YOUR IMPACT: TODD’S STORYBy Todd Kemper - first published on HuffPost Canada
Todd Kemper is the captain of Linnea's Legion.
In 2014, Todd's wife Linnea was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, after only a few months of remission, it took her life in 2016.
In his own words, this husband and Rider shares his experience.
Two months short of two years after her initial cancer diagnosis I watched my wife Linnea, my love, take her last breath. I held her in my arms and I wept, and I told her that it was OK to let go. To please let go. The room filled with unimaginable wails and I was only scarcely aware that they were coming from me.
Two years to the day of her first chemotherapy treatment I was at the funeral home approving the final design for her stone.
The months between those two unforgettable days were filled with the deepest darkness I have ever known. I couldn't sleep. I slept too much. I couldn't eat. I ate too much. I drank too much. I lost my exercise routine and I gained 12 pounds. The adrenaline that had been fuelling my body drained from me and left depression in its place. My universe felt empty and cold.
Of all the emotions I've dealt with, a sense of failure has been the hardest to come to terms with. Intellectually I know it wasn't my job to save her, but emotionally I can't help but feel that I failed. Throughout the weeks leading up to the holiday season, dealing with this loss has been especially tough. It's my first holiday without Linnea. This is hard.
In 2016, when Linnea's cancer returned after only a few months of remission, I dusted off my old bike (then bought a new one, then another new one, but that's another story...) and pulled together a team of riders, Linnea's Legion, to raise funds in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Together, our Ride to Conquer Cancer team raised almost $70,000 for triple-negative breast cancer research.
YOUR IMPACT: DAVID’S STORY
David Seretny is a Ride to Conquer Cancer participant from Edmonton.
In 2015, David’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Sadly, after a quick battle with the disease, it took her life in April 2016. Four months later, David teamed up with Schneider Electric for his first Ride to honour his mother.
In his own words, this son and Rider shares his mother’s cancer care experience at the Cross Cancer Institute.
What type of treatment did your mother receive at The Cross?
She knew something was wrong, and everything came to head in September 2015.
By the time it was diagnosed, the cancer was already stage IV. Treated at The Cross, she underwent six months of chemotherapy to prolong life and reduce symptoms. The treatments bought her some time, but the cancer was too advanced. She took her last breath in April 2016.
How has The Cross impacted your life?
The Cross made a difficult situation less gruelling on my mom and my entire family. In an effort to show gratitude and give back, I participated in The 2016 Ride. The experience was beyond words—so much so that I signed up for The 2017 Ride.
What has life been like since experiencing your mother’s cancer journey?
It was hard on us all. Luckily, the majority of our family is in Edmonton, so we all came together. While tough for the entire family, my dad, married for 43 years, is still adjusting to life without his lifelong love.
Supporting my desire to give back, he joined me at the start line and greeted me with open arms as I crossed the finish line. That moment—the emotions we shared—is something that drives me in the months leading up to The 2017 Ride.
When asked by colleagues and friends why they should get involved, the answer is simple: Cancer is a terrible disease. It may not affect you, but it affects someone you know. Funds raised through The Ride help support the goal of eradicating the world of this disease. Don’t wait until cancer finds its way into your life before making an impact. Act today.
YOUR IMPACT: DIANNE’S STORY
Dianne Bowtell is a two-time Ride to Conquer Cancer participant, riding to both celebrate her resilience in the face of cancer and support others going through the same experience.
Her journey with cancer began in early January 2015. A diagnosis was followed by nine months of intensive and extensive rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to eradicate her grade 3, stage 3 tumour. By autumn of that year, she was at the Cross Cancer Institute every day for treatment.
In her own words, this cancer survivor and Rider shares her cancer care experience at the Cross Cancer Institute.
Can you describe how you felt when you first heard the cancer diagnosis?
In an uncharacteristically grim voice, my family doctor confirmed, "You have breast cancer." The suspicious lump I found weeks earlier had changed my life!
Beyond the cancer care received, what was it like at the Cross Cancer Institute?
The Cross is a place of hope. When you enter the doors, it becomes apparent immediately that you are among people who are on the same journey as you…
What has life been like since treatment?
The regular treatment regime has concluded, but my journey continues, as I will not be declared a survivor until 2020. I will continue daily medication until 2025 to prevent and treat any future cancer. My fellow patients dubbed “Breast Friends” have taken to calling this period of uncertainty our cancer shadow phase.
How has The Cross impacted your life?
The Alberta Cancer Foundation has supported my journey and the hundreds of other Albertans through our challenges. I have benefited directly from research on lifestyle, exercise, support and enhanced care all funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Research results are helping to define new and precise effective treatment to conquer this dreadful disease. It is now my turn to give back. And I am proud to be riding with the Team Cross Cancer Institute.
Would you recommend The Cross to others in similar situations?
I absolutely would without a doubt. The knowledge and the support that you need are waiting for you just beyond the doors. There is nothing that I could have done on my own.
