This World Cancer Day, the BC Cancer Foundation is bringing awareness to the role each of us can play in closing the cancer care gap. We are sharing stories of hope and progress, made possible in part by philanthropic and community support, to enhance equitable access to cancer care in every corner of the province.
Kelowna’s Joy Playford is sharing her firsthand insights into B.C.’s cancer care system, following a double cancer diagnosis, to inspire her community to support enhancing access to cutting-edge care at BC Cancer – Kelowna. Then in her late 50s, Joy went into a routine medical exam with some mild discomfort never expecting it would lead to uterine and ovarian cancer diagnoses. “My doctor called me and said the three words that will make anyone’s blood run cold: ‘You have cancer.”
Joy, living up to her name, maintained focus on the positives that were under her control as she underwent surgery and follow-up care.
Her mindset first began to shift after being invited to participate in a joint study on ovarian cancer between BC Cancer and Alberta and she became active on the BC Cancer Foundation Advisory Board. “I could help others and contribute something important to future outcomes. This gave me a more positive outlook as I went through my journey.”
The second landmark moment was a realization of what’s truly important in her life – a phenomenon she says is common among cancer patients as they face life-changing events.
“I was inspired by many people who demonstrated incredible strength and courage through cancer diagnosis and treatment, and summoned that courage in other important life decisions and choices. ”
For Joy, this meant leaving her corporate career to create a better work-life balance and joining her husband’s leadership consulting firm. This was a long-time dream. Before cancer she envisioned it happening five years down the line, but the diagnoses made her realize no time is promised and there was no reason to wait.
She credits the ability to appreciate these moments to the world-class care she received from BC Cancer – Kelowna and the community of staff and volunteers who are the heart of the centre.
Joy’s cancers required care from the highly specialized reproductive cancer team based in Vancouver. The team also travels to Kelowna, which allowed Joy to be home for the majority of her care.
She says the coordination between the BC Cancer teams in Kelowna and Vancouver gave her and her family “a tremendous amount of confidence and comfort” as they weren’t bounced between care providers or left wondering what the next steps were.
After her recovery, Joy has continued working for better outcomes by supporting the BC Cancer Foundation, creating opportunities to educate the community on the work done at BC Cancer – Kelowna and its impact on patients like herself.
“We’re lucky that in our cancer care system many of our clinicians aren’t just providing care, but also conducting research to advance treatments and outcomes. I was actually the beneficiary of a lot of work that had been done in reproductive cancers right out of B.C.”
BC Cancer – Kelowna is the second busiest clinical trials hub in the province, where a growing team of world-class researchers are conducting their work.
Dr. Islam Mohamed, a radiation oncologist at BC Cancer – Kelowna, is among this team and shares that the impact extends beyond their own research.
“When we engage in research, oncologists must be aware of the landscape of state-of-the-art treatments in other jurisdictions, all over the world. By keeping up with and contributing to cutting-edge treatments, we’re able to accelerate their adoption as standard of care here in B.C,” explains Dr. Mohamed.
Community support plays a critical role in fuelling BC Cancer’s world-class researchers and clinicians as they work to improve outcomes for patients in the Okanagan and across B.C.
“Every one of us has something that we can do to support cancer care in our province – whether that’s a small or a large gift, driving patients to appointments or spreading the word – and when our individual contributions come together it has a huge impact,” shares Joy.