art was diagnosed with colon cancer. At first, Art wanted to maintain his independence and drove himself to treatment but, eventually, he had no choice and Margaret took on the driving.  Sadly, Art died five years after his diagnosis.

Almost a year later, Margaret lost her son-in-law, Joe, to lung cancer and then, she was faced with fighting her own cancer battle. At the age of 66, Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer and, one year later, an ongoing stomach ache revealed she had stomach cancer. Throughout her battle with cancer, Margaret relied on the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wheels of Hope transportation service to get to treatment appointments.

“When the second diagnosis came in, I refused to believe it. I couldn’t believe cancer struck again,” says Margaret.

Shortly after Art’s cancer diagnosis, Margaret and her husband started participating in Relay For Life and continues to do so in memory of Art and Joe.

“I’ve walked the Survivors’ Lap seven times now, and I plan to make that many more,” says Margaret. “I also volunteer during the event. I like to get involved in Relay any way I can and give back to the organization that helped me during my most difficult years,” adds Margaret.

Margaret also volunteers during Daffodil Month by selling daffodil pins to give back to the organization that helped her during her cancer journey and support others who are currently fighting cancer.

“As my husband always said, if it helps one person, it’s worth it,” says Margaret, staying true to her husband’s words.

He played in a band and she sat on the organizing committee. That’s how Bud and Linda Mabon helped out at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life in Goderich over the years. That is, until four years ago, when the couple did something completely different at the event. They walked the Survivors’ Victory Lap.

“We were both undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the time,” says Linda. During the walk, she, her husband and another young cancer survivor carried the Relay banner. “A friend met us at the finish line with a bouquet of roses. There were a lot of tears from being belonging to a wonderful and supportive community.”

Months earlier, the Mabons had been diagnosed within weeks of each other: Bud with colon cancer and Linda with Stage 3 breast cancer. As they underwent rigorous medical treatment, family, friends and neighbours offered to help.

“We had people checking up on us all the time,” Linda says. “Our neighbour cut our grass, a friend shovelled our snow.” While the couple recovered from surgery, friends and family brought hot meals to the house.

Still, some days were really tough for the Mabons, who had recently celebrated 30 years of marriage. In addition to the physical and emotional side effects of the disease, the couple had to cope with financial strains as well. Bud was retired, and Linda faced the prospect of never being able to work again.

“We felt like we were in limbo,” says Linda. Their social life also came to a stop.

In June 2010, Relay For Life rolled into town. Instead of pitching in with fundraising or providing entertainment at the event – as they had done for years – Bud and Linda found a much-needed outlet for their ordeal.

“We were able to socialize and talk about the journey we were on, our fears and how we coped,” Linda says. “The support from the whole community was overwhelming.”

The next year, the Mabons spoke at the opening ceremonies.

“That was emotional,” Linda says. “The tears were more from relief that the treatments were over, feeling joy in the moment, and the need to go on and raise awareness about this disease.”

Now cancer-free, Linda and Bud continue to attend the Relay every year and walk the Survivors’ Victory Lap together.

It was a routine moment in time that changed everything for my family.

I was a baby – just 11 months old – and my mom was giving me a bath. She felt a lump on my side and was immediately concerned. After several doctor’s visits and medical tests, my parents’ worst fears were realized. A large tumor had taken over my entire left kidney.sisters

Unfortunately, the bad news did not stop there. The cancer had spread to my lungs. In addition to chemotherapy treatments, I needed two surgeries – one to remove my left kidney and the second to remove spots on my lungs. Thankfully, when I was four years old, I was finally declared cancer-free.

I have no memories of my cancer and the chemotherapy treatments or surgeries. My parents did not share the full story of my cancer journey with me until many years later. But, what I do remember is how grateful my parents were for the critical support that the Canadian Cancer Society provided during this terrible ordeal.

My parents were going through the severe emotional and physical stress that one endures when their child is very sick. They really needed an extra helping hand. For them, help came in the form of the Society’s Wheels of Hope transportation service.

After my diagnosis, I needed to travel back and forth from our home in Niagara Falls to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for treatment. My mom did not drive and my dad worked seven days a week to pay for our family’s expenses. For us, the Wheels of Hope transportation service was the perfect solution to our problem.

In addition to driving me to my medical appointments, the amazing Society volunteer drivers also supported my mother by giving her someone to talk to. During the car rides back and forth from my treatments,

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the drivers would listen and chat with my mom, which was exactly what she needed during one of the most challenging times in her life.

Although my cancer journey ended many years ago, the impact of the disease has stayed with me. I am strong and determined to live life to the fullest. I chose a career in healthcare so I could help others. And, I share my story as often as I can to motivate others to join me to fight back against a disease that touches too many lives.

It’s through the dedication of volunteers and the generous support of donors that the Society is able to offer the Wheels of Hope transportation service that helps so many families like mine. This service is supported by fundraising events such as Relay For Life and so I thank you.