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Race organized in Walker’s memory Giant’s Head Grind an annual fundraiser for colon cancer Carla McLeod Special to the Review

Stepping out

Ellen Walker-Matthews, right, and her friend Janice Agur participated in the first Giants Head Grind in 2014.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016 Summerland Review

She used to often say, “I can live through thick and thin, but if anything ever happens to Chris, all bets are off.” Now, not only has Ellen Walker-Matthews lived through the loss of her son, to colon cancer, but she has also found the strength to create a memorial race in his name. Walker-Matthews and her eight-year-old son, Christopher moved to Summerland in 1992. She married Tom Matthews when Chris was 14. “Moving here was the best thing that could have happened,” explained WalkerMatthews. “It was a great life for us.” Chris played hockey. He ran marathons, was very athletic and very fit. He graduated from Summerland Secondary School, and then attended the University of B.C. He was a first year lawyer working for a Vancouver law firm, when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. He had no symptoms other than looking a little pale and thinking he might be lactose intolerant. He died 11 months later at the age of 29. “It’s been a pretty devastating ride to be truthful,” said Walker-Matthews. “Chris was a great guy…he truly was. The sense of loss that ripped through the family was immense.” What has motivated Walker-Matthews to go on and make the most of her own life is her belief that her son is still close by and that she will see him again one day. “He would not be at all pleased for me to waste my life when he so desperately

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wanted to continue living “If I look at the money that his,” she said. was spent on him over the 11 Due to this attitude, when months, over the last three Walker-Matthews met a weeks and over the last five Rotary Club member, who days of his life…how many expressed his desire to raise people could have been saved money to fix the trails on with the money that was Giants Head Mountain she spent on him once he got blurted out “I’ll do a race.” sick, if that money had been Thus was born the Giant’s put into early diagnostics and Head Grind — Christopher detection?” Walker Memorial Race. Walker-Matthews also While 50 per cent of the said that colon cancer is not funds raised from the race do widely talked about because go to fixing up trails on the it makes people uncomfortmountain, the other 50 per able. “It involves poop” she cent of the funds go to the said. early diagnostics and testing She intends to continue to of colon cancer. speak out about it and to fight “What we’re working on, for early testing for anyone lobbying and funding, is who wants it, so that no other more access to colon cancer test- “He would not be at all pleased ing. It’s very for me to waste my life when he easy and it’s not readily so desperately wanted to continue a v a i l a b l e , ” living his.” explained Ellen Walker-Matthews Walker-Matthews. “It is the number two killer from family has to experience the cancer in the country and pain that her family has. it is 90 per cent curable if Fortunately for Walkerit is caught in Stage 1 or 2. Matthews she comes from the By the time you are pre- hospitality industry and has senting symptoms and go planned many events in her and get the testing, you are life, so planning the race was very likely not going to live doable for her. through it.” She has received overYears before his diagnosis, whelming support from her Chris had asked his doctor family and friends and the for a colonoscopy because he community of Summerland. knew that two of his mother’s The countdown to the third uncles had died from colon annual memorial race for her cancer. son is now underway. He was told he was not “I live and breathe it from eligible because the family now until the week after,” members who had died were she said. not his immediate family, “It gives me incredible either his mother, father or joy. It is my way of keeping grandparents. Chris close in a very positive At the time he also had no way.” symptoms of the disease. For more information go to “When we ended up in www.giantsheadgrind.ca. the system, the geneticists If you know a positive and the oncologist said ‘Why story about someone in our hasn’t this young man ever community, contact Carla been tested?’ Yet on the med- McLeod at carlamcleod@ ical side there was a dis- shaw.ca or contact the Sumconnect,” said Walker-Mat- merland Review newsroom thews. at 250-494-5406.

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Summerland Review, February 25, 2016  

February 25, 2016 edition of the Summerland Review

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