GEAR UP DAY—PHIL ANZARUT
I was diagnosed with cancer of the urachus in February 2012. It started with fatigue in mid-2011, followed by blood in my urine—not a good sign.
I needed surgery to remove a cyst on my bladder. I awoke from surgery to be told that it was a cancerous tumor and that they removed one-third of my bladder. The good news is that it was out and the cancer had not spread. The bad news was that it was very rare, aggressive, and there was no established protocol for treatment.
I sought out advice from experts in Canada and the US, and we agreed on a three-month chemotherapy regimen that I concluded in June 2012. I lost my hair and my energy, but I started biking again that July and signed up for The 2013 Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital soon after.
The urachus is a tube behind the belly button that connects to the bladder that is supposed to shrivel away after birth, but mine did not and became diseased. I am lucky the doctors found the cancer when they did. Urachal cancer is so rare, you’re much more likely to be struck by lightning—one in 3,000—than to be diagnosed with urachal cancer—less than one in 100,000—in your lifetime.
Today, I have made it my mission to raise awareness, provide information and advance research for rare cancers, starting with urachal cancer. Rare cancers account for 24 per cent of all cancers, more than any other common cancer, and the mortality rate is higher and faster.
In 2013, following my recovery from chemotherapy, my friends and I created the Bikus Urachus team in The Ride. Friends and colleagues donated generously, and the team grew to 12 in its first year. It was remarkable to see the impact we could have just by coming together, inspiring others to sign up to ride throughout Quebec with us.
For the last four years, Bikus Urachus has been the number one community fundraising team for The Ride. In 2016 alone, our team of 31 raised $194,000 and over the last five years, we’ve raised $590,000 for cancer research. Our 2017 team is already at 30 members, and we are always looking for new faces.
As Gear Up Day is on March 31, we’re recruiting more participants to join our team and asking members from the community to support our journey in any they can. A small donation and any type of commitment go a long way.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, a thought I often had was, “What can I do to help others in my shoes?” The Ride is a proactive response. Who’s with me?
YOUR IMPACT: MICHELLE’S STORY
Michelle Gauthier is a five-time Ride to Conquer Cancer participant and Team Captain of Les Fonceurs de l'espoir. She is also a four-time cancer survivor of four cancers.
Michelle turned to The Ride as a way to give back to the Jewish General Hospital where she received treatment.
In her own words, this cancer survivor and Rider shares her cancer care experience at the Jewish General Hospital.
Can you describe treatment at the Jewish General Hospital?
My cancer journey started in 2006 when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After a very successful operation at the Jewish General Hospital, I received the news that I was cancer-free. Fast forward to 2009; the thyroid cancer came back. Thanks to support from my loved ones, a balanced lifestyle and treatment, I was able to battle the disease for a second time and was soon in remission.
In 2014, to my dismay doctors discovered two types of cancer on my right breast. Two! I underwent numerous, frequent chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions to fight the disease. I recently finished a yearlong Herceptin treatment to control the cancer in my body, keeping it from spreading and growing, so I can continue to live my life. I recently underwent a breast reconstruction, which will now be followed by 10 years of verbal chemo and annual follow-ups.
How has your cancer diagnosis impacted your life?
From the time I was diagnosed to today, I remain grateful for my strong circle of supporters made up of family, friends and medical professionals. I am thankful for the ongoing support of my family and friends throughout this tumultuous journey. This 10-year battle will continue for me, as my cancer is chronic, and I won’t ever be “all clear.” However, I have hope and a reason to ride.
I have committed to participate in The Ride to Conquer Cancer because I want to give back to the Jewish General Hospital. Having worked as a nurse, I have seen how funds raised through The Ride are put to use. I have witnessed improvements to patient services, and as a cancer patient, I have directly benefited from advances in cancer treatments. All of these positive changes are made because of funds donated to research!
What has life been like since joining the Ride community?
