t er-free movemen into Alberta’s canc

Speech pathologist Anna Sytsanko has people talking (and eating)

Surgical oncology impacts cancer care


How tissue samples get to the lab



A trio of donors funds cutting-edge scanners

PUSH PAST PRESSURE Manage your stress p.40


10K RUN // 5K WALK Fight Cancers Below the Waist

Revealing chan



Calgary 403.269.3337 // Edmonton 780.423.2220

ON THE COVER: Anna Sytsanko PHOTO: Curtis Trent

WINTER 2012 • VOL 3 • No. 3




Surgical oncology makes inroads into cancer care


We have many tools to cope with cancer. Solace can be found in sunshine and greenery

How a tissue sample gets from the patient to the lab and what you need to know



Is a test for lung cancer on the horizon?

A message from the Alberta Cancer Foundation

Better posture, Top 10 winter activities, Outdoor pursuits, Coconut skin balm, Road rage, Fun for vegans, Veggie recipe, Hope for myeloma, A caring gift

Speech pathologist Anna Sytsanko helps patients eat, talk and share their experiences

John Porter lost the love of his life to cancer. He has planned to donate part of his estate in her honour

12 13 14

Get the skinny on herbal treatments

Should you avoid gluten?

A trio of donors funds cutting-edge equipment

Why do I need a breast ultrasound? What are the cancers that are routinely screened for in Alberta? Are the health benefits the same for mild-to-moderate exercise as they are for moderate-to-intense? What is saw palmetto?

One-time cancer patient puts her experience to use with a diary to help others manage the journey

If the weather and circumstance shuts you in, don’t let it interrupt your workouts


Survivor care plans are on the horizon


alber tacancer foundation.ca

Meet Sam Weiss, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, mountain lover, and research smarty

ION Print Solutions has a big heart


Stress begets stress. Here are some tips to help you manage

Meet a team that boogied and zumbaed its way into the Bust a Move record books

How to make the most of your fundraising idea

winter 2012


message /


Shift in Focus
Over the last few months, you may have noticed a change in the way we talk about our donor dollars. We have been using phrases like “transformational investments” and “maximum impact” and “outcomes that matter to Albertans.” There is a good reason for this. The Alberta Cancer Foundation is making some changes. Our donors want to know where their dollars are going and, more importantly, how their funds are making a difference. We want to make sure that the investments we make on behalf of our donors have an even bigger impact in this province. We want to see positive outcomes for Albertans. We want to make sure that the research we fund filters directly down to the healthcare system and improves the lives of Albertans. To do this, the Alberta Cancer Foundation is embarking on a more focused and active research investment approach aimed at reaching our vision of a cancer-free future. By continuing to focus our resources on high quality, scientific research combined with an increased focus on outcomes, clinical impact and collaboration, we will improve the lives of Albertans facing cancer. Our donors have played a big role in funding cancer research in this province. They have contributed more than 25 per cent of the $400 million spent on cancer research in the last decade in Alberta, and we owe it to donors to make sure their investments deliver progress. We are working closely with our partners, including Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care, universities in Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge, donor groups and other funding agencies to determine key opportunities and priorities for investment We will focus our investments in research. in areas where we can achieve We significant outcomes in screen- mentsrecognize the importance of targeting investwhere there is the greatest opportunity to ing, diagnostics, treatment, make positive and tangible progress. We also want to prevention and survivorship. build capacity in the cancer research community, encourage collaboration and develop sustainable infrastructure. We will focus our investments in areas where we can achieve significant outcomes in screening, diagnostics, treatment, prevention and survivorship. Most importantly, we want to make it easier to rapidly translate research into practice. Our basic, translational and clinical researchers all play a vital role in achieving this impact. We believe a cancer-free future is attainable. We also believe we’re at a tipping point with cancer research. With the right approach and framework, we can accelerate the use of this growing body of knowledge to improve the health of Albertans. We will keep you updated on our progress as we roll out this new framework. If you have any questions, please contact our provincial office at 1-866-412-4222 or 780-643-4400. Myka Osinchuk, CEO Alberta Cancer Foundation John Osler, Chair Alberta Cancer Foundation

