Combatting Cancer

By Veronika Janik

One in every three Canadians will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime, more than 66,000 Canadians will die from the disease this year and it is estimated that by 2015 the number of new cancer cases will increase by 70 per cent. However, up to 70 per cent of cancers can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle, proper diet, exercise and avoiding of risk factors such as over-exposure to the sun and tobacco use.

Despite these statistics, however, many individuals carry on through life with the common mentality of "it’s not going to happen to me."

Such was the mentality of 55-year-old cancer survivour Violet Galloway before she was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 10 years ago.

"Before my diagnosis, it was just pie in the sky," remarks Galloway. "Something happened to somebody else, that was somebody else’s problem and I had no association with it. "

Her world changed drastically New Years Eve, 1994.

"It was a huge shock when they told me because it hadn’t been in my family at all," she recalls of the ordeal. "My first reaction was one of disbelief, and then I just assumed I was going to die."

Galloway is not the first individual to assume the worst. Many are unaware that people live through cancer and that diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Galloway recalls the day she was diagnosed, and how she found immediate support from the Canadian Cancer Society.

"My doctor told me that there was a ‘Reach to Recovery’ support group, so I phoned and found out that they were meeting that night," she explains. "I grabbed my husband by the hand and we went to the meeting.

"I walked in and there was about 30-50 women who had dealt with or were currently dealing with the same situation as myself. Once I saw that, I thought ‘oh, you can live with cancer,’ and that changed my whole perception of the disease."

One in nine women are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetimes–the most common form of cancer among females. One in eight males will develop prostate cancer, most after the age of 70.

Galloway, who almost died during surgery, explains that when she was is diagnosed, she began looking at life in terms of hours, rather than days. She recalls waking up and wondering, "what do I have to do for the next hour to make this work?"

"One minute you’re laughing and the next you’re crying," she explains.

According to Galloway, support and a positive attitude are two key aspects of endurance–and endure she did. Ten years later, Violet Galloway is a healthy individual, a survivour. However, she emphasizes the term "survivour" does not necessarily mean you do not have cancer.

"A survivour is someone who’s not dead. The cancer could be completely gone or they could be alive and living with cancer," she says.

The chief term here is ‘alive.’ Through her experiences, Galloway has learned to be alive in the now. She works for the Canadian Cancer Society, currently preparing for the annual Daffodil Days campaign Mar. 22-28, which will give way to the sight of the beautiful yellow flowers throughout Calgary.

The campaign was initiated in Toronto in 1957 and expanded to other Canadian cities over the next five or six years. The week-long event is a prominent campaign for the cancer community, comprised of several different activities that raise money to fund cancer research within Alberta.

The Daffodil Fashion Show will officially launch the campaign at the Palliser Hotel, Mon., Mar. 22. Over the following days, Bow Valley Square and Calgary Eaton Centre will play host to the Cancer Society’s Daffodil Mountain.

"This is quite literally a mountain of daffodils and contains roughly 3,000 bunches of blooms," Canadian Cancer Society Revenue Development Coordinator Shannon Thomas explains. "So we have local celebrities come out for a couple of hours and help us sell down the mountain."

Last year, sales from the mountain alone brought in $20,000 and this year’s goal is $30,000.

The final days are reserved for street sales. Tables will be set up around various businesses, malls and stores in Calgary, and volunteers will be selling bunches of daffodils to raise money for research.

"This year, there are 23 locations, including the University of Calgary," informs Thomas.

The daffodils–sold at five dollars a bunch–are the Canadian Cancer Society’s flower of hope. Hope for the future, hope for public awareness and, most importantly, hope for a cure.

"Everyone working here and on this campaign knows the detriment of this awful disease and we’re all here for the same reason–to find a cure for the cancer," remarks Thomas.

In May, the Society will host another campaign, Relay for Life. The campaign consists of a camp out and a 12-hour non-competitive relay.

"This event is a lot of fun," affirms Relay for Life Coordinator Kari Streelasky.

The opening lap is declared the Survivours’ Victory Lap and later, as night falls, a Luminary Ceremony takes place in which candles are lit around the track paying tribute to those who have passed away from cancer.

"This campaign is very special as it is the only one that honours survivours and those that have lost their lives to the disease," notes Streelasky.

To survivours and patients alike, these campaigns are extremely important.

"What I love about Relay is the survivour walk. To have 150 survivours on the track creates an important visual impact," explains Galloway. "I want people to see that they’re not alone."

Last year Daffodil Days raised $250,000 towards cancer research, while Relay for Life raised $400,000. Both the campaigns and the Canadian Cancer Society are in need of volunteers to inform the general public of this destructive disease, to physically assist with the set up or even participate in the events. The advantages of volunteering are boundless, impacting both the Society and its volunteers.

"I am incredibly energized by the staff and volunteers here," boasts Thomas. "Every time I’m having a bad day, I remember why I’m here or a volunteer will poke their head in the door who’s been a breast cancer survivour for 15 years and tell me to keep my chin up because I am the reason she is still here. And that’s pretty amazing."

For more information regarding these events or volunteer opportunities, visit Daffodil Days run Mar. 22-28. Relay for Life runs May 28-29.

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