The 2017 Ride will be my sixth time participating and I look forward to completing the 200-kilometre journey as the Team Captain of Les Fonceurs de l'espoir, a team of devoted family members and friends. I know that my commitment to The Ride is helping to raise funds for world-leading doctors, researchers and scientists at Jewish General Hospital…
Though I am still fighting my cancer, not everyone is as lucky as me. I urge you to join me and participate in the 2016 event so we can continue to support the Segal Cancer Centre and other core cancer areas at the Jewish General Hospital.
YOUR IMPACT: IMRAN’S STORY
A 64-year-old Montreal resident, Imran Qureshi rides for the thousands of Canadians affected by cancer. Over eight years, Imran has raised over $115,000 for cancer research. This year, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer but is now cancer-free.
In his own words, this cancer survivor and Rider shares his cancer care experience at the Jewish General Hospital.
Who in your family received treatment at the Jewish General Hospital?
I counted myself as lucky that my family members and I were healthy and cancer-free. That was until the spring of 2016. Earlier this year, my doctor found a suspicious mass on my kidney. Prior to my diagnosis, I found myself in the Jewish General Hospital’s emergency room in grueling pain. Once diagnosed with kidney cancer, surgery and a smooth recovery followed.
Can you describe how you reacted to your cancer diagnosis?
I took action. In 2016, I participated in The Ride to Conquer Cancer, fuelled by my own cancer journey, as well as those struggling with the disease in my community and beyond. This year, I rode to commemorate my short and successful journey with cancer. It was a momentous feeling crossing the finish line with this in mind.
Beyond the cancer care you received, what was it like at JGH?
From the day I first set foot in the Jewish General Hospital to the day I was deemed cancer-free, I was tended to by attentive and caring staff. Medical professionals always spoke to me with such compassion; this hospital is staffed by some of the most authentic people.
Would you recommend the Jewish General Hospital and The Ride to Conquer Cancer to others seeking to make a significant impact?
No questions asked. I am proud that over eight years, I have raised over $115,000. I count myself as truly lucky to have such a great network of supporters and donors. My success in gaining donations is not to simply ask for funds but to explain the purpose of The Ride and where the funds are being used. It tells people that we are not simply asking for money, but asking them for help.
YOUR IMPACT: VITO’S STORY
Five years ago, Vito Cerone lost his mother to colon cancer. Though heartbroken, Vito and his family still found comfort in knowing that their loved one received the best treatment at the Jewish General Hospital.
In his own words, this devoted son and Rider shares his mother’s cancer care experience at JGH.
Can you describe how you felt when you first heard the cancer diagnosis?
Coming from a close-knit family, her diagnosis was very difficult to bear. The news was not easy to digest, but we took it day-by-day and relied on family support to get through.
Can you describe what the treatment process was like?
[M]y mom underwent many chemotherapy treatments and experimental drugs. Despite the treatment she received that prolonged her life by three years, she passed away at the age of 73 surrounded by loved ones.
What has life been like since treatment?
To this day, my mom is sorely missed by all. To highlight the five-year anniversary of her passing, I decided to give back to the cancer research institute where she was treated. Channelling my mother’s energy, I participated in my first Ride in 2016.
What would you say of the Jewish General Hospital’s bedside manner?
Spectacular. All of the doctors and nurses always spoke with so much compassion, and I have never seen anything like it in a hospital. This hospital is staffed by some of the most genuine people, and my family and I will not soon forget the compassion offered to my mother.
IN MY WORDS - SYLVAIN’S STORY
Five years ago, Sylvain Gagnon was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma. He was treated at the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital. As a result of both the life-saving cancer research and his care at JGH, Sylvain now faces a bright and healthy future.
In his own words, this cancer survivor and Rider describes his cancer experience at the Jewish General Hospital.
Can you describe how you felt when you first heard the cancer diagnosis?
Taken aback by the news, I was determined to overcome the disease. To do so, I underwent five surgeries, radiosurgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy at the Jewish General Hospital. I am of the profound conviction that cancer research allowed me to win this battle. It's thanks to the support of JGH’s medical professionals that I beat the statistics.
Can you describe what the treatment process was like?
