Leap Magazine Fall 2022

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FALL 2022



PM 40030911

Support research, treatment and care at the new Calgary Cancer Centre





Alberta Cancer Foundation launches the We Cross Cancer campaign in an effort to raise $30 million for the Cross Cancer Institute.


Amanda Davison uses data analytics and research to improve cancer patient outcomes.


Georgia-Jean Kemp credits her husband and doctors for her recovery from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


18-29 VITAL SUPPORT CARE A variety of health-care professionals support Albertans living with cancer throughout their journey, but it’s not only doctors and nurses who make a difference in their lives — dietitians, pharmacists and even a furry friend can have a significant impact on a patient’s well-being.



Dr. Geetha Menon’s research shows MRIbased brachytherapy can improve effective treatment of cervical cancer. Plus, CAR T-cell therapy is changing the landscape of pediatric cancer care, and the evolution of fundraising efforts since the pandemic.


The benefits to cancer patients opting for locally sourced honey instead of refined sugar.


A specially tailored fitness routine can help cancer patients physically and mentally.


Four alternative ways to make a donation to cancer care and research that can have an immediate impact.


Experts dispel the myths around smoking and lung cancer, and offer ways to deal with a loss of appetite during cancer treatment.


Before passing away, Maximillian Schuster taught his parents how to live life to the “Max.”



Dr. Adam Kinnaird embraces his new role as the Frank and Carla Sojonky chair in prostate cancer research.

Bob Ainsworth remembers his late wife through philanthropy and her poetry.


The Libin family has a tradition of giving back to the community, any way they can.


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Close to Home TRUSTEES

Dr. Chris Eagle (Board Chair) Cathy Allard-Roozen Brian Bale Dr. Charles Butts Rajko Dodic John Donald Brenda Hubley Dianne Kipnes Chris Kucharski Sandra Lau John Lehners (in memory) Brian McLean Chief William “Billy” Morin Dr. Don Morris Barbara Munroe Gelaine Pearman Dr. Dean Ruether, Ex-officio Tom Valentine Heather Watt

We at the Alberta Cancer Foundation are still basking in the summer afterglow of seeing so many Albertans come together to raise money for cancer. From golf tournaments and trail walks to hopping on a bike — both stationary and the kind that rolls through our prairie roads — people stepped up across this province to help create more moments for Albertans facing cancer. That commitment and generosity from donors of all kinds allows us to support the groundbreaking research you’ll read about in this issue of Leap. We have the privilege of behind-thescenes access to the incredible research taking place in Alberta. When we see it written out in these stories, we’re reminded of how lucky we are to have some of the brightest minds in cancer right here in Alberta, pushing the pace of discovery every day. Take Dr. Geetha Menon, a medical physicist at the Cross Cancer Institute. She and her team are leaders in cervical brachytherapy (pg. 6), training others around the world in this technology to make treatments better, faster and, ultimately, improve outcomes. You’ll read about how CAR-T, a revolutionary treatment manufactured in Alberta, will expand treatment access for kids across

the province (pg. 8). You’ll also meet Dr. Adam Kinnaird, the new Frank and Carla Sojonky chair in prostate cancer research, who is taking the baton from Dr. John Lewis (p. 32) and working to build Alberta as a powerhouse in prostate cancer research. You’ll meet leaders in the supportivecare space, ensuring that, alongside that excellence in research and the biomedical model, Albertans are supported in all aspects of their cancer journey. Social workers who help find families financial support or counselling services. Rehabilitation programs that restore function during or post-treatment. All of these players — and many more — who provide supportive care are an important part of the treatment team (pg. 18). You will also read about one of our very own and the devastating loss of her sweet son, Max (pg. 30). Dayna Schuster joined our team earlier this year, and we wish we could say she was the only one on our Alberta Cancer Foundation team with a cancer story, but sadly, she’s not. We all have a story. And that makes what we do personal for us. We are grateful for each and every story we get to share. We hope you enjoy reading about the impact you are making right here close to home.




a/leap/ albertacancer.c tion ip cr bs leapsu



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Fall 2022


VOL. 12


NO. 2

ALBERTA CANCER FOUNDATION EDITORS Phoebe Dey and Breanne Kraus MANAGER OF RPM CONTENT STUDIO Meredith Bailey MANAGING EDITOR Derek Clouthier ART DIRECTOR Veronica Cowan STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jared Sych CONTRIBUTORS Colleen Biondi, Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Derek Clouthier, Katy Dockrill, Karen Durrie, Jason Dziver, Sabina Fenn, Jennifer Friesen, Cailynn Klingbeil, Nathan Kunz, Michaela Ream, Colleen Seto, Keri Sweetman, Sheila Toderian, John Ulan, Debby Waldman, Sean P. Young PUBLISHED FOR Alberta Cancer Foundation Calgary Office Suite 300, 1620 29 St. N.W. Calgary, Alberta T2N 4L7 PROVINCIAL OFFICE 710, 10123 99 St. N.W. Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3H1 Tel: 780-643-4400 Toll free: 1-866-412-4222 acfonline@albertacancer.ca PUBLISHED BY RedPoint Media Group cSPACE King Edward 1721-29 Ave. S.W., Suite 375 Calgary, Alberta T2T 6T7 (Letter mail only) Phone: 403-240-9055 Toll free: 1-877-963-9333 Fax: 403-240-9059 info@redpointmedia.ca

May has promised a gift of life. May Pringle is one of the hundreds of donors who have chosen to leave a gift to the Alberta Cancer Foundation in their Will. After facing uterine cancer and melanoma and eventually losing her husband to pancreatic cancer, she wanted to invest money in research. Now and for the future.

Thank you,, May!

PM 40030911 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to the Edmonton address above. CEO Pete Graves PRESIDENT Käthe Lemon


Leave a legacy. Consider a gift of life in your Will. albertacancer.ca/legacy

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Dr. Geetha Menon’s research shows how MRI-based brachytherapy can improve treatment of cervical cancer by COLLEEN SETO

ver the past few decades, the incidence and mortality rate of cervical cancer has declined, largely because of screening. Caught early, the survival rate for cervical cancer is high. However, “not all patients get diagnosed early, and surgery may not be possible,” says Dr. Geetha Menon, a medical physicist at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute. In fact, cervical cancer is the fourth most common reproductive cancer in Canadian women. “For locally advanced cases of cervical cancer [where the tumour within the cervix is considered large or the cancer has grown into the tissue around the cervix], outcomes are not great.” This is where Menon’s research on gynecological carcinomas and


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brachytherapy is making a real difference. When not amenable to surgery, curative-intent treatment of locally advanced cervical cancer involves a multimodality approach that includes a combination of external beam radiotherapy with concurrent chemotherapy, followed by a brachytherapy boost. Brachytherapy refers to a type of internal radiation therapy where a radioactive source is fed into an applicator that is placed inside the body, in or near the tumour, to deliver highly localized radiation treatment. This radiation boost is more effective at destroying cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue. “At the Cross, we treat about 40 to 50 cervical cancer patients with brachytherapy each year,” Menon says. “Learning from our years of experience and a large database of

treatment information, the brachytherapy team at the Cross is continually performing innovative research aimed at providing better and more personalized brachytherapy treatments for women with cervical cancer. In concert with external beam radiation therapy, targeting tumours with high-dose radiation through MRI-based brachytherapy has significantly improved outcomes. “It’s shown to be essential for these patients,” says Menon. “It’s the gold-standard treatment for locally advanced cervical cancer cases.” Specifically, as part of a leading worldwide collaboration, Menon and her team examined the anticipated treatment planning improvements of using MRI for brachytherapy, since the Cross is one of the first centres in Canada to use this technique. “With a CT scan, it’s very difficult to differentiate the tissues

in the pelvis,” she explains. “With its superior ability to visualize tissue, an MRI is not only the best imaging modality for tumour delineation, which is a crucial step when generating the radiation treatment plan, but it also helps in making sure that the radiation dose to the nearby critical structures, like the rectum and bladder, is reduced.” Cervical cancer brachytherapy applicators, used to guide the radiation sources, come in various shapes and sizes. “When an applicator is inserted into the uterus, it changes the anatomy significantly,” Menon explains. Prior to the brachytherapy procedure, doctors used MRIs taken without the applicator to make an educated guess to predict this change and to choose the suitable applicator for treatment. However, such speculations are quite challenging, as each patient’s anatomy is unique.

Menon is involved with a study where an artificial intelligence model was developed using MRI images taken before and after the brachytherapy procedure to predict how the uterus changes after an applicator is inserted. “This information will assist the doctors in efficient decision-making prior to the procedure, which, in turn, will make treatments better, faster and, most importantly, further improve outcomes.” She also points to the potential of using 3D printers to print custom applicators for personalized treatment. Menon alluded to a current effort in North America to train more doctors in brachytherapy. “It’s an advanced practice, and not every centre offers it,” she says. That means not all residents get exposure to training, resulting in fewer doctors with the expertise and surgical experience needed to perform brachytherapy. Fewer doctors and centres with this expertise means limited access to the treatment. Menon is part of a team involved in the development of a virtualreality simulation tool that takes the user through the brachytherapy process, from the initial preparatory step to performing procedures. “It’s not just about the research,” says Menon. “I believe such efforts to encourage and train the next generation will produce competent trainees delivering superior brachytherapy treatments, resulting in improved treatment outcomes.” myleapmagazine.ca FALL 2022 LEAP 7


Training T Cells CAR T-cell therapy is now accessible in Alberta to pediatric patients BY DEBBY WALDMAN

