Meet some of the remarkable people from a community of donors, patients and survivors working together for a common cause
1. Rebecca Costello, leukemia patient, Nova Scotia
In December, 2016, Rebecca Costello had just turned 33. She was enjoying her career as a veterinary assistant and was thinking about starting a family with her partner, Matt Nelson. Those plans were interrupted when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Costello began a treatment plan that included chemotherapy and radiation.
Currently in remission, Costello’s treatment will continue to the end of 2019. Despite her struggles, she feels thankful for the support she has received from Matt, her friends and family, and the LLSC.
“The LLSC offered so much help and compassion. I first found the society through the resource booklets they have at the hospital. They helped me navigate my entry into the cancer world. From there, the society became my support system and I welcomed the connections I made with others going through similar journeys,” she says.
2. Kent Parlee, cancer survivor and Light the Night participant, Alberta
Twelve years ago, during a routine checkup, Kent Parlee was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). In his early 40s, with a successful career and family life, Parlee says he tried to greet his diagnosis with a positive attitude and was relieved when, after 10 rounds of chemotherapy, his cancer went into remission. Sadly, the disease returned two years later, and Parlee was told that a bone marrow transplant was his only chance for recovery.
Luckily, a match was found, and the transplant was successful. Soon afterward, he fulfilled his dream of attending his son’s wedding.
As it does for many patients, Parlee’s experience with cancer changed his life and led him to re-evaluate his priorities. Today, he puts his health and family time ahead of his career. His new appreciation for life inspired him to work with LLSC to offer support to others with blood cancer. Today, Parlee fundraises and is part of the volunteer leadership committee for the Light the Night Walk, an annual walk held in communities across North America to raise funds and awareness of blood cancers.
3. Noémie Bourgoin, leukemia survivor, Quebec
For 18-year-old Noémie Bourgoin, the first indication that something was wrong was a series of unusual symptoms, including fatigue, nosebleeds, night sweats and extreme pain in her legs. After an initial misdiagnosis of sinusitis, further tests led to a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Her doctor’s tone when he delivered the news and his insistence that she go immediately to the hospital filled her with an overwhelming sense of panic. “It was the first time in my life that I felt so afraid and powerless,” she says.
Admitted to the hospital, she was put into isolation and told she would be there for at least four weeks as she underwent treatment. She was terrified. Thankfully, through the LLSC’s peer-to-peer support program, First Connection, she was able to speak with someone who had also been diagnosed with ALL. The shared experience and guidance gave Bourgoin her first sense of hope.
Today, Bourgoin is cancer free. Grateful for the LLSC’s help, she participated in the 2017 Montreal Light the Night Walk where, with a team from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW, known as TUAC in Quebec), she helped to raise more than $150,000 for the society.
4. Dillon Cameron, volunteer and donor, British Columbia
Though Dillon Cameron has never had cancer, the disease has affected his life profoundly. His sister, Christiane, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was just 18 years old. A few years later, his friend, Allison, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Though both survived, the experience of supporting loved ones through their treatment for blood cancer left him with a desire to do more.
The opportunity came in 2009, when a client who was a blood-cancer survivor reached out and asked whether Cameron and his Vancouver-based investment firm, Deans Knight Capital Management Ltd., would like to donate to LLSC. A week after donating, he contacted his client to ask how he could become even more involved with the organization. For the past 10 years, Cameron has been participating in events such as Team in Training (an initiative that raises money to pioneer new breakthroughs in the fight against cancer, with participants taking on the most iconic endurance challenges in the world) and Light the Night, for which he serves as a corporate chair. Together with friends, family and his colleague, he has raised more than $450,000 for the organization.
“I support LLSC because they do so much to improve the quality of life – both physical and mental – of people with blood cancer,” Cameron says. “These kinds of organizations raise money and fund projects and work hard to ensure no one falls through the cracks. It’s important that we do what we can to help LLSC help others.”
5. Paul Meinema, corporate supporter and national president of UFCW Canada
More than three decades ago, the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union (UFCW Canada) made a pledge to fundraise annually to support the efforts of the LLSC. To date, the organization and its members have raised more than $41-million, says Paul Meinema, national president of the union, adding that the funds have made a vital difference in helping the LLSC continue its efforts to find a cure, provide better therapies and patient support, and increase public awareness about blood cancer. UFCW members are rightfully proud that their sponsorship of the UFCW Canada Award for Leukemia Research has contributed to many advancements in the treatment of blood cancers, he says.
“We are grateful that today survival rates have improved to 90 per cent for some blood cancers that were once considered incurable 30 years ago,” Meinema says. “Blood cancer is a battle that can be won.”
6. TED MOROZ, corporate supporter, volunteer, president, The Beer Store
The Beer Store’s commitment to fighting blood cancers is grounded in the belief that if you’re going to be part of the community, you should also give back to it.
Moroz is proud of the company’s partnership with UFCW Local 12R24 in supporting the LLSC as a charity of choice. Employees participate in fundraising activities throughout the year, but every May, more than 450 of its retail locations across Ontario join The Return for Leukemia Bottle Drive. This annual signature event has raised almost $17-million since it first took place in 2002.
Moroz says that it is a special experience to see employees and the community come together on this day. From a person who rides a bike to donate a single empty can to a family who has collected all year long and donates 50 cases, there are so many inspiring and heartwarming acts of giving during the Bottle Drive, he notes.
The Beer Store accepts empties all year round on behalf of LLSC. Customers just need to let the cashier know they would like to donate the proceeds from their empties to the LLSC.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.