TRUSTEES John Osler, Chair Calgary Angela Boehm Calgary Heather Culbert Calgary Steven Dyck Lethbridge Paul Grundy Edmonton (ex-officio) Katie McLean Calgary John J. McDonald Edmonton Brent Saik, Vice Chair Sherwood Park Heather Watt Edmonton Vern Yu, Chair Calgary


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WINTER VOL 3 • No. 3

ALBERTA CANCER FOUNDATION ASSOCIATE EDITOR: PHOEBE DEY EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE DR. PAUL GRUNDY, Senior Medical Director, Cancer Care Alberta Health Services DR. HEATHER BRYANT Vice-President, Cancer Control Canadian Partnership Against Cancer DR. STEVE ROBBINS Director, Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute Associate Director, Research, Alberta Health Services, Cancer Care CHRISTINE MCIVER CEO, Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta VENTURE PUBLISHING INC. PUBLISHER: RUTH KELLY ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER: JOYCE BYRNE EDITOR: MIFI PURVIS ASSISTANT EDITOR: MICHELLE LINDSTROM ART DIRECTOR: CHARLES BURKE ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR: COLIN SPENCE ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR: ANDREA DEBOER PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: BETTY-LOU SMITH PRODUCTION TECHNICIAN: BRENT FELZIEN DISTRIBUTION: JEN KING CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Gisele Aparacio-Hull, Linda Carlson, Janine Giese-Davis, Michael Hingston, Annalise Klingbeil, Cailynn Klingbeil, Michelle Lindstrom, Craille Maguire Gillies, Bobbi Menard, Omar Mouallem, Lisa Ricciotti, Karol Sekulik, Christy Soholt CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ILLUSTRATORS: Brian Buchsdruecker, Ewan Nicholson, Heff O’Reilly, Curtis Trent, Eugene Uhuad ABOUT THE ALBERTA CANCER FOUNDATION The Alberta Cancer Foundation is Alberta’s own, established to advance cancer research, prevention and care and serve as the charitable foundation for the Cross Cancer Institute, Tom Baker Cancer Centre and Alberta’s 15 other cancer centres. At the Alberta Cancer Foundation, we act on the knowledge that a cancer-free future is achievable. When we get there depends on the focus and energy we put to it today.

The Alberta Cancer Foundation is more than a charity—it’s a movement for cancer-free lives, today, tomorrow and forever.
It’s a movement of those who know a cancer-free future is possible and who won’t settle for “some day.” It’s a movement of Albertans who stand with those who have no choice but to stand up to cancer. It’s a movement of those who know something can be done and are willing to do it. For those facing cancer today, in honour of those lost to cancer, and for generations to come, we promise progress.

Leap is published for the Alberta Cancer Foundation by Venture Publishing Inc., 10259-105 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 1E3 Tel: 780-990-0839, Fax: 780-425-4921, Toll-free: 1-866-227-4276 circulation@venturepublishing.ca
The information in this publication is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified health provider regarding any medical condition or treatment.
Printed in Canada by Transcontinental LGM. Leap is printed on Forest Stewardship Council ® certified paper Publications Agreement #40020055 ISSN #1923-6131 Content may not be reprinted or reproduced without permission from Alberta Cancer Foundation.

w w w. a l b e r t a c a n c e r. c a
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Alber ta’s cancer-free movement

forefront /



Top 10 Winter Activities
Yes it’s cold out, but there are plenty of activities to enjoy, even if they