Despite all the treatments I received, the uninvited mole progressed. Given this, a year and a half of experimental immunotherapy was recommended. Thanks to this treatment, there are no new metastases and I now live cancer free. I am living life to the fullest, pushing my physical abilities by participating in marathons and Ironmans. Thanks to the cancer treatment I received, I exceeded my statistical life expectancy.
What has life been like since treatment?
I am grateful that for over two years, I have had no new cancer occurrences. Having lived this experience, I have learned to enjoy every moment to the fullest. To give back to the hospital that served me so well, I support and participate in this epic event. Funds raised in The Ride to Conquer Cancer will support breakthrough research, exemplary teaching and compassionate care at the Jewish General Hospital. The funds raised by this event helped save my life.
GREG DESMARAIS: ON A QUEST TO QUELCH CANCER
“While my sister’s loss has been difficult, The Ride allows me to channel Katrina's willpower to do something meaningful: conquer cancer.” ~ Gregory Desmarais
Cancer has no regard for life’s plans. It doesn’t care if you’re male or female, young or old, rich or poor. Whatever dreams or aspirations a person may have, this disease knows only how to interrupt them.
Gregory Desmarais’s only sister, Kat, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer when she was just 36 years old. This proud wife and mother of three young girls was initially given a prognosis of four months, which she extended to nearly two years because of both her positive attitude and excellent cancer treatment.
When Kat was told that she had cancer, Gregory and his brother-in-law founded a cycling team in her honour. Team Kat participated in The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital for the first time in 2013. Since that inaugural Ride, it has grown to 12 passionate members who have collectively raised over $91,000 for cancer research.
Gregory notes that the generosity of the team’s family and friends made it easy to raise those funds. He also states the importance of continuing the work of cancer research and treatment. “I am very thankful for the vital cancer research and care programs that made it possible to spend time with Kat over the two years of her treatments… I cherish those moments and they motivate me to ride.”
TEAM FACT: TEAMING UP TO TAKE DOWN CANCER
“My family and I faced cancer head-on and it inspired us to make a meaningful contribution to cancer research and treatment programs.” ~ Alice Milne
For countless men and women who make the 200-kilometre journey of The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital, the adage “the more, the merrier” rings true.
Though The Ride welcomes all participants who wish to make the trek on their own, many people choose to team up for this epic event and enjoy in turn an epic experience that provides far more than better training and fundraising results.
Alice Milne is one of those Riders who has witnessed firsthand how a team can become much more than simply a means to bring in more donation dollars and log more practice sessions.
Ride teams often become like family, but Alice’s Team FACT can actually boast of being flesh and blood. The entire group is made up of family who ride to honour Alice’s two sisters. Both were diagnosed with cancer, and while Alice’s sister Becky is now healthy, their other sister Vicky passed away from the disease in 2014.
As Alice states, “With my sisters in mind, I am recommitting to The Ride to provide funds for research that will ensure others do not have to suffer.” This July will see Team FACT—Family Against Cancer Tour—make the journey across Quebec for the fourth time. She is quick to mention how this experience has bonded her family.
“[O]ur family has become a close-knit team of cyclists… With Vicky’s loss and Becky’s struggle in all of our hearts, we ride because we know that cancer is too big to ignore. By embarking on The Ride to Conquer Cancer, we are doing something about it.”
BENDING, NOT BREAKING: MICHEL LEGER
“I will be riding as an individual who has benefited directly from cancer research and as a current patient awaiting further treatment.” ~ Michel Leger
Cancer is typically thought of as a singular disease, but no two cancer journeys are exactly the same. And that is why The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital is critical to each of those journeys.
The funds raised through The Ride go not to just one type of cancer research and treatment but to many, which means that more individuals with rarer forms of the disease can benefit from this multifaceted approach to conquering cancer. Michel Leger happens to be one of those individuals.
Michel was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 2000. Since that time, he has undergone continual treatment for it. That includes both periodic appointments to remove the malignant cells from his face, as well as multiple surgeries to do the same. Moreover, Michel’s cancer care team has learned that his form of skin cancer is very rare, having resulted from a missed cell mutation before his birth.