YOUR IMPACT: JASON’S STORY
Jason Zannet is a three-time Ride to Conquer Cancer participant, riding to remember his grandfather who received treatment at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
In his own words, this devoted grandson and Rider shares his grandfather’s cancer care experience at Tom Baker.
Who in your life received treatment at Tom Baker?
[M]y grandfather who passed away from leukaemia in 2011… [H]e was 82 when he was diagnosed and 86 when he passed away.
Can you describe what his treatment process was like?
[H]e underwent five years of cancer treatment, including countless rounds of chemotherapy. He was lucky enough to continue living at home and even continued working throughout his treatment. The greatest thing about grandpa was that regardless of his treatments, when you asked how he was, he always said, 'I’m doing mighty fine!
What has life been like since experiencing your grandfather’s cancer journey?
It was hard on us all. Luckily, the entire family is in Calgary, so we all came together.
How has the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and The Ride impacted your life?
With my wife and daughter cheering me on, I know my grandfather would be proud of all we have accomplished through The Ride to Conquer Cancer. Seeing my grandfather’s experience with the disease has made me further appreciate the fact that I’m able to take on the challenge and complete The Ride year after year.
IN MY WORDS - KELLY’S STORY
Kelly Liebe was diagnosed with stage III triple negative breast cancer in 1997. She was treated at the Cross Cancer Institute, one of 17 cancer centres supported by the Alberta Cancer Foundation, as part of a clinical trial.
In 2009, Kelly’s daughter, Chrissy, was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Like her mother, Chrissy was treated at The Cross, but on a more refined version of Kelly’s clinical trial. Sadly, Chrissy’s cancer returned in 2012 and she lost her life in December of that year.
In her own words, this mother, cancer survivor and Rider describes her and her daughter’s cancer experiences at the Cross Cancer Institute.
Can you describe how you felt when you first heard the cancer diagnosis?
When I first heard my own diagnosis it felt like falling through a black hole. I was a healthy 35 year old with no family history of breast cancer. I had three children and a husband. How could this be happening?
When Chrissy was diagnosed, I knew that I would be her main source of support throughout her journey. As her mother, it would automatically be my role no matter what, but having been through this myself before gave me the strength to carry her through her treatment.
Can you describe what the treatment process was like?
After receiving a single mastectomy in Fort McMurray (where we lived at the time), it was discovered that I would need chemotherapy. My husband and I travelled down to The Cross for treatment, often multiple times per week, where I received an aggressive course of chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial. The chemo made me so sick at one point that the oncologist had to lower my dose. But in the end I came through. I have been cancer free for nearly 20 years.
Nearly a decade later, Chrissy was treated on a more refined version of the same clinical trial that I had been on. Chrissy seemed to breeze through her chemo and radiation. The side effects had been greatly minimized since I had gone through my treatment.
Did you develop any special relationships with the medical staff at The Cross?
A wonderful nurse named Linda was with me throughout the course of my treatment. She was always there to answer our questions and to support us in every way possible. Linda was kind, compassionate and incredibly knowledgeable. She cared for her patients with her whole heart.
Chrissy developed a special bond with many nurses while she was at The Cross for three months. One person who sticks out in my memory is Amy, the physio nurse on staff. As Chrissy got sicker, she lost almost all of her mobility. Amy found creative ways to overcome the barriers that Chrissy faced.
What would you say of The Cross’s bedside manner?
The bedside manner at The Cross was exceptional. You have to be a very special person to see the humanity in people who feel like they are losing themselves to cancer. The staff at The Cross always reminded us of how much we mattered and stayed endlessly positive.
What has life been like since treatment?
Since my own treatment and the loss of Chrissy, I have learned to live each day to the fullest. I am unbelievably grateful for the incredible family I have around me. A mantra that I came up with is “Dare to live your life to the fullest in the face of adversity. Dare to hope, to love, to cry, to feel, to smile.”
How has The Cross affected your life?
When I reflect on The Cross I am reminded of the hope I have in each new day. I am reminded of the endless research and clinical trials taking place within the building to bring us towards a better tomorrow.
TAMMY BLOCK: WHY I RIDE TO CONQUER CANCER
“In 2016, my team and I will put in the work by cycling over 200 kilometres and raising thousands of dollars for the fight against cancer.” ~ Tammy Block
The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation Presented by Evraz 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 Alberta, it is a labour of love that they share with friends, family members or even colleagues. Tammy Block, co-founder of PUSH Cycling Studio, has in fact made The Ride a company-wide mission.
Tammy’s motivation to be part of this epic event began with life-changing news: her father was told that he had pancreatic cancer. Less than a year after his diagnosis, he passed away from the disease. Says Tammy, “Nothing can describe the heartbreak of losing a loved one to cancer, but I know I’m not alone… Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer.”
At the time, Tammy had not yet found the outlet for her desire to help others battling this disease, but a chance conversation with an old high school friend breathed new life into an idea the two had shared years ago. Both women were looking for a different career challenge and PUSH Cycling Studio was born.
