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giving back

The donor: Heather Douglas

The gift: Helping raise $314,000 and climbing

The cause: The Canadian Cancer Society

The reason: To fund research into breast cancer that has metastasized

When Heather Douglas was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she had a mastectomy and felt confident the cancer had been caught early. Five years later, she discovered the cancer had metastasized, or spread, to the lining in her lungs and her liver.

Ms. Douglas, 51, eventually had to quit her job as a mining analyst and she recently moved from Calgary to Ottawa with her husband to be closer to her parents. The median life span for people with metastatic breast cancer is about three years. “I’m clearly on the lucky side of it,” she said.

A couple of years ago, Ms. Douglas decided to participate in the Run for the Cure, the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual fundraising event for breast cancer research. She found the event’s relentless focus on survivors unsettling and organizers discouraged talk about women who were living with metastatic breast cancer. And yet, up to 30 per cent of early-stage breast cancer patients see a recurrence of the disease and there’s little research into why that happens.

Ms. Douglas and a group of friends began organizing Metastatic Breast Cancer teams for the run and the Cancer Society has agreed that all money raised by the teams will be directed toward research into metastasized cancer. The number of teams across Canada has jumped from 10 in 2016 to 20 this year, and so far they have raised $314,000 in total. Ms. Douglas is hoping for more teams next year, although many team captains have died. Women with metastatic breast cancer “feel really isolated,” she said. “Now they can feel the strength of being together.”