BREAKTHROUGH

WINTER 2020

OPENING THOUGHTS

RESILIENCE AND ACTION WILL CHANGE OUTCOMES

As we enter the holiday season with the pandemic impacting every aspect of our lives, we hold dear the health and safety of our loved ones. 

While prioritizing the health of our community is job number one, we at the BC Cancer Foundation certainly feel the challenges our charitable sector is facing with declines in donations experienced nation-wide. We’ve had to re-tool many aspects of our business, in particular pivoting our diverse events portfolio and exploring creative ways to engage our community in the absence of in-person gatherings. 

Through this, I thank you for standing strong with the BC Cancer Foundation. Cancer researchers, care teams and patients need us now, more than ever. We must keep the progress moving forward. 

Thanks to all of you who have remained steadfast supporters, we were thrilled to launch a $20 million campaign to break down women’s cancers at our Virtual Inspiration Gala. With donors across the province, we have raised $8.2 million toward this goal! 

Included in this wonderful start to the campaign is a transformative $5 million donation from Laurie Rix through the Rix Family Foundation, the largest to breast cancer in our province’s history. 

Laurie’s leadership and generosity is an inspiration. Her father Dr. Donald Rix was the first patient in the world to receive personalized cancer treatment based on genomic analysis. Her gift honours her father and her late husband Neil Macrae—who also passed away from cancer—and underscores her incredible confidence in BC Cancer. 
In the pages ahead, you will read the poignant stories of four women whose cancer experiences remind us that research offers hope and we must keep investing in this hope. 

Your consistent giving allows BC Cancer to deliver the best treatments available. I encourage you to learn more about our monthly giving program and how regular donations make a difference, click here. I wish you and yours a safe and healthy winter ahead.

Sincerely, 

Sarah Roth
President & CEO
BC Cancer Foundation

HEALTHY INSIGHTS

Alison Cumming, spiritual health practitioner, BC Cancer

Facing challenges, creating meaningful connections

The holiday season can be especially challenging for those facing a cancer diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one. BREAKTHROUGH connected with Alison Cumming, spiritual health practitioner, BC Cancer on how to cope while creating meaningful connections. 

What recommendations do you have for navigating this challenging time? 

ALISON: It’s easy these days to feel overwhelmed and discouraged and have our emotional energy consumed by things that are out of our control. However, we have more control than we often realize, especially in how we choose to perceive and respond to the current situation. I encourage people to focus their time and energies on what they can influence, to invest in building positive relationships and to prioritize and engage in activities that cultivate peace, joy, hope and love. 

Can you share tips on how to create meaningful connections over the holidays? 

ALISON: Engage in deep, attentive listening to each other’s stories; ask one another good questions that show genuine curiosity and interest; affirm one another’s personhood; share how you have impacted one another’s lives; and be willing to share your authentic, magnificently unique self— recognizing that you are a gift! 

What is your advice for those facing a cancer diagnosis or families who have lost a loved one? 

ALISON: I encourage individuals to self-compassionately allow themselves to be aware of their emotions and welcome them, with patience and without judgment; to give themselves space to grieve the losses; to remember what was, to accept what is (as they are able), and to hold with open hands and open hearts hope for what will be, trusting that somehow they will be carried through this difficult time.

Dr. Abraham Alexander, radiation oncologist, BC Cancer – Victoria

YOU CAN BRING NEW HOPE TO PROSTATE CANCER PATIENTS

Vancouver Island donors are critical to a game-changing expansion of a prostate cancer trial. The Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen(PSMA) clinical trial will harness PET technology and transform prostate cancer treatment at BC Cancer – Victoria and beyond. 

This trial extends from the PSMA program already established in Vancouver and will support earlier, more accurate detection of disease spread in prostate cancer patients utilizing PSMA-PET imaging, which will help inform treatment. 

This year, 775 Vancouver Island residents will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now is our time to act. 

“PSMA-PET allows us to accurately determine which prostate cancer patients have disease that has spread,” says BC Cancer Radiation Oncologist Dr. Abraham Alexander. “This may spare patients surgery or radiation that wouldn’t be beneficial, in favour of more optimal medical treatment, lessening treatment-related morbidity and improving outcomes.” 