Now Tammy has found the perfect means by which she can help effect change for cancer patients throughout the greater Alberta region. Next summer, Tammy along with her PUSH colleagues, instructors, members and friends will be cycling together for The Ride to Conquer Cancer. Tammy states, “The Ride seemed like a great way for us to combine our passion for cycling with a great cause.”
With Tammy leading the way, Team PUSH is bound to make an impact: “We look forward to expanding our team by sharing our story with the local community to garner support and encourage others to join us! Most of all, we are excited to help the Alberta Cancer Foundation in the mission to conquer cancer.”
ELAINE BRUCE: THE FIGHT CONTINUES
“My teammates have been such a great source of motivation and inspiration for my training and fundraising efforts.” ~ Elaine Bruce
For countless men and women who make the 200-kilometre journey of The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation Presented by Evraz, 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.
Elaine Bruce 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.
Elaine’s cancer story begins more than 30 years ago when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A few years later, the disease was detected in her lungs as well. Yet through treatment and the strength of her indomitable spirit, Elaine can now call herself a three-decade cancer survivor.
To celebrate this monumental milestone, Elaine decided to join The Ride to Conquer Cancer. Like thousands of other Riders, she initially registered as an individual Rider, but it was a Ride orientation that inspired Elaine to team up with the Tom Baker Cancer Conquerors.
Elaine readily attests to the life-saving support provided by the Tom Baker Cancer Centre when she was going through treatment. As she states, “[I]t only made sense that I ride with their team.” Elaine also points out that their sister team, One Aim, has been particularly instrumental in her training efforts.
In the last four years, Elaine’s team has raised over $1.3 million. Yet she emphasizes the emotional benefit of this special group: “Throughout this experience, I never felt alone. I have connected with so many survivors, cyclists and their supporters, sharing stories, making new friends and offering hope to those who needed it.”
Moreover, she shares these words of wisdom for those thinking of joining The Ride: “I encourage anyone considering riding to take the leap and register. There are thousands of people out there, myself included, who are willing to help you, ride with you, and cheer you on at the finish line.”
BE EPIC: SYLVIA WOOD
“The Ride is a truly amazing experience and everyone has a role in bringing this epic journey to life.” ~ Sylvia Wood
It can be incredibly difficult to stand by and watch a loved one contend with cancer, which is exactly why so many people choose to take action. It’s not necessarily an easy choice, but it is in every way an epic one.
The decision to join The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation Presented by Evraz was one that Sylvia Wood could not pass up. For too long had cancer been a presence in her life.
When Sylvia was just a child, her maternal grandmother died from the disease. Says Sylvia, “I will never forget the impact her passing had on my mother.” Years later, Sylvia’s mother would also be diagnosed with lung and colon cancer. Just five years ago, her brother-in-law also battled colon cancer, eventually succumbing to it.
Now Sylvia rides “for him, my mother and grandmother and all those whose lives have been touched or taken by this horrible disease.” Next August will mark the fourth time that Sylvia will take up the 200-kilometre challenge through Alberta.
Since her very first Ride, Sylvia has raised more than $7,000. Of those who have so generously contributed to her, Sylvia notes, “Words cannot describe how grateful I am for their encouraging words and financial donations.”
The epic impact Sylvia is making for cancer patients and their families in the greater Alberta region is amplified by the many thousands of others who have also taken part in this extraordinary event. The atmosphere is electric: “It is clear on the faces of all participants and volunteers that the mission is personal for everyone.” And that is why she comes back to The Ride year after year.
DAVID ROBERTSON: UNITE UNDER THE SAME CAUSE
“Being away on holiday is probably the last place anyone thinks they’re going to be diagnosed with brain cancer.” ~ David Robertson
Cancer cares nothing for birthdays, anniversaries or graduations. It pays no attention to life’s milestones and celebrations, making it a ruthless disease that often strikes during the happiest of times. In fact, it was during a trip to Disneyland that David Robertson was told that he had brain cancer.
That was on November 13, 2006. Nearly ten years later, he is once again battling the same disease. Yet his attitude speaks volumes about the strength and courage of the many cancer patients who join The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation Presented by Evraz: “I know I will cross the finish line of The Ride later this year. Nothing is going to stop me! Cancer or no cancer.”
Next August will mark David’s seventh Ride, during which he will be captaining Team 4 All. Says David, “Each year, I am fortunate to have support from loved ones, colleagues and friends. Together, this amazing group of people helps me raise an average approaching $15,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation through The Ride.”
What some individuals may not realize is that a cancer diagnosis does not allow patients to put a hold on life. They’re still partners, parents, friends and employees. As part of his treatment, David has undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy all while maintaining his position as a computer security specialist. He notes, “[H]aving cancer affecting my brain is now one of the hardest parts of my job.”
The Ride is truly fortunate to have participants like David leading the way for a more hopeful and healthier future. His determination to be part of this event not only means critical dollars for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, but also life-changing encouragement for others going through similar situations.
David eloquently explains the importance of The Ride for individuals across Alberta: “How many times have you seen thousands of people come together, united under the same cause, compasses pointing in one direction, and all with one goal: eradicating this horrible disease.”