It is these types of discoveries that help cancer patients receive more effective treatment, and with more effective treatment comes better outcomes and healthier lives. Says Michel, “Given my personal experience and the Segal Cancer Centre’s interest in my case, I am gearing up for The Ride with the Jewish General Hospital’s medical team top of mind.”
As part of a research protocol in Montreal, Michel is not only receiving leading-edge attention, but also helping others who may one day be diagnosed with the same condition. And now this remarkable man will be making an even greater impact for others who may be contending with cancer: This summer, he’ll be embarking on his first Ride!
While Michel’s own cancer experience offers motivation to ride, he notes that this disease “has touched far too many lives,” which is why he feels compelled to trek the 200 kilometres from Montreal to Quebec City. And while his last surgery took place only months ago, he is determined to cross that finish line.
His advice for anyone thinking of joining The Ride? “I strongly encourage new and returning Riders alike to join me in this mission so we can eradicate this disease once and for all.”
A PERSONAL PASSION, A PROFESSIONAL PURSUIT: SARAH JONES SHARES HER DEDICATION TO THE RIDE
“The Ride to Conquer Cancer is an amazing chance to make a difference.” ~ Sarah Jones
The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital brings together men and women of all ages and backgrounds, each with a personal reason why they want to stop this disease.
But for many who make the 200-kilometre trek across Quebec, it is a labour of love that they share with friends, family members or even colleagues. In fact, Sarah Jones of Montreal’s Pharmascience has made The Ride a company-wide mission.
Pharmascience is no stranger to The Ride to Conquer Cancer. Since 2009, the company has both participated in this epic event and delivered epic results! Its team has collectively raised more than $320,000 since it first joined The Ride, and with Sarah as this year’s co-captain, it has its sights set even higher!
Team Pharmascience has a goal of raising $100,000. Sarah knows it’s a lofty aim but emphasizes, “This year I am all in.” Given that she began her relationship with The Ride as “a very novice cyclist,” Sarah is determined to not only break through her personal limitations but also go beyond team expectations.
To make this Ride the most successful yet, Sarah notes, “I am actively recruiting new Riders for our Pharmascience team, soliciting donations and putting in the miles to participate in this incredible event. I will be riding for those who have fought and won, those who stayed strong until the end and those who are still battling.”
Sarah’s enthusiasm to bring together her workmates for a worthy cause defines the spirit of all Riders who put in the time, sweat and tears to help those impacted by cancer. It is truly a disease that touches all lives, but with the collective efforts of young professionals like Sarah, we can draw closer to finally stopping this disease.
STARS CAN’T SHINE WITHOUT DARKNESS
“I am celebrating my husband’s support and commitment.” ~ Terry Thompson
The loss of a loved one does not mean the loss of love.
Children can still love parents. Friends can still love friends. And partners can still love their significant others. In some instances, though, the loss of a loved one can give rise to the chance to love again.
Terry Thompson was already in the midst of a personal battle when told that she had thyroid cancer. She was her husband’s caretaker, a role that had considerable challenges and created significant stress.
Surgery and radiation therapy followed Terry’s diagnosis, and though she triumphed over her disease, she lost her husband. Of coping with these life-changing events, she notes, “During tough times, I tried to maintain a positive outlook on life. Adding some balance and routine to my life, I maintained a healthy lifestyle.”
As Terry tried to move forward with her new life, she ended up meeting Robert, a “fabulous and compassionate man” who would become both her husband and Ride companion. That’s right… Terry and Robert are past participants of The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital and plan to ride once more!
As part of team Ultreïa, this couple is aiming to raise the vital funds that are so pivotal to the work done at the Segal Cancer Centre. Terry explains her commitment to The Ride: “I won my cancer battle and now I’m fighting for others.”
Terry also wants to acknowledge the integral role that her husband has played in the 200-kilometre trek they have made together. “Without Robert, I would have never been able to accomplish The Ride to Conquer Cancer. Our shared love of riding and our desire to support cancer research will drive us for years to come.”