PSMA-PET also helps guide treatment for patients whose cancer has not spread, has returned or has spread to only a limited number of sites. The impact on patients is significant, today and into the future. 

“It will allow us to conduct research into new approaches,” says Dr. Alexander. “PSMA-PET enables us to study the potential benefit of treating all sites of disease with surgery or radiation as opposed to chemotherapy or other medicines. The research potential is enormous.” 

With this trial, donors have the opportunity to connect patients to treatment solutions that are personalized for them. 

“Advancements in treatment occur when patients, medical staff and the community come together to effect positive change,” says Dr. Alexander. “With hard work and strong community support, PMSA-PET imaging can be the next big catalyst to improve outcomes for prostate cancer patients on Vancouver Island.”

With donors, we can transform prostate cancer detection and treatment throughout the province.

YOU CAN BRING NEW HOPE TO PROSTATE CANCER PATIENTS

To learn more about this game-changing campaign, contact Cynthia Durand-Smith at 250.896.0722 or cynthia.durand-smith@bccancer.bc.ca.

YOUR IMPACT

Shannon Gall with her family

CREATING A LASTING LEGACY IN LUNG CANCER RESEARCH

“I am living proof that research makes a difference.”

Shannon Gall

In September, the BC Cancer Foundation completed a $1.75 million fundraising campaign to support a lung cancer screening program at BC Cancer—the first of its kind in Canada. 

The program will help change patient outcomes for the more than 3,300 British Columbians who will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year alone. 

Kelowna resident Shannon Gall knows the importance of early screening for this disease. 

After being diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer in 2018, today Shannon is living life to the fullest because of an innovative therapy found through state-of-the-art genetic sequencing. While the treatment is not curative, it is life-extending. 

At 2020 Hope Couture: Hope from Home in September, Shannon and her husband Clayton announced an incredible $1 million donation after rallying a group of their fellow PH&N colleagues. 

“We based our ask to our PH&N family on the three things every cancer patient needs in their life: love, inspiration and hope,” she says. “We are so thrilled to provide hope and better outcomes for BC Cancer patients.”

SHAPING THE FUTURE OF LUNG CANCER CARE

Vancouver physician Dr. Cynthia Chan is creating her own legacy in lung cancer research after her personal experience with the disease. 

Dr. Chan was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2014, without ever having smoked a single cigarette in her life. 

“When I first learned about my diagnosis I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “As a non-smoker, I was shocked.” 

Since, Dr. Chan has undergone many forms of treatment at BC Cancer, including radiation, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy made possible by genomics. 
To share her experience with others, she is writing a book that will cover the topics of disease acceptance, interpreting data, and palliative care. 

She notes that a deeper understanding of the disease has been pivotal in her own treatment journey and allowed her to better understand and seek guidance related to specific symptoms.

Dr. Chan has been a steadfast supporter of the Foundation, generously giving to help British Columbians facing a similar situation. 

Her work and story will also help raise awareness around the importance of lung cancer screening to detect more cases while they are still treatable.

Lillian Rogers and Melissa Riding

FOR THOSE WE LOVE & HAVE LOVED: THE FACES OF WOMEN’S CANCERS

Through the B-PRECISE program, we will answer some of breast cancer’s biggest questions and provide real solutions to the women of British Columbia

Dr. Samuel Aparicio, Nan & Lorraine Robertson chair in breast cancer research, department head of breast and molecular oncology, BC Cancer

Lillian Rogers + Melissa Riding

When Lillian [Lily] Rogers and Melissa Riding moved to Vancouver in the fall of 2019, little did they know of the circumstances that would bring them together. Their friendship formed after each was diagnosed with breast cancer just two months apart, followed by similar treatment plans at BC Cancer. 

“I knew almost the moment I met Lily that we would be good friends,” says Melissa. “We both had a similar perspective on our diagnosis, and I remember feeling so much relief when I found someone close to my age going through the same thing.” 

Diagnosed young, Melissa with Stage II breast cancer at 26, and Lillian with triple-negative breast cancer at 28, they now face unique challenges from a cancer diagnosis at this stage in life. 

“Being a young cancer patient has meant my body is in good condition to manage the side effects of treatment, but it’s been overwhelming to know that this disease has interrupted the way I thought things were supposed to go at this stage of my life,” says Lillian. 