require a few extra layers. Embrace active living in all four seasons and you’ll stay fit, both physically and mentally. 1. NO MOUNTAINS, NO PROBLEM Cross-country skiing, or Nordic skiing, is a great aerobic workout, and less expensive than downhill skiing or snowboarding. There are groomed trails within the city limits in Edmonton and Calgary. The Canmore Nordic Centre and Strathcona Wilderness Centre are also popular spots. 2. KEEP YOUR FEET MOVING Running and walking in minus-20 temperatures requires the right clothing and the right attitude. Layer clothing to ward off chills and wear running shoes with an aggressive tread. For added motivation, check out The Running Room’s Hypothermic Half Marathons, held in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Red Deer (events.runningroom.com). 3. YOU TUBE Think of it as tobogganing for grownups as you fly down a snowcovered hill in an inflatable tube. Mount Norquay has the only snow tube park in the Banff area (banffnorquay.com/tubing), while Edmonton snow tubers can stay in the city and check out Sunridge Ski Area (sunridgeskiarea.com). 4. BOOTS WERE MADE FOR HIKING Jasper National Park’s extensive trail network includes many valley-bottom trails that are open year-round. Trail condition reports are available online (atparckscanada.gc.ca/apps/tcond). Local shops sell and rent ice cleats. 5. A GOOD DOG It’s a winter adventure you won’t soon forget, as a team of sled dogs pulls you across the frozen landscape. Local sled dog tour companies operate in Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. 6. SHOES FOR SNOW Snowshoeing is another inexpensive way to head outside, while beating the crowds on the ski slopes, no special training required. The University of Calgary’s Outdoor Centre offers guided snowshoe tours every weekend. 7. ICE ICE BABY Check out natural ice sculptures on a guided tour of the Rocky Mountain’s frozen river canyons. Several companies offer ice walk tours of Johnson Canyon in Banff, or Maligne Canyon in Jasper. 8. LIKE A KID AGAIN Soaring down a snow-covered hill and then climbing back up it is a classic winter activity. Check out toboggan hills in your city (The City of Edmonton posts current hill conditions on its website). Helmets recommended. 9. PLENTY OF FISH While sitting on a frozen lake waiting for a fish might not sound appealing, fans of the sport would argue otherwise. It is a cool experience to see fish coming up to the surface from the deep water, and many companies offer tours to introduce people to ice fishing (with heated shelter, of course). 10. ALPINE DREAMS No, we haven’t forgotten about downhill skiing and snowboarding. Alberta’s ski hills are among the best in the world. Most resorts offer rentals and lessons (skicentral.com/Alberta). 6

Outdoor Pursuits
When Henry David Thoreau said, “Nature

is genius,” he intuitively recognized the profound role the outdoors plays in the human psyche. Researchers are finding more and more reasons to head outside, even for 20 minutes of your day. In a series of 2010 articles in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers found that, “Being outdoors was associated with greater vitality, a relation that was mediated by the presence of natural elements.” What are you waiting for?

Balm for Winter Skin

Coconut oil is often used as an alternative

to traditional cooking oil, but some of the tropical fruit’s benefits can be obtained by other means. Try applying a small amount of coconut oil to dry skin brought on by winter weather. Coconut oil is easily absorbed into the skin and is packed with antioxidants. Right after your shower or bath, rub a small amount on your damp skin to help retain the skin’s natural moisture balance. Coconut oil is a good choice of moisturizer for people with simple acne, as it contains lauric acid, which has anti-microbial properties.

winter 2012


RAGE in the Machine
You may find yourself white knuckling it to work

because of the combination of winter driving conditions and the bad drivers out there who make your commute dangerous. While you can’t control the weather, you can take steps to make your commute less stressful. “Road rage is basically aggressive driving,” says Rick Lang, an Edmonton-based manager of personal operations and AMA driver education. We’ve all seen those drivers and know what the warning signs are – tailgating, honking and changing lanes erratically – and Lang says your best defense is predictability. For example, he says, “If you’re in the curb lane, stay in the curb lane unless you have a reason to go into the left lane or vice versa.” The more lane changes you do, the more spontaneous you appear to other drivers, making them wary or frustrated. Following the basics of road safety also sets drivers up for success. Shoulder checking and signalling will prevent you from cutting anyone off. Keeping your

headlights on, especially at this time of year when daylight is minimal, makes your car more visible to others. There will always be drivers who have aggressive habits and it’s best not to make eye contact with them. “That could be like lighting the fuse,” Lang says. He suggests letting the other driver go first and just get to your destination a few seconds later than planned. “I would rather have someone who is driving aggressively in front of me than behind me,” he says. Above all, avoid retaliating with