In the eight years since Dr. Michael Chu became an oncologist at the Cross Cancer Institute, he has worked hard to make chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy accessible to cancer patients in Alberta. Now, thanks to funding from the Alberta Cancer Foundation, the novel, life-saving therapy, along with autologous stemcell treatment, will also be accessible to some children in the province. T cells are a critical part of the body’s immune system. CAR T-cell therapy involves removing some of a patient’s T cells and genetically modifying them to create better recognition of the cancer cells. The cells are then put back into the patient’s body where, if the therapy is 8 LEAP FALL 2022

successful, they will kill the cancer cells. Chu likens the modified cells to the U.S. Navy Seals, a highly trained expert special operations force. “We are retraining the immune system to go back after its own cancer,” he says. “The basic concept is, why not use the patient’s own immune system when it’s actually quite functional?” The treatment was first developed 30 years ago, but it has only been used regularly in Canada in the past five years. Due to the complex and expensive nature of the treatment, it has been slow to catch on in Edmonton, until now. After the cells have been removed via a process called apheresis, traditionally they had to be sent to one

of three pharmaceutical companies, all in the United States, to be modified and cultured. The average turnaround time was approximately four weeks, and the cost is exceptionally expensive. As more common types of cancer start using these approaches, Canada could see what Chu calls, “a crisis of access.” To ensure that doesn’t happen, Chu is running a trial to treat 57 adult and pediatric patients with relapsed leukemia and lymphoma using “point of-care” CAR T-cell manufacturing. Rather than outsource the entire process, he is using two manufacturing sites in Edmonton and Calgary to create the “living treatment” for each patient in the study. This point-of-care

FRONT LINE OILERS’ PLAYOFF PUSH SUPPORTS KIDS WITH CANCER The Kids with Cancer Society and the Alberta Cancer Foundation benefitted when the Edmonton Oilers beat the LA Kings in seven games during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in May. That’s because the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) earmarked proceeds from the first round to the Oilers Playoffs Mega 50/50 for the two organizations. EOCF has been supporting Kids with Cancer Society and the Alberta Cancer Foundation for more than 10 years, raising funds through a golf tournament and Hockey Fights Cancer. “We’ve been so blessed to have the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, not only from a financial perspective, but also for the awareness they help to raise, and for giving some of our kids a chance to be part of the game,” says Val Figliuzzi, executive director of the Kids with Cancer Society. Six-year-old Ben Stelter captured the hearts of players and fans this year when he was a Scotiabank skater at an Oilers game in March. His irrepressible giggle was on display at a post-game press conference with winger Zach Hyman, who was clearly enchanted by him. The team and the fans basically adopted Stelter, who was named the Edmonton Oilers Playoff Ambassador, largely because of his sparkling personality. He became the face of the Kids with Cancer Society for everyone following the team. “The strength and perseverance of Ben and his family is something the entire community embraced,” says Natalie Minckler, executive director of the EOCF. Sadly, Stelter passed away Aug. 9. “He was one of dozens and dozens of children who are facing the same sort of journey,” says Figliuzzi. “He has given a voice to those children. His legacy will live on.”

manufacturing will reduce the cost of CAR T-cell treatment by approximately 90 per cent per patient thanks to a bread maker-sized bioreactor. The bioreactor belongs to the Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing facility led by Dr. Greg Korbutt of the Edmonton Islet Transplant Team. Chu hopes to purchase designated bioreactors for the CAR T-cell therapy program so he can build the infrastructure needed to operate the study in Edmonton at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. While adult patients can currently be treated in either city, pediatric patients can only undergo such treatments at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. Cell treatment can be lengthy, and patients can spend up to three weeks in hospital following a procedure. And, even if they’re not staying in hospital, they need to be near the treatment hospital for four weeks. “Realistically, the patients we treat [in Edmonton] are from northern Alberta,” Chu says. “The majority [of patients] are

from this area and prefer to be treated in their backyard rather than going down to Calgary and being even farther from family and friends.” Chu has had patients turn down CAR T-cell therapy because they don’t want

to be far from home for so long, and he understands the reluctance. “These patients have been through so much. To ask them to go just a little farther, it’s a step too far in some cases, either on a psychological front or a social front.” Ten patients have participated in Chu’s CAR T-cell trial so far. All had already undergone unsuccessful treatment for either relapsed/refractory B-cell leukemia or aggressive nonHodgkin’s lymphoma. Eighty per cent saw an improvement in their cancer with CAR T-cell therapy, while half maintained full remission. Now, Chu is focused on learning how to make the treatment successful for everyone. Eventually, he hopes it can be used to treat other forms of cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma and lupus. Although Edmonton has the necessary infrastructure for stem cell transplants and CAR T-cell therapy for adults, budgetary issues have prevented pediatric patients from receiving treatments at the Stollery. “We didn’t have a path forward because it was too big of an ask,” Chu says. “The Alberta Cancer Foundation’s donation helps us to establish that. It puts the ability to treat pediatric patients with CAR T cells and autologous stem cell transplants in Edmonton in the actual, foreseeable future.”


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The Changing State of Events How fundraising campaigns innovated during the pandemic to maximize their impact by SEAN P. YOUNG Nearly all industries were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but few were forced to pivot as dramatically as those running in-person events. For fundraising event organizers like Ryan Campbell, director of corporate relations at the Alberta Cancer Foundation, more than two years of evolving restrictions during the pandemic represented a unique challenge with millions of dollars supporting cancer care, research and patients at stake. “My biggest takeaway is we now have two years of experience pivoting to virtual and the participants also have the experience of participating in virtual events,” says Campbell, who oversees one of Alberta’s leading fundraising events, the Enbridge Tour Alberta


for Cancer. Campbell says numbers for the in-person Tour Alberta 2022 event, which took place in July, were down slightly, but he expects them to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. He says the virtual component, which allows people from all over Alberta

FALL EVENTS Michelle Pitt, philanthropy events lead for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, says in-person events are returning at nearly full force in 2022, but virtual events will continue to grow. “It really allowed the sector to start shifting its approaches to look at not only live events, but more hybrid style and fully virtual events,” Pitt says. “We are really excited and looking forward to the next chapter.” Here are some of the Foundation’s top fall fundraising events: LEGACY WALK FOR CANCER September 10-11 The fifth annual Legacy Walk for Cancer takes place on the beautiful Legacy Trail, which is a 27-km stretch between the Coast Plaza in Canmore and the Fairmont Banff Springs. Walkers can participate in person over one or two days or go virtual and walk wherever they feel comfortable. All proceeds will be donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

GEDFEST IN MEMORY OF GORDON EDGAR DOWNIE October 15 Tragically Hip tribute band Trickle Down will again celebrate the late Gord Downie with a show that will be live-streamed. The rocking campaign includes a silent auction. All proceeds will be donated to the OWN.CANCER campaign through the Alberta Cancer Foundation. U OF A ENGINEERING HEAD SHAVE December 1 Since 2003, the University of Alberta Engineering Students’ Society has raised more than $400,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation with this annual head shave event. The event is live-streamed so you can donate and watch participants lose their locks from the comfort of your own home. All proceeds will be donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation. For full details on these events and more, visit albertacancer.ca/event-calendar.

to participate how they want — be it a walk, cycle or run around their neighbourhood — is here to stay, and is one of the good things to come out of the dramatic shuffling his team had to do during the pandemic. “It was actually a really great opportunity for people to get involved who may have not gotten involved before,” Campbell says. “The big word for us is ‘accessibility.’ Before, the Tour was seen as kind of an elitist cycling event. And that’s not the image we want to have. We want this to be a community that anybody can be a part of.” The requirements for entry to the live Tour Alberta event remains, raising a minimum of $2,500, being able to cycle more than 200 kilometres and being accompanied by an adult if you’re under 18. But, Campbell says, with the virtual walker, runner and cyclist options added this year, none of those restrictions exist. The event is also offering a change in how participants can allocate the funds they raise. “For the first time ever, we’re allowing participants to select one of the Alberta Health Services’ 17 cancer centres,” Campbell says. “That guarantees that, if they pick one of those options, those dollars are going to stay in their community.”


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Four Alternative Ways to Make a Donation Toward Cancer Care and Research that Can Make an Immediate Impact While gifting with cash, cheque or credit card often comes to mind when considering ways to support your favourite charity, planning your gift from other assets can help you make a bigger impact, save more tax and see no reduction in your daily bank account. Here, we cover four of the more common ways to give from other sources.


Make a lasting impact with a blended pledge — provide half the funding during your lifetime and the other half from your estate, which can enable you to donate more.


The most tax-efficient way to give is by donating publicly traded securities. Eliminate capital gains tax on the appreciation and receive your tax receipt for fair market value.


Transfer ownership of a paidup life insurance policy that has outlived its original purpose. Your immediate charitable tax receipt will be for up to the policy’s fair market value.

There are even more ways to support your favourite cause that don’t take cash from your bank account. Ultimately, a certified financial advisor who understands charitable giving can


Dollars may have been set aside for planned charitable use. Consider creating an endowment or named fund with distributions from your existing foundation, fund or trust.

provide the best strategies for biggest impact and largest tax savings.

Want to learn more? Contact Christy Soholt, director, legacy and strategic philanthropy at the Alberta Cancer Foundation at 780-991-1088 or christy.soholt@albertacancer.ca. PHOTOS BY (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT) ILYALIREN; INSIDE CREATIVE HOUSE; REDMAL; NUMBEOS ALL COURTESY iSTOCK

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World Health Organization recommends that less than 10% of your total energy come from added sugars.

Sweet Deal Eating local honey has long been touted for having health benefits, but is there a benefit for cancer patients opting for honey instead of refined sugar? by MICHAELA REAM Since ancient times, bees have been present across creation myths, folklore and as symbols of reverence, while their honey has represented sweetness, healing and even magic. Honey has been consumed for approximately 25,000 years during the Upper

Paleolithic period and the earliest evidence of it being used as medicine dates back 8,000 years. Although some might question the magical elements of honey, there is truth to its benefits, especially when living with cancer. “Cancer treatment is a marathon, and

you have to think, which of the foods that I’m eating are going to fuel me for this marathon,” says Pamela Klassen, RD, PhD candidate at the University of Alberta, whose research focuses on nutrition-care strategies for people with advanced cancer.