As both women continue with their treatments, both feel grateful for the research, clinical trials and enhancements to care that have made their respective treatment plans possible.

“We have so much respect for the women who have the courage to be part of ongoing clinical trials and for the doctors who are continually researching and identifying the best treatments plans for individuals like us,” says Melissa.

Amy MacRae

At just 35-years-old, wife, mother, teacher and writer, Amy MacRae lived for every moment despite being diagnosed with low-grade serous ovarian cancer. 

In 2016, after moving to Vancouver to be closer to family, a fertility specialist identified an unusual mass and referred Amy to BC Cancer. 

“Living in Vancouver allowed Amy to be treated by one of the leading experts in her rare form of cancer,” says husband, Garreth. “I know that Amy had access to the very best care—equal to or better than anywhere else in the world.” 

In the months after her diagnosis, Amy underwent surgery and was later approved for a clinical trial drug. In that time, Amy’s cancer progressed beyond the point of curative options and she made the transition to palliative care. 

Amy passed away on June 1, 2020 surrounded by the love of her family, Garreth and their young daughter, Evie. 

In her final days, Amy worked to establish a fundraiser in her name to raise funds for BC Cancer—with all funds dedicated to research for lowgrade serous ovarian cancer. To date, Amy’s friends and family have raised nearly $70,000 in her honour. 

“Amy wanted to know that her tragic experience and her passing was not in vain,” says Garreth. “She wanted to contribute to the effort which will result in future young women like Amy—mothers, sisters, daughters—being able to survive for many years after receiving a similar diagnosis.”

Zena Daruwalla

When a series of tests in August of 2017 identified a rapidlygrowing tumour on Zena Daruwalla’s ovary, along with hundreds of spots on her lungs, her care was transitioned to BC Cancer doctors specializing in gynecologic cancers, including Dr. Anna Tinker, medical oncologist at BC Cancer. 

Within days, Zena was given the grim prognosis of Stage IV ovarian cancer that had metastasized to her lungs. 

As Zena was thrust into chemotherapy, the spots on her lungs began to positively respond. That winter, she was cleared to undergo a hysterectomy to remove the ovarian tumour. 

Within weeks of her surgery, Zena’s condition took a turn when a nagging back pain she had felt before her hysterectomy returned, followed by numbness in her leg. With the help of her husband and sister, Zena was rushed to emergency where a MRI scan found a tumour inside her spine. 

“I remember the doctors being very nervous about the prospect that this tumour could leave me paralyzed,” says Zena. “It was really heartbreaking to get this news.” 

In the midst of recovering from her hysterectomy, Zena underwent radiation on her spine. The tumour shrunk, but something still didn’t feel right to Zena. Additional tests later identified a 2.5 centimeter tumour in her brain.

Exactly two months after her hysterectomy, Zena underwent brain surgery to remove the tumour. All these events happened within eight short months of her initial diagnosis. 

Now, over two years later, Zena has her life back. 

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the doctors and advancements to care that made every step of my journey possible,” says Zena. 

While miraculous, Zena’s story speaks to the expertise and multidisciplinary care at every stage of the patient experience at BC Cancer. 

“With continued innovations to research and care, we are hopeful that we will see more outcomes like Zena’s,” says Dr. Tinker.

WE WILL BREAK DOWN BREAST AND GYNECOLOGIC CANCERS 

We are on the cusp of changing outcomes for more individuals like Lillian, Melissa, Amy and Zena and the time to act is now. 

With donor support, BC Cancer will continue to lead the world in breaking down breast and gynecologic cancers through the OVCARE and B-PRECISE research programs. These programs will continue to bring together powerful scientific minds that are on the cusp of more cures, precise treatments and better outcomes. 

To learn more about how you can support research for breast and gynecologic cancers, contact Fatima Hassam at 604.877.6226 or fatima.hassam@bccancer.bc.ca.

Catherine Perka

RINGING A BELL OF HOPE: CATHERINE PERKA’S STORY

In January 2019, 33-year-old Catherine Perka started noticing some alarming lower digestive symptoms. She was referred for a test which looks at the large intestine. 

Newly married, Catherine and her husband Dan had also just learned she was pregnant and were feeling excited for their future. 

What came next was a shock. Her doctors found a mass in her rectum, diagnosing her with Stage III colorectal cancer. 