THE ROLE OF SUGARS Sugar is one such fuel source our bodies need and use daily, but not all sugars are created equal. Natural sugars, those found in fruits as fructose and dairy products as lactose, as well as in complex carbs, are part of a balanced diet. These sugars are broken down in our bodies into glucose, which our cells use as energy. Added sugars, however, are what dietitians warn about over-consuming. These are sugars that are added to foods during preparation, like white sugar or honey. Unlike natural sugars, these only provide extra calories and short bursts of energy. Excess added sugars are also linked to health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. As cancer cells also use glucose as energy, consuming excess added sugars is easy energy. That’s not to say you should cut sugar out of your diet completely, especially when living with cancer, Klassen warns. “While other cells in your body might struggle if you stop eating glucose sources, cancer cells adapt really quickly, so they’ll take what they need before any of the other cells in your body can get it,” she says. PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT): COURTESY OL’ GRUMPS’ HONEY; COURTESY OL’ GRUMPS’ HONEY; FOTOKOSTIC, COURTESY iSTOCK; ARX0NT, COURTESY iSTOCK

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FOOD FOCUS (Top) A cluster of beehives at Ol’ Grumps’ Honey. (Bottom) A queen bee with her retinue (attendants).

SWEET DEAL Although honey is technically an added sugar, it’s different. Honey, like sugar, is made up of fructose and glucose, but also has trace amounts of minerals and vitamins. Honey also has antioxidants, antibacterial properties and natural enzymes (which break down sugar into glucose), making digestion easier. Using honey (in moderation) as a support mechanism during cancer treatment can be beneficial to patients. For people who experience changes or loss of taste, Klassen says adding sweetness, salts or acid can help make a dish more palatable. She suggests a honey glaze on chicken, or a teaspoon in a glass of milk can help. Compared to sugar, honey has a slightly lower impact on the glycemic scale (a value from 0-100 that ranks food or drink based on how much they increase blood sugar levels) than white sugar. The lower impact can be helpful for patients already at risk of high blood sugar. Eating local honey is also a great way to support local beekeepers, but at the end of the day, Klassen says it comes down to maintaining a balanced diet and personal preference. “Food is a support mechanism for making sure the rest of the cells in your body can withstand that treatment your body’s taking,” she says. A healthy diet includes starchy foods, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and, most importantly, protein. And maybe, if it helps, a spoonful of honey can help the medicine go down.

LOCAL BEEKEEPING IN CALGARY WILL PRATT, OWNER OF OL’ GRUMPS’ HONEY IN COCHRANE, SHARES MORE ABOUT LOCAL BEEKEEPING “We got into beekeeping because we were interested in the adventure of making our own honey. The fun of running a business with a product we are proud of has sustained our expansion from two hives to several dozen. I reckon we have 1,567,482 bees and our larger apiaries of 20 or so hives can make 2,000 pounds of honey. Different nectars can produce a wide range of honeys, varying in taste, colour and even crystallization. In Canada, honey from buckwheat is on the darker range. North of Cochrane, there is a considerable dandelion nectar flow in May and June and, a bit further east, canola can produce huge honey crops.”

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The Wonders of Working Out A specially tailored fitness routine can not only help cancer patients feel better physically, it can also have a mental impact by DEREK CLOUTHIER illustrations by SABINA FENN Exercise should be on everyone’s weekly to-do list, but for some, getting into a regular cardio or weightlifting routine is easier said than done.

Patients undergoing cancer treatments, from chemotherapy to experimental drugs, surgery and radiation, more often than not, face side-effects that make being active difficult, if not impossible. But, as Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed, professor, faculty of kinesiology and director, Health and Wellness Lab and Thrive Centre at the University of Calgary, explains, there are ways to 14 LEAP FALL 2022

overcome treatment-related side-effects and cancer-related fatigue. “The beauty of exercise is we know how we need to tailor it to address such needs,” says Culos-Reed. “Exercise is one of our best evidence-based tools, and with tailoring, we can address and help to alleviate most issues, both physical and mental. “Cancer treatments are hard — both physically and mentally — and it’s not about just jumping right into it.” Another hurdle cancer patients face when looking to start a fitness program is not knowing what exercises and what intensity is safe for their specific situation.

“Individuals newly diagnosed with cancer are overwhelmed by the healthcare system, and there is not a focus on wellness, or building back the control that cancer takes away,” says Culos-Reed. ALBERTA CANCER EXERCISE PROGRAM

One of the most important ways Culos-Reed and her team have helped patients take back their physical and mental control is through the Alberta Cancer Exercise (ACE) program. ACE is a study completed last year that included approximately 2,300 participants, designed to implement and gather data in real-world settings on the role exercise plays on individuals living with and beyond cancer. Funded for five years by Alberta Innovates, with further support from the Alberta Cancer Foundation, data collected from the ACE program is now beginning to be examined to determine individual health benefits and the cost of delivering such a program. “Our goal with ACE is to build exercise into standard cancer care,” says Culos-Reed. “We have support within the cancer-care system for nutrition, for psychosocial well-being, but we don’t for exercise — yet we have the evidence (very clear), and we know individuals want it.” The ACE program spanned 12 weeks, with two classes per week. Participants were screened to ensure safety and to tailor the program to their individual needs. Classes were one hour, offering aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility exercises. Instructors were trained specifically in exercise oncology and the Health and Wellness Lab’s “exercise and educate” model, which includes nutrition.

Curry took part in the program in the fall of 2021. “At the end of the first 24 sessions, there was a review of my progress, and in several abilities, I had improved, and in some, remarkably so,” says Curry. “I am stronger, more stable in movements and have more knowledge of exercises I can do for my physical health.” In addition to the physical benefits, Curry says the ACE program helped him in other ways, as well. “In the initial class I took last fall, there was time in most sessions for us to share our stories, which was a very important part of our healing,” he says. “Participants in these sessions form bonds during the term, and that is very special. We support each other.” Lisa Makinen also took part in the program and echoes Curry’s sentiment on the importance of the emotional bond participants built during the 12-week session — including with her instructor, Tanya Williamson. “She is incredible. She made our

group feel welcome and valued,” says Makinen. “There was a special energy in our group. We relied on Tanya to provide safe and effective instructions, but it was her quirky humour and kindness that made such a difference for us. She made the class fun and that helped take our minds off of our illnesses.” Diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2020, Makinen’s treatment included eight rounds of chemo followed by a double mastectomy and 16 rounds of radiation. She also had axillary lymph nodes removed during surgery, which impacted one of her arms, and developed scar tissue from the radiation. “Exercise is a vital component of treatment, and I believe programs like ACE should automatically be included for every cancer patient,” Makinen says. “Through this, I have been able to recover faster and return to work and my life with improved energy and physical strength.”


Chuck Curry was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in June 2019, and was recommended to participate in the ACE program to assist in his recovery. After initially being unable to participate due to extreme fatigue and an inability to walk without assistance, myleapmagazine.ca FALL 2022 LEAP 15

We ask the experts how to manage your diet when you lose your appetite, and the myths around smoking and lung cancer. by JENNIFER FRIESEN cancer treatment. Nutrients support immune function and muscle health. This, in turn, can decrease the chances of severe toxicity to chemotherapy and surgical complications, as well as decrease the risk of infection and improve physical function.

Q: Are there ways to stimulate appetite?


A common side-effect of cancer and cancer treatment is loss of appetite. Carla Prado, researcher and professor at the University of Alberta and nutrition expert in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, explores the best ways people with cancer can navigate their diet and nutrition when experiencing loss of appetite.

Q: Why is it important for someone with cancer to maintain a healthy diet? Nutrition is essential for optimal cancer treatment. I like to use the analogy that nutrition is like the ugly duckling: many ignore how important it is, but a well-nourished body gives patients the energy needed to undergo daily activities, including 16 LEAP FALL 2022

Small meals and snacks throughout the day can help. It’s also important to schedule mealtimes, as low appetite may make us forget to eat. It’s important for these meals and snacks to be packed with protein and calories. Presentation also matters to make meals enjoyable, so arranging foods in a way that is appealing, including diverse colours, can help.

Q: What specific nutrients and vitamins are important for people with cancer to incorporate into their diets? A balanced diet containing a variety of fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and protein is essential to provide all macronutrients and micronutrients. When appetite is low, we may need to pack calories in food options that are high in calories and fat, such as milk, cheese, cream and ice cream. One

nutrient I want to highlight is protein. Protein is the building block of muscle mass and essential to support muscle health. Animal protein such as red meat, poultry, pork, fish, eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt are all important to include in meals, although some protein is also found in plant sources such as beans and lentils.

Q: How much should someone with cancer be eating to get adequate nutrition? The amount of calories and protein we need is based on our body weight. But importantly, this may need to be individualized depending on people’s nutritional and health status. Patients with loss of appetite may need to be referred to a registered dietitian who will not only be able to estimate how much they should be eating, but also help them achieve it. The importance of registered dietitians cannot be overstated.

Q: How can someone with cancer who is experiencing loss of appetite get the nutrition they need? Eating a variety of nutritious foods is the ideal way to meet your nutritional needs, but in certain cases, we may not be able to get enough of the quantity and quality of food we need. Nutritional supplements are an important strategy that can fill gaps in nutrition by providing much-needed calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. Since people can also feel full quickly, limiting liquids during mealtimes is important, so try not to drink 30 minutes before or after meals. It’s also important to monitor your weight. If you continue to lose weight and can’t keep enough food down, ask to see a dietitian.

Prado recently launched a free cookbook, The High Protein Cookbook for Muscle Health During Cancer Treatment, to help people with cancer increase their intake of protein. Download your free copy at era.library.ualberta.ca/items/a5fd6960-db6d-46829190-1a92659cca73. Copies can also be purchased on Amazon.


Q: What are the different kinds of lung cancer, and who is most at risk?


While the vast majority of lung cancers are associated with smoking, 20 per cent of lung cancers in Canada are not. According to Dr. Alain Tremblay, respiratory medicine specialist at Foothills Medical Centre, professor of medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine and medical lead of the new Alberta Lung Cancer Screening Program, if non-smoking lung cancer was its own designation, it would be one of the top five cancers in Canada. Here, he explains the risks of developing lung cancer for people who have never smoked.

Q: Do you encounter many people who believe lung cancer is solely caused by smoking? Yes, most of us associate lung cancer with smoking. No one deserves to get lung cancer, whether they use cigarettes or not. A substantial number of the lung cancers we see are people who have smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lives. Of all the lung cancer patients we diagnose in our clinic right now, more than 50 per cent are not currently smoking, with many having already quit in the past.

There are 50 different types of lung cancer now, and it’s all based on the molecular signatures of the cancers and the mutations. One of the first mutations that was actionable, meaning there was a treatment for it, was the EGFRmutant lung cancer. It became clear very early on that there were four types of people who got these mutations much more commonly: women, people who didn’t smoke, people of Asian heritage and people with the subtype of pathological lung cancer called adenocarcinoma.

Q: What factors, outside of smoking, might contribute to the development of lung cancer? Second-hand smoke is a big one. Approximately two to three per cent of all lung cancers are found to be second-hand smoke-related. The second most important external cause of lung cancer is radon gas. Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes out of the soil. If it comes out in the environment, it gets diluted quickly, so it’s not of much consequence, but when it gets into your basement, the radon can accumulate. It also seems to be synergistic with smoking. Many factors for lung cancer are like that — it’s not always one thing; it’s a combination of things. Another big one is air pollution, especially if you

live in big cities or Western Canada, considering all the forest fires that we’ve had over the last few years. There’s also a long list of occupational carcinogens people are exposed to at work, with asbestos being a major factor in Alberta.

Q: What are some genetic factors that contribute to lung cancer? The simplest factor is family history. For a similar exposure to tobacco, if someone has a first-degree relative with lung cancer, a person would be at higher risk than someone else with the same exposure, but no family history. We also know certain populations have higher risk for lung cancer. In particular, the baseline risk of lung cancer in non-smokers is much higher in Asian populations than it is in Canadian Caucasian populations.

Q: What can people do to avoid added risk? The good thing about radon is that you can do something about it. It’s actionable, and there’s a lot of work being done to get people to test their homes and do some mitigation. You can get a radon test kit for $50 or $60 and make sure you and your family are not exposed to high levels. For asbestos, anyone involved in construction installation, renovating a building or demolishing a building built before the late ‘70s, you have to take precautions. For more information on radon testing kits and mitigation measures, visit evictradon.org


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VITAL SUPPORT CARE In addition to the essential care doctors and nurses provide cancer patients, a variety of health-care professionals, such as dietitians, pharmacists and even furry friends, help support Albertans throughout their journey.

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Oncology teams in Alberta are experts at treating the actual cancer in a person’s body. But, anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis or has undergone treatment knows that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy don’t solve the other physical, psychological and social challenges cancer can bring with it. It takes a lot of caring hands to guide a person through their cancer experience: these are just a few of the caring professionals who work to address cancer in a way that goes well beyond those core medical needs.


Doctors are not the only professionals supporting cancer patients during their treatment by ELIZABETH CHORNEY - BOOTH SUPPORTIVE CARE: PSYCHOSOCIAL AND REHABILITATION

Cancer’s effect on a person’s physical and psychological self can be farreaching and vary wildly from patient to patient. To address the more complicated side-effects that often come with a cancer experience, Alberta Health Services employs supportivecare teams in both the north and south parts of the province. These teams work on elements of care that aren’t directly tied to cancer treatment, but still have a huge impact on a patient’s well-being. Marie de Guzman Wilding, the acting lead of Cancer Care Alberta’s Supportive Care, South, says her team’s role is to provide holistic, patient-centred care that addresses both the psychosocial and rehabilitative needs of people navigating their way through cancer. The psychosocial stem of her team addresses such issues as emotional distress, mood changes, treatment side-effects, counselling and social work. Rehabilitation professionals help with physical and functional challenges that may result from cancer treatment, with occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speechlanguage pathologists

and physiatrists (medical professionals who take a full-body approach to rehabilitation), all part of the Supportive Care team. “There’s that idea that when you have cancer, you go see a doctor or nurse. Generally, it’s a very biomedical model,” de Guzman Wilding says. “Our team covers everything else.” Patients typically come to Supportive Care because they’re either referred for rehabilitation by their oncologists or self-refer for the psychosocial services. Once there, the team walks patients through an intake process to discern what services each patient should access to best meet their goals, be it finding emotional support at the early stages of diagnosis or regaining mobility after surgery. The team sees people — including support persons and family members — at every stage of their experience, recognizing that holistic cancer care doesn’t end, even after a patient enters the remission stage. The Supportive Care team’s goal is to get people through the entire experience while retaining the highest possible quality of life, says de Guzman Wilding. “Supportive care is essential in helping people re-establish who they are and protect them as an individual going through the experience,” she says. “Medically, doctors do a lot, but there’s still a person there who needs to be nurtured through that experience. That’s the part that makes our services in Cancer Care Alberta so patient-focused.”


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When we think of cancer, social work doesn’t immediately come to mind, but social workers can play a key role in supporting people as they navigate the disease. Social workers can help patients overcome both practical and emotional factors that may interfere with treatment, ensuring better outcomes and a less stressful experience. Sarah Hollingsworth, a resource social work and triage co-ordinator at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, says cancer-related social work (also known as psychosocial oncology) is split into two categories. The first, resource social work, focuses on more practical challenges, while clinical social work is more about mental and emotional health. A resource social worker can work with patients who can’t travel across the province for appointments because of the cost of

gas or accommodations, or can help families find support when cancer treatment forces caregivers to miss work. On the other hand, clinical social workers offer counselling services to help patients cope with the overwhelming emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. “I see psychosocial oncology as being part of the treatment team,” Hollingsworth says. “The oncology side of things works with our biological material. The psychosocial part looks at the emotional, social, spiritual and practical well-being of cancer patients.” While the resource and clinical social workers at Alberta’s cancer centres have well-defined mandates, Hollingsworth says patients’ needs often overlap between the two disciplines, which is where her triage role comes in. Patients can self-refer to the department, but oncology nurses often refer them after indicating some distress on routine


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questionnaires before undertaking treatment. A patient may come in to see Hollingsworth and her colleagues after indicating they’re depressed or anxious. In many cases, they may find that a resource social worker can help alleviate some of that stress by providing connections to child care or financial support. The goal is always to address those barriers that may distract from or even compromise treatment, whatever they may be. “A person is more than their physical body,” Hollingsworth says. “Statistics have shown that, if a person is supported and emotionally healthy through treatment, it often helps with pain management and helps us tolerate the physiological aspects of treatment.” For more information about Supportive Care services, please go to www.ahs.ca/cancersupportivecare.


A person’s physical appearance is about more than just vanity — selfcare, grooming and hygiene can have a substantial influence on mental well-being. It’s extremely common for people undergoing cancer treatment to worry about losing their hair, as well as changes to their skin, weight and general appearance. Looking in the mirror and seeing yourself looking back at you, after a workshop, can give those living with cancer an invaluable boost in mood, which is why Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) has been a wellrecognized support tool since 1992. LGFB is a national organization with a strong provincial presence (and sister organizations around the world) that is largely facilitated by volunteers. It specializes in workshops that help women with cancer learn about skincare and cosmetics, breast forms and garments, and wigs and hair alternatives. Each participant is given a complimentary bag of donated products and taught tips on caring for and bringing colour back to treatmentimpacted skin, managing the loss of brows and eyelashes, finding properly fitting wigs and scarves and shopping

for forms and garments post-surgery. “We’re not trying to make anyone into a makeup junkie,” says Andrea Ferguson, a long-time LGFB volunteer who facilitates workshops out of the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. “Our workshops give women the tools to help camouflage the effects of radiation or chemotherapy or to make them look like they have eyebrows and eyelashes. We provide them with very simple tools so they can do it themselves at home.” LGFB is offered as a free service, and while the workshops are traditionally held in-person, in 2020, the organization had to pivot to online sessions. Participants still receive their product kits and, as an added benefit, the online model has opened the program up to people who can’t travel to Edmonton or Calgary to participate in person. LGFB also offers sessions specifically aimed at teens. Earlier this year, it started

a pilot project to address the needs of men undergoing cancer treatment, all with the goal to empower people and make them feel like themselves even in the face of overwhelming medical challenges. “Studies have shown that a single makeup workshop resulted in cancer patients reporting a reduction in depressive symptoms and an increase in self-esteem,” says Michelle Pilon, LGFB’s Regional Manager for Western and Atlantic Canada. “It does something to their souls and lifts them up. That’s why we’re so credible within the healthcare space — we do such important work around the psychological outcomes of cancer treatments.” Visit lgfb.ca for more information, resources and to register for upcoming workshops.

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LOCAL PHARMACIST Responsibilities of local pharmacists have evolved over the years, with cancer patients benefiting from their expertise by COLLEEN BIONDI Throughout a cancer patient’s treatment and recovery, pharmacists are actively involved in their care within the cancer centres and at their community retail pharmacy. Both cancer centre pharmacies and retail pharmacies have many important commonalities and will work together to support their patients.

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n the past, the pharmacist’s role was technical — count the pills, dispense them to the customer and ring up the sale. “But that function has evolved,” says Melanie Varughese, pharmacy manager at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. “Today, pharmacists play a critical role in providing direct care to all patients, including those living with cancer.” Pharmacists provide three key job responsibilities for the communities they serve when it comes to cancer care: As medication managers, they ensure drugs are safe, well-tolerated and effective. Cancer centre pharmacies dispense cancer medications — prescribed by oncologists — whether they are infusions or medications to be taken by mouth. Pharmacists ensure the medications are the correct dose, indication and do not interact with any other medications/natural medications a patient is taking. They will collaborate with local pharmacies and family physicians to make sure health-care providers are aware of what cancer medication is being prescribed to patients. Additionally, they follow up with patients during pharmacy visits or by phone. Community pharmacies, “support cancer patients mainly through the dispensing and counselling of supportive-care medications related to the patient’s cancer treatment. These include anti-nausea medications (like dexamethasone) and painkillers,” says Alex Kwan, clinical pharmacist in the breast cancer group at the Cross Cancer Institute and pharmacist at Save-On-Foods in Edmonton. “We also review and help manage drug interactions between these supportive-care medicines and the patient’s other chronic medications.” Pharmacists check blood work and ask about allergic reactions and side-effects to get the broadest clinical picture.



As liaison officers, they refer to other health-care professionals in the community and health-care settings (nutritionists, social workers, physiotherapists, for example) if patients are experiencing eating or mobility issues, or are feeling depressed. If a patient is having swallowing difficulties, the pharmacist may discuss an alternative plan (a liquid form of the medication or a capsule or a product that can dissolve in water) with the oncologist or family doctor on behalf of the patient. Pharmacists will work closely with all health-care providers to ensure patients are able to receive the medications they require.


As excellent listeners, they give support to patients who are in crisis or are struggling with their diagnosis and care. Suppose a patient is overwhelmed and having trouble remembering how to take their medication properly. In that case, the pharmacist may suggest a blister pack (pre-packaged), or a dosette (plastic Monday-to-Friday

The pharmacy at the Cross Cancer Institute is responsible for mixing and dispensing all chemotherapy preparations for every cancer patient in northern Alberta, no matter where they live. That’s a lot of activity for a pharmacy that is only 520 m². To double clinical trials capacity, the capacity of the pharmacy will also need to increase to manage that growth. This is one of the major priorities of the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s $30-million We Cross Cancer capital campaign. In addition to the Cross Cancer Institute pharmacy, there are five other cancer care centre pharmacies in the province, located in Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, and 11 community cancer centres that ensure patients can receive their cancer treatments closer to home.

containers) or recommend management videos or apps. Local pharmacists are often well-known by patients in the community and are in a position of trust. In addition to these key responsibilities, pharmacists are taking on new roles consistent with their “scope of practice,” determined by their regulatory body and training. For example, they can now administer injections, such as vaccines and B12 shots, which are extra-beneficial for immunecompromised patients, like those undergoing cancer care. Pharmacists can also prescribe medications as part of their role, whether working closely with the oncologist in the cancer clinics, or with family physicians. They also work with technicians and assistants to provide the breadth of pharmacy care. Pharmacists give clinical information, wise counsel, education and support to ensure people living with cancer get the best care, the most optimal outcomes and their quality of life remains as intact as possible on their journey. “The pharmacy is an excellent platform to answer questions and provide medication management tools for patients,” says Varughese. “Pharmacists are great problem-solvers.”


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FURRY FRIENDS Whether it’s a long-time pet we have at home that keeps us physically and mentally active or a pet-therapy visit, animals have a positive impact on those living with cancer by MICHAELA REAM

King Frederick of Prussia first said a dog is “man’s best friend” — and to this day, his words still ring true. Humans have an undeniable connection with our furry, fourlegged companions, which has both physical and mental benefits, especially for those living with cancer.

PALS visits aren’t just with dogs! Of more than 400 volunteers, some visit with their cats, and there have also been visits with rabbits and guinea pigs.

Animal support has been around since the ancient Greeks, and the tradition has continued in Calgary and Edmonton. Indeed, animal visits can help lower blood pressure, improve anxiety and heart rate and can make us feel happier, according to an article by Complementary Health Practice Review. Bev Koo volunteers in Edmonton with her two Australian Labradoodles, Messi and Knotty, providing furry support to both the Cross Cancer Institute pet therapy and the Stollery Children’s Hospital. In Calgary, Chad Moore volunteers with the Pet Access League Society (PALS) with his purebred black pug, Yoda.

“When you’ve been in the hospital for a while, you start to feel like you are part of the team, and you really can see the impact the visits have on the patients,” says Koo. “Even just five minutes with the dog can make all the difference.” Messi (named after soccer star Lionel Messi) is a fiveyear-old Australian Labradoodle, has been a certified therapy dog since fall 2018 and has worked at the Cross Cancer Institute since 2021.

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PALS started under the support of the Calgary SPCA in 1982 and became a separate organization in 1985. Today, PALS offers five key pet-therapy programs focusing on mental health support within the local community. These include the Pet Visitation Program, StoryPALS, Puppy Rooms, PawsitivePALS and Pre-Board Pals.


Service dogs and therapy dogs are separate jobs! A service dog is trained to perform specific tasks to help someone living with a disability. Therapy dogs provide emotional support in places such as schools and hospitals.

Yoda is a purebred black pug and has been a certified pet therapy dog since fall 2021, and often visits Hull Services, as well as other locations. Weekly visits last between 60 to 90 minutes, but at the end of the day, Knotty and Messi get to enjoy being regular dogs. Knotty is a threequarter Australian Labradoodle and one-quarter St. Bernard. She turned three in August and has been a certified therapy dog since January 2022 with the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

Most dogs can be therapy dogs as long as they have the right temperament, such as being calm, friendly and affectionate around strangers. The certification process involves basic obedience training and socializing in different situations, new places, objects and people, to prepare for the bustle of hospital or school visits.

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“Yoda is super excited to start and full of energy. As the visit goes on, the excitement changes to cuddles, pets and hugs. The visits we do really give back,” says Moore. Most therapy dogs work for an hour to an hour and a half before they need a break. “Everyone loves Yoda,” says Moore. “The best feedback was a drawing of Yoda from a youth at Hull Services who was there for Yoda’s first visit. It’s on my computer and reminds me daily my issues aren’t so big, and our visits mean more than I’ll know.” Messi instinctively knows what a patient needs, whether it’s a laugh, hug, belly rub or just someone to talk to. “It allows patients to have a moment of not focusing on their disease,” says Koo.

One memory that stands out, Koo recalls, was a visit with Knotty to Stollery, where they visited a little girl in palliative care. “Knotty would get into bed with the little girl and let her lean against her and put her face right on her and talk to her and say ‘Knotty, I love you,’” says Koo. “That was the most impactful visit.” 26 LEAP FALL 2022

PALS also provides visits for staff members who need just as much furry attention to recharge during long shifts.



REHABILITATION PROGRAMS Canada Life donations have helped enhance the cancer rehabilitation experience for patients by COLLEEN BIONDI

After a cancer diagnosis, many patients have issues with weakness, balance, sensation, fatigue, drinking and eating, voice quality changes, swelling, cognitive changes and, ultimately, trouble returning to work or school. But, with the help of rehabilitation programs, people living with cancer can restore these functions and get their lives back. Christy Holtby, vice-president of philanthropy for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, says of the 29,000 patients who visit the Tom Baker Cancer Centre annually, up to 30 per cent require assistance from the rehabilitation team, which includes physical, occupational and speech/language therapists. Cancer physiatrists (medical doctors whose job is to determine what kind

of rehabilitation is needed and to track patients along their journey) are also part of the rehabilitation team. When the new Calgary Cancer Centre opens in 2023, rehabilitation services will be even more robust. The Calgary Cancer Centre will be the core of a “hub-andspoke” model of care, offering the largest range of services and the most expertise, with smaller communities (“spokes”) also offering support. It will have gym spaces, state-of-the-art technologies to help assess lymphedema, touch-screen tablets to help with voice exercises and telehealth options. This boost to infrastructure, technology and knowledge will result in more people getting help in a timely fashion — all in an effort to get them back on their feet, physically and emotionally. “The Calgary Cancer Centre will be the first centre in Canada to integrate

rehabilitation in such a significant way,” says Holtby. “It will make Calgary a world-class centre offering innovative and research-informed cancer rehabilitation.” Funders are the backbone of these important initiatives. Canada Life, for example, is a proud supporter of the Calgary Cancer Centre and is committed to doing all it can. “At Canada Life, we understand that cancer can have several challenges to physical and mental wellness,” says Stephanie Halligan, program manager of community relations for Canada Life. “With our support, the rehabilitation program can help Calgarians regain control in many aspects of their lives through their treatments.” This donation is a single example of Canada Life’s commitment to the betterment of the communities they serve (the company donates one per cent of before-tax revenues to Canadian charities each year; in 2021, this amounted to $10.1 million). For that, the cancer care community is grateful. “Canada Life funding has helped our rehabilitation oncology team move closer toward realizing our vision of providing timely, patient-centred and evidence-informed cancer care,” says Marie de Guzman Wilding, the acting lead of Cancer Care Alberta’s Supportive Care, South. “Canada Life’s donation has helped our team acquire essential patient educational tools and equipment so that the cancer care we provide is safe and based on current best practices, enhancing the cancer-rehabilitation experience for patients.”


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RAISING THE BAR FOR CANCER CARE We Cross Cancer and OWN.CANCER are bringing Alberta cancer care to even greater heights by NATHAN KUNZ

Fundraisers represent the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s mission coming to life. Every dollar raised translates to further headway for a province on the cutting edge of cancer care, whether through detection, treatment or research.


And, while the bright minds of Alberta medical professionals help make progress a reality for patients, it all begins through community generosity. Right now, the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the community that supports it

Research that begins at the Cross Cancer Institute has the potential to save lives. Each year, 500 patients enrol in clinical trials at Edmonton’s comprehensive cancer centre, which can end up helping hundreds of thousands of patients by providing leading-edge treatment options to those in Alberta and around the world. Already well established as leaders in gamechanging research, the researchers at the Cross Cancer Institute have the potential to help even more patients with the right funding in the right places. By expanding and improving infrastructure surrounding clinical trials and other essential treatments, We Cross Cancer is looking to provide just that.

LAUNCHED APRIL 21, 2022, WITH A GOAL OF $30 MILLION DONATIONS GO TOWARD: Constructing a purpose-built clinical trial unit Doubling our capcity for clinical trials Expanding the pharmacy footprint Creating a centre of excellence for brachytherapy Upgrading the chemotherapy and day-treatment space Developing a virtual-care hub 28 LEAP FALL 2022

are bringing better care to patients through two major fundraisers: We Cross Cancer and OWN.CANCER. Each campaign has a unique focus, but the goal remains the same: create more moments for every Albertan touched by cancer.

27,000 Approximate number of patients treated annually at the Cross Cancer Institute 498,369 square feet Total area of the Cross Cancer Institute

14% Percentage of Cross Cancer Institute patients who participate in clinical trials, which nearly double the national average of 8% 500 Albertans enrolled in clinical trials at the Cross Cancer Institute annually

CALGARY CANCER CENTRE, BY THE NUMBERS 1,300,000 square feet Area of the Calgary Cancer Centre, making it one of the largest comprehensive cancer centres in North America


The new Calgary Cancer Centre will soon be home to much more than the status quo of care. Within its walls, Albertans will find oncologists working in close quarters to researchers and educators, all striving to improve — or outright prevent — every aspect of the cancer journey. The brand-new facility ensures that cancer patients throughout southern Alberta will have a dependable location to turn to for great care. Through OWN.CANCER, however, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary are looking to take treatment, research and education to a whole new level — elevating care from great to exceptional.

110,000 square feet Area of dedicated research space

12 Radiation vaults for radiation therapy services 100+ Chemotherapy chairs 100+ Patient exam rooms

160 In-patient beds

1,000 The enrolment goal after We Cross Cancer campaign

The Cross Cancer Institute pharmacy is responsible for mixing and dispensing all chemotherapy preparations for every cancer patient north of Red Deer To learn more about the We Cross Cancer campaign, please visit wecrosscancer.ca.

LAUNCHED OCTOBER 5, 2021, WITH A FIVE-YEAR GOAL OF $250 MILLION A partnership between the Alberta Cancer Foundation, University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services OWN.CANCER CONSISTS OF FIVE FOCUS AREAS: Decreasing cancer in the population: Funding research and initiatives surrounding why cancer forms and how to prevent it Improving cancer treatment: Developing more tailored screening and treatment methods for each patient Improving the patient experience: Creating and fostering safe and supportive environments to meet unique patient and family needs Improving cancer outcomes: Integrating innovative data collection methods — such as utilizing artificial intelligence — and personalized training to better predict and overcome cancer

Empowering the best and brightest: Investing in recruiting, developing and retaining leaders in cancer research and care, so Albertans can rest assured knowing they have world-class talent in their backyard

To learn more about the OWN.CANCER campaign, please visit owncancer.ca.


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Few things are as devastating for a parent as to learn their child has cancer. Maximilian (Max) Schuster was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in October 2017 — he was four years old. Max’s parents, Dayna and Adrian, first noticed something might be wrong when Max’s gums became inflamed, recessed and bleeding. While Max was staying with his grandparents in Edmonton, a doctor ran some blood tests and made the surprising diagnosis. Max began his first six months of treatment in the pediatric oncology unit at Edmonton’s Stollery Children's Hospital. After the initial four rounds of treatment that included chemo, surgeries and blood draws resulted in no remission, Max received a bone marrow transplant at Calgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital. Constant treatment for the effects of graft versus host disease (where the donor cells attack the host as foreign) followed, and in October 2018, Max’s cancer returned, impacting his lungs and liver. A special drug from the U.S. enabled Max to get well enough to receive a haploidentical transplant, with his father, a half-match, as the donor. Max was released approximately two months after the procedure, but was soon hospitalized in Kelowna, B.C., due to an infection to his central line. The leukemia returned, and on Sept. 25, 2019, Max spent his final six days at the Rotary Flames House, passing away Oct. 1. To honour their son, Dayna and Adrian started The Maximilian Schuster Foundation, and Dayna now works as the director of human resources for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Dayna talked to us about her experience: “Until you have a child diagnosed with a lifethreatening illness and you spend the bulk of your life in a hospital, you can’t truly imagine the fear, pain, trauma, exhaustion and anger that comes with this battle. But, this experience also brings a remarkable amount of joy and life lessons. It teaches you that every day is worth fighting for, that smiles and laughter can bloom in darkness, that hope is a powerful tool, that people will show up when you need them most and that our children are so much stronger than we think. Max taught us to always find joy and live to the max. “Through the almost two years of battling cancer, we learned that channelling hope and joy were as powerful a medicine as any of the doctors could prescribe. Max taught us through his resiliency and easy-going nature to take one day at a time, and that you can find joy in almost any circumstance. “I learned I am incredibly strong emotionally,

and despite the trauma or fear I’m processing, Max is always going to get my best self, and what is necessary to do, will get done. On the flip side, I also learned to ask for help and let others help. “Don’t succumb to the fear and sadness; find strength in the hope and own the fight. Trust the medical professionals, but always be curious, document everything and advocate for yourself or your loved ones. Accept help and take the moments to regain your strength; it’s a long fight. And most of all, find joy in every big and little moment there is. “Like many people grieving, my greatest fear is that my son, Max, will be forgotten, so I continue to share his story and spread joy in his name through my Max Monday updates and through the foundation I started in his memory, The Maximilian Schuster Foundation. No matter what you are faced with, just take one day at a time and find some joy along the way.”

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RESEARCH ROCKSTAR Dr. Adam Kinnaird Dr. Adam Kinnaird embraces his new role as the Frank and Carla Sojonky chair in prostate cancer research, taking over for Dr. John Lewis, who held the position for a decade by CAILYNN KLINGBEIL photography by JOHN ULAN

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urgeon-scientist Dr. Adam Kinnaird splits his time between treating prostate cancer patients and researching the disease, which about one in seven Canadian men will be diagnosed with in their lifetime. The Edmonton-based urologist might do prostate biopsies one day and work in the operating room another, then spend the next day in his lab conducting research in prostate cancer, diagnostics and therapeutics. For Kinnaird, regardless of the environment he’s working in, science and seeing patients are inextricably linked. “It’s absolutely key to try to align the two together,” he says. “Every day, whether you’re in a lab or in a clinic, you are doing research and you are providing patient care.” Kinnaird, 37, brings that dual focus to his new role, the Frank and Carla Sojonky chair in prostate cancer research. The position supports research that helps better understand, diagnose and treat prostate cancer — the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. Kinnaird takes the reins from Dr. John Lewis, who held the Sojonky chair for 10 years. The two researchers will collaborate together to drive world-class prostate cancer research in Alberta. Lewis describes Kinnaird as a sharp, intelligent guy who has a keen understanding of science. “He’s also an amazing clinician, and so he really cares about his patients,” says Lewis. Kinnaird views the Frank and Carla Sojonky chair as an opportunity to spend time on both science and highquality care, the “perfect combination,” he says. Each side informs the other; the patients Kinnaird sees are enrolled in clinical trials he runs. Those trials seek to answer important questions that advance prostate cancer care for current and future patients. Kinnaird’s lab focuses on drug discovery for prostate cancer, novel mechanisms of prostate cancer biology and implementing new technologies in prostate cancer care. “I hope to improve the accuracy of prostate cancer diagnosis, where we are catching it earlier, as well as knowing

exactly where it is in the body and within the prostate,” says Kinnaird. “I hope to improve that accuracy, so that we can do treatments that are only treating where the prostate cancer is, rather than treating where the prostate cancer isn’t and leading to worse quality of life for patients.” THE BIRD DOGS’ BEGINNINGS The Frank and Carla Sojonky chair in prostate cancer research is funded through a $5-million endowment held by the Alberta Cancer Foundation. The chair was created by the late Frank Sojonky, a businessman and philanthropist who faced prostate cancer for more than two decades, a team of volunteers and a group that came to be known as the Bird Dogs. That’s because Sojonky rescued German shorthaired pointers, bird dogs known for their hunting, pointing and retrieving skills. The team of volunteers adopted a similar approach: finding prospective donors, making the pitch for prostate cancer research, then closing the deal. Through the fundraising efforts of the Bird Dogs, over 250 individual donors contributed to the endowment. Kinnaird is the owner of a beloved bird dog, a five-year-old German shorthaired pointer named Fritz. “There just seems like there’s something right with the universe with that,” he says, of the Bird Dogs’ significance to his new position. The role allows Kinnaird to explore new projects he describes as high-risk, for the chance they don’t turn out, but with potentially high reward. Such cutting-edge research is not possible without philanthropy, he says. “I’m very grateful to the Bird Dogs and the Alberta Cancer Foundation for this opportunity,” he says. “To be successful, 18 months into my career, I have had a lot of help from philanthropy.” The Bird Dogs are also back at it again, working with the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the faculty of medicine and dentistry at the University of Alberta to create a one-term, fiveyear, non-endowed chair. This new position will be called the Bird Dogs

chair in translational oncology and will be held by Lewis, the former Frank and Carla Sojonky chair. Lewis will focus on driving the clinical translation and commercialization of novel technologies arising from cancer research in Alberta. That’s a process he knows well; Lewis is already the founder, CEO or chief scientific officer of six spin-off companies, each stemming from the

Bird Dogs. One spin-off, Nanostics, is validating a new diagnostic test for prostate cancer. Another, Entos Pharmaceuticals, aims to start the first human clinical trials of a prostate cancer vaccine in the next five years. Lewis met Sojonky before he died in 2012, and Lewis has come to know some of the Bird Dogs’ volunteers. Connecting with people with direct experience with cancer — the same people his research will ultimately help — has been impactful. “That’s what’s really driven me through the last 10 years and will continue to for the next five,” Lewis says. AN INTRODUCTION TO UROLOGY Kinnaird’s path to his current position started many years ago. He had long been interested in science, and by high school, Kinnaird was considering a career in either science or medicine. “I’m very happy I’m able to do both,” he says. myleapmagazine.ca FALL 2022 LEAP 33

RESEARCH ROCKSTAR Born and raised in Edmonton, Kinnaird attended the University of Alberta for his undergraduate degree. He studied physiology and played on the Golden Bears men’s ice hockey team, winning two national championships. Medical school at the U of A came next. Kinnaird initially thought he would go into family medicine, but he reconsidered after a lecture during his second year from urologist Dr. Keith Rourke. “Just the way he described urology, it really struck a chord with me,” Kinnaird recalls. “The thing that’s really cool about urology is you get to use so many different technologies. We operate with robots, we use lasers, we do minimally invasive surgery, and at the same time we also do big open surgeries and remove entire organs.” Kinnaird did a urology residency in Edmonton while also working on a clinician investigator program that combined residency and graduate studies. He completed his PhD as

a Vanier Scholar and was awarded the Governor General’s gold medal in research. Next, Kinnaird spent a year at the University of California, Los Angeles, completing a fellowship in imaging, targeted biopsy and focal therapy for prostate cancer. He was excited to be recruited back to the U of A in 2020 as assistant professor in the division of urology, department of surgery. “The University of Alberta has very good research infrastructure, as well as excellent minds and excellent collaborators,” Kinnaird explains. Plus, he’s a diehard Oilers fan. These days, the same aspects of science that first drew in Kinnaird continue to excite him. One of his favourite pieces is generating hypotheses and thinking about the ways he can design an experiment to answer a specific question. Then, Kinnaird says, the “fun part” is getting to use advanced techniques and stateof-the-art equipment. Throughout that

process, he’s thrilled by the potential of discovering something new that could benefit patients. A genuine enjoyment of what he does drives Kinnaird to do more. “I think about research at all times of the day. I think about it when I wake up in the morning and I think about it while I’m laying in bed,” he says. “I really enjoy what I do.”

3 QUESTIONS WITH DR. ADAM KINNAIRD 1. What do you do to relax and recharge? My wife is also a physician, and we have a dog named Fritz, who is the love of our lives. We take him to the dog park every day for an hour-long walk off-leash and for a swim in the river. 2. If you weren’t in your current job, what would you be? I would definitely be a biomedical engineer. 3. Where do you get your best ideas? It’s not a matter of where, it’s a matter of when, and it’s always first thing in the morning, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.



We Cross Cancer Campaign Saves Lives by COLLEEN SETO

Every year, 20,000 Albertans are diagnosed with cancer, affecting them and their families. That’s why the Alberta Cancer Foundation launched the We Cross Cancer campaign this past April. In an effort to raise $30 million for the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, the campaign will accelerate and create more made-in-Alberta solutions for treating cancers, primarily by doubling the capacity for clinical trials at the institute. Co-chairs for the campaign, Angus Watt and Cory Janssen, know first-hand the excellent care the Cross provides and fully support better treatment options through groundbreaking research. Janssen’s brother and father both experienced cancer, and he recalls how, “the care we received was second to none. That level of care makes a huge difference in the community.” Watt agrees, saying, “The reason my

wife is alive today is the great doctors at the Cross, and we want to keep those people here. The funds we raise will go directly into research at the Cross. Great researchers are great doctors, and great doctors are great researchers. We want to maintain those great clinicians and create a place to attract the best of the best.” “The smartest people want to work with the smartest people,” adds Janssen. Drawing on the top researchers who call Alberta home to develop the Cross as a state-of-the-art research centre will bring other great minds to Edmonton. “[It will] be a legacy for our children and community. “I’m a tech guy,” continues Janssen, who co-founded AltaML, a developer of machine-learning applications. “There’s so much parallel in medicine when we think about how we build more homegrown solutions that can make

a difference around the world. Many of the things that seemed almost like science-fiction 20 years ago are standard of care now.” Holding more clinical trials at the Cross also means more Albertans, and Edmontonians in particular, living with cancer, can access cutting-edge treatments for better outcomes. For patients who have exhausted existing options, clinical trials provide valuable insight and hope for them as well as for people facing cancer in the future. Treatments developed at the Cross can and have become the standard of care worldwide. Watt, who runs his own wealthmanagement group with National Bank Financial, points out how every dollar raised comes out to $14 in value through matching grants, pharmaceutical investment and other funding sources. “When we raise $10 million, the effective value is $140 million,” he says. “It’s a huge lift for research and the economy. But it’s not just about raising money. It’s about extending and saving lives and raising awareness that we have a world-class research centre here. Through the We Cross Cancer campaign, you can make an exponential life-changing difference.” To learn more, visit wecrosscancer.ca.


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A Brighter Future Leading Cancer Research and Analytics, Amanda Davison uses data analytics and research to improve outcomes by KERI SWEETMAN

manda Davison wants every Albertan living with cancer to know they are receiving the best possible medical care that current data and research can provide — and it’s her job to make sure that happens. Davison is executive director of Cancer Research and Analytics (CR&A), a portfolio embedded within Cancer Care Alberta at Alberta Health Services (AHS). The four-year-old scientific investigative group is tasked with using data analytics and research to improve the outcomes and experiences of Albertans facing cancer. CR&A has 200 people working behind the scenes, mainly in Edmonton and Calgary, to improve cancer care and create a better, more responsive cancer research environment where clinical questions can be asked and answered as quickly as possible. The team includes data analysts, experimental oncology researchers, biostatisticians, epidemiologists, cancer registrars, prevention researchers and patient experience partners. “Everything we do within Cancer Research and Analytics is for the betterment of patients,” says Davison, who describes CR&A as the bridge to enable and inspire great research for all Albertans facing cancer. Davison says data is one cornerstone of understanding how well the cancercare system is working and, when needed, making essential changes for the betterment of patients. “If I was a patient, I’d want to know that my physician has the best information, the most accurate information at their fingertips based on current practice,” explains Davison. “The best way we can do that is to be 36 LEAP FALL 2022

organized, efficient and effective and to work with our clinical colleagues in the care system to make sure they’re asking and we’re answering their questions.” Those clinical colleagues are healthcare providers and teams who care for cancer patients. CR&A LEADERS FROM ALBERTA’S TOMORROW PROJECT Davison and scientific director Dr. Paula Robson have led CR&A together since it launched in June 2018. Both came to CR&A from Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, the largest health-research cohort in Western Canada, with a data repository from 55,000 participants. Alberta’s Tomorrow Project is now one of eight groups under CR&A’s umbrella. Davison, born and raised in Edmonton, brings a unique background to the job. She has a BA in sociology from the University of Alberta, a public relations diploma from MacEwan University and an MBA in management consulting from Royal Roads University. She loves strategy and putting things in motion to make organizations perform better. She also enjoys helping people shine in their own light. “There are so many intelligent and inspiring people, and when they hit that zone where they’re working at what they’re good at and what they enjoy, that’s the spice of life,” says Davison. “I like figuring out how to make that happen.” After working in the University of Alberta faculty of medicine and later the department of pediatrics, Davison moved into the field of cancer care in 2011 and was executive associate to Dr. Tony Fields, then vice-president of cancer care for Alberta Health Services.

She moved to Alberta’s Tomorrow Project as strategic director in 2012, before taking on her current role within Cancer Care Alberta. “There’s something uniquely different when you work in the cancer program — there’s a pull,” she says. “The people around you are there for a reason. Cancer touches everybody in some capacity. And you see people are working with such purpose because it means something to them, and they want to make an impact.” TEAM-BUILDING FIRST PRIORITY Robson says Davison is incredibly good at bringing people together into highly effective teams — a big task when CR&A first formed. Davison planned an inaugural meeting in Red Deer where the Calgary- and Edmonton-based leaders in analytics and research could come together for the first time. “Under Davison’s leadership, one of the big things we had to do was make the team feel like they fit together, that they were a logical grouping with a common aim of bringing research and analytics skills together to improve cancer outcomes,” says Robson. Davison is also adept at partnershipbuilding, adds Robson. Together, they have built partnerships with funders and the academic sector, the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute and the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta, the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, the Cross Cancer Institute and others. After some initial reorganization, there are now eight groups in the CR&A portfolio. These include advanced analytics (including surveillance and reporting, the Alberta Cancer Registry and data integrity and integration),



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AMANDA DAVISON’S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS 2010 Graduates from Royal Roads University with an MBA in executive management

2012 Begins a career in research leadership as the strategic director for Alberta’s Tomorrow Project

cancer epidemiology and prevention research, the Alberta Cancer Research Biobank, Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, experimental oncology, research partnership and investment, health services research and applied research and patient experience. The latter group works with staff, patients and caregivers to measure and record patients’ symptoms, experiences and outcomes. Some of the tools they have created include the My Care Conversations smartphone app, which allows patients to record and review their appointments, Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) and reports to document symptoms while undergoing cancer treatment. DECIDe WILL STREAMLINE ACCESS TO CANCER DATA Much of Davison’s recent focus has been on launching a groundbreaking new project called Data Environment for Cancer Inquiries and Decisions (DECIDe). It will provide streamlined access to a single source of comprehensive, linked Alberta cancer patient information for researchers, data scientists, analysts and others. Currently, researchers who need cancer data have access to up to seven different sources, including the Alberta Cancer Registry, ARIA Medical Oncology, the Alberta Cancer Research Biobank and others. It can take months to link and gather data, a timeline that will be far shorter with DECIDe. Davison says they anticipate rolling out the first phase of DECIDe after the launch of Connect Care (AHS’s electronic clinical information system) across all cancer centres in November 2022. The initial phase will include the legacy cancer electronic medical record 38 LEAP FALL 2022

2015 Alberta’s Tomorrow Project completes recruitment of 55,000 participants, making it the largest research study in Alberta

(ARIA Medical Oncology), as well as Connect Care, the Alberta Cancer Registry and other databases commonly used to create reporting dashboards and address cancer-related questions. Subsequent phases, which will pull selected research databases into DECIDe and expand links with other sources of cancer information, will occur within two or three years. This will make DECIDe the most comprehensive cancer data source in the world, says Davison. “It will catapult us into a new, more effective and efficient landscape.” Davison is proud of the team she and Robson have built at CR&A, and says she’s inspired by the people she works with. At home, Davison and her husband

2018 Becomes the executive director of cancer research and analytics with Cancer Care Alberta, Alberta Health Services

have three daughters, aged eight, six and three, and they keep her busy with soccer and evening activities. But, she always looks forward to retreating to her home office during the workday. Unlike most of her colleagues at CR&A, when Davison started, she had no personal connections to cancer. Sadly, in 2020, she lost her beloved godmother, Karen, to the disease. But, while the loss was devastating, Davison took solace in knowing Karen had received the best treatment possible because she was cared for in Alberta. “Even in the darkest sadness of losing her,” she says, “I knew so many of my colleagues were constantly working together to discover and create better futures for people facing cancer.”


Georgia-Jean Kemp by SEAN P. YOUNG

In July 2019, Georgia-Jean Kemp noticed a tiny lump below her left earlobe as she was getting ready for bed. Kemp, now 75, went downstairs to get her husband Ray’s opinion. A retired orthodontist (Medicine Hat’s first orthodontist, actually), Kemp’s husband of nearly 50 years thought the lump warranted a visit to her doctor. The Kemps were able to get in to see the doctor in the morning and became further concerned when he felt several more lumps beneath the skin on her neck. After an inconclusive needle biopsy, Georgia-Jean received a surgical biopsy and, 10 days later, the Kemps were told over a speakerphone that Georgia-Jean had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Georgia-Jean received her first chemotherapy treatment at the Margery E. Yuill Cancer Centre (MYCC) two weeks after her diagnosis. She did another 11 treatments at MYCC, every second Friday and was told in February 2020 that her cancer was completely undetectable. Now two years cancerfree, Georgia-Jean looks forward to visits every six months from her oncologist, Dr. S. Razavi, who she credits for helping her make it through her cancer journey. GeorgiaJean shares her story here:


“When Dr. Nohr said it was cancer, I just fell apart because there was no cancer on either side of my family. They all lived to be well in their 90s, and they just died of old age. So, I was quite shocked when I heard the word. But, Dr. Nohr said, ‘Georgia, I know it’s hard to hear that word, but if you have to have cancer, I’m going to tell you that Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the cancer to have, it’s got a 93 or 94 per cent success rate.’ “I was scared for my very first treatment. I didn’t know what to expect. But the oncology nurses I had at Margery Yuill were absolutely fabulous. They just made you feel so at ease and would bring you whatever you wanted. “I was very lucky. They booked me for three-and-a-half hours for the four bags of chemo to drip through, but they said I had wonderful veins, and I was done in less than two-and-a-half hours, every treatment I had.

“After my eighth treatment [in October 2020], I made a trip to Tom Baker in Calgary and had a PET scan. I talked to my oncologist in Medicine Hat a couple days later to go over the results, and she said the only thing left is a tiny speck the size of a pinhead; it’s basically completely gone. “But, I elected to go for two more months of chemo, four more treatments because I wanted it completely gone. I finished my treatment in January and made another trip up to Calgary in February 2020. I had the same test done, and it came back as clean as a whistle. “It’s been more than two years now, and I’m so thankful for my husband, who was by my side for every appointment, every treatment; he’s just a fabulous man. And, of course, I’m very grateful for all the doctors and nurses who treated me. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful people taking care of me.”


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Buffy’s Legacy Bob Ainsworth remembers his late wife through philanthropy and her poetry by KAREN DURRIE WHEN ASKED HOW HE MET BUFFY,

his wife of 31 years, Bob Ainsworth brightens and chuckles, weighing whether he should gloss over it for publication, or just say what he usually says. “I normally say we met drunk in an elevator,” he laughs. The two were undergraduates at the University of Calgary, volunteering to do orientation workshops for new students. “We’d come in one Friday night for a training


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session and later ended up drunk in an elevator. And, two years later, we were married.” The Ainsworths spent several years working at schools in rural Alberta — Buffy became an elementary school teacher and Bob a school principal — and, for a time, ran a tree farm together. They welcomed three children — Heather, Jill and Stephen — before returning to Calgary in 1996, where Bob shifted careers to financial planning. A year and a half later, in January 1998, the family’s lives took a staggering turn when Buffy was diagnosed with thymoma — cancer of the thymus gland — at age 45. “Thymoma is so rare that the statistic I heard is about 12 people in Western Canada get thymoma in a year,” says Bob. “So nobody forms a foundation for thymoma research.” While doctors were still in the process of pinpointing a diagnosis for Buffy, Bob observed Dr. Don Morris, a world leader in thymoma research, walking the hospital halls, agitated. “I said, ‘So, what are you bent and twisted about?’ And he says, ‘I get frustrated with the lack of funding for rare cancers.’” Morris’ budget was nearly depleted for a meta-analysis study whose data needed to be repeatedly run through a super-computer. Ainsworth immediately wrote a cheque for $500 to be directed to Morris’ research fund. For nearly 10 years, Buffy underwent radiation, rounds of chemotherapy, lengthy ICU stints and surgery at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. She would experience healthier years, and years when she struggled. When Buffy was well, the family found joy in travel. A lifelong writer and passionate poet, Buffy was prolific with quirky, insightful and poignant poems. During the last months of her life, pen and paper became vital for communication since

a tracheotomy rendered her unable to speak. Buffy died in Bob’s arms Dec. 27, 2006, at the age of 54. After Buffy’s long ICU stints, Bob joined an early version of the Patient and Family Advisory Committee at Foothills Hospital. Following Buffy’s death, he volunteered with the Ride to Conquer Cancer (now called Tour Alberta for Cancer) as a team captain and organizer. With a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease last year, he has “retired his bike to the rafters.” Bob remains a dedicated donor to several personal causes, including targeted cancer research through the Alberta Cancer Foundation. He donates up to $12,000 a year to charities, much of it to cancer as a lump-sum donation. “I’d like people to understand that the only way we’re ever going to deal with cancer is through research,” he says. Bob’s financial-planning hat comes

out to assert firmly that more people should understand the tax advantages of donating. Bob is now retired and enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren. Heather became a geophysicist; Jill obtained a PhD in biomedical statistics from McGill; and Stephen attended the University of Lethbridge for a spell. “My kids had a rotten childhood, with the oldest feeling she had to step up and take the parenting role,” he says. “Poor Stephen had the rockiest ‘cancer life’ because he was in kindergarten when his mother was diagnosed, and in Grade 9 when she died. He only ever knew her ill.” In the last year of her life, Buffy spent time planning her first poetry book, leaving notes to guide its completion. In 2007, Buffy’s 127-page book, Encircled, was published. myleapmagazine.ca FALL 2022 LEAP 41


Giving Through Generations The Libin family has a tradition of giving back to the community, any way they can by JENNIFER FRIESEN

AS CHILDREN GROWING UP IN THE MID-1940S, Phil and Harriet Libin

learned about the importance of giving back from their respective families. The couple’s parents, Saul and Sonia Libin and Leo and Goldie Sheftel, donated whatever time or money they could afford to people in need. As a result, Phil and Harriet began volunteering in their early teens — before they even met. Regardless of what the Calgary forecast had in store for them, they would each take to the streets with blue collection boxes every Sunday morning, fundraising for the Jewish National Fund of Canada. “When you go out and get that quarter, dime or nickel, it gives you that sense of satisfaction in helping. My parents would never turn away someone in need, and I grew up seeing my parents give,” says Phil. “What’s the old saying: ‘Monkey see, monkey do?’” Phil and Harriet first met as teenagers while attending Central Memorial High School in Calgary. The couple will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary this year. Today, the Libins are wellknown as dedicated fundraisers and philanthropists in the city. They started the Phillip and Harriet Libin Family Foundation in 2009 to help support various local organizations and have often focused their fundraising efforts on the medical field. This past year, they donated $3 million to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, supporting breast cancer-related research and clinical trials at the new Calgary Cancer Centre. With this state-of-the-art cancer centre opening its doors in 2023, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, in partnership with the University of


Calgary and Alberta Health Services, has launched the OWN.CANCER campaign to raise $250 million in support of enhanced research, treatment and care within the centre. Raising funds for cancer care and research is a cause close to the Libin family’s hearts. In 2006, Sheryl — Phil and Harriet’s daughter, sister to Stuart and mother to Michael and Matthew — was diagnosed with breast cancer. Phil and Harriet went to every appointment with Sheryl at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. After an 11-year journey with cancer, Sheryl passed away from her illness in 2017 at age 55. “Sheryl has been gone for five years since May,” says Harriet. “I always said to Phil, ‘We have to find some way that will be meaningful to keep Sheryl’s memory alive.’ And, when the Calgary Cancer Centre came up, we thought it would be a perfect place because it’s

meaningful for us and because we went through the process with her.” In recognition of the Libins’ contribution, the Calgary Cancer Centre is naming its Knowledge Centre auditorium the Philip and Harriet Libin Auditorium. The space will facilitate meetings, seminars and conferences where medical professionals and patients alike will have a space to communicate and share research. Phil and Harriet have raised significant funds for multiple causes over the years. Phil, who led a successful career in development and commercial real estate, has been a member of the Rotary Club of Calgary since 1989 and has served on the boards of various charities. Together, they’ve helped raise millions for local communities and causes. “You do these things because you want to,” says Phil. “And because there’s a need for them.” PHOTOGRAPH BY JARED SYCH

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