“My first thought when I was told that I have cancer was simply, ‘Am I going to die?’” remembers Catherine. 

Catherine and her husband were thrust into a world of unknowns and had to go through the tragic experience of terminating her pregnancy. 

Catherine started on a grueling treatment plan at BC Cancer – Surrey, consisting of 25 rounds of radiation and chemo every day for five weeks, a lower anterior resection with a temporary loop ileostomy, six rounds of further chemotherapy, and a second surgery to reverse the ileostomy. 

“When I arrived at BC Cancer, I was welcomed with open arms, warm smiles and a lot of caring people,” says Catherine. 

During her treatments, Catherine walked by a bell that patients ring to mark milestones in their treatment. The bell gave Catherine something to look forward to and a reason to be hopeful. 

Catherine completed her treatment in April and got to ring the bell surrounded by her family, friends and healthcare team. 

“Ringing the bell for me was a milestone marking the end of my journey, yet was symbolic of my gratitude for my healthcare team,” says Catherine. 

She recently received the news her scans show no evidence of disease.

RING A VIRTUAL BELL OF HOPE IN HONOUR OF SOMEONE SPECIAL.

Visit bccancerfoundation.com/Holiday to learn more.

 

Zoe Si

CONQUERING CANCER WITH CREATIVITY

British Columbians are finding innovative ways to continue fundraising for cancer research and care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nine-year-old Kate Morrissy sold her paintings through an online auction and raised over $3,000, part of which she donated to the BC Cancer Foundation.

Kate lost her grandmother to breast cancer and has always been interested in raising money for the cause. She is also proud to show that you’re never too young to make an impact in your community. 

“I’m so happy to show that kids can make a difference,” Kate says. “It makes me feel great.” 

Prints of Kate’s paintings are available for purchase for $30—inquiries can be sent to katesartforcharity@gmail.com 

Zoe Si has also been using her art as an outlet for fundraising this year. 

The artist is donating proceeds from her original illustration, “Black Panther,” to the BC Cancer Foundation and organizations that support black communities and the Black Lives Matter movement, in honour of actor Chadwick Boseman who passed away from colon cancer in August.  “I have many close friends in B.C. who have been impacted by cancer and I am aware of the life-changing work that the BC Cancer Foundation does,” says Zoe. “I am also fortunate to have a platform through which I can raise awareness about important social causes, such as Black Lives Matter.” 

To order a copy of Zoe’s “Black Panther” print, please visit: bccancerfoundation.com/ZoeSi

Learn how you can organize your own fundraiser by visiting bccancerfoundation.com/fundraise or contact Steven Rayson at 604.675.8244 or steven.rayson@bccancer.bc.ca

CENTRE SPOTLIGHT

Kelowna's first PET/CT scanner

CARE CLOSER TO HOME WITH KELOWNA’S FIRST PET/CT SCANNER

People living in the Interior now have access to a specialized cancer tool with the arrival of a new state-of-the-art PET/CT scanner suite at BC Cancer – Kelowna, thanks to donors in the community. 

The scanner, which delivers precise images of abnormal or cancerous cells, can help physicians diagnose cancer at an early stage or evaluate the effectiveness of treatments by determining if cancer tumours have shrunk, spread or returned. 

Until now, cancer patients living in Kelowna and surrounding areas had to travel to the Lower Mainland to receive cancer-related PET/ CT scans. Last year, BC Cancer – Vancouver conducted 1,151 scans on people who travelled from the Interior Health Authority area. The new PET/CT scanner is expected to provide more than 2,000 scans per year. 

“PET/CT imaging is a very sensitive and specific scanning method to detect cancer. More and more, PET scanning is quickly becoming an important and critical tool to diagnose, stage and assess treatment response for numerous cancers,” said Dr. Kim Chi, vicepresident and chief medical officer, BC Cancer. “This enables us, as oncologists, to best design and personalize a treatment plan for our patients. Thus, timely access to PET scanning is required to enable highquality cancer care.” 

Thanks to our generous donors, this is one more example of how BC Cancer is bringing world-class diagnostics closer to home. 

To learn more about how you can support cancer research and care in the Interior, contact Pardeep Khrod at 250.878.5490 or pardeep.khrod@bccancer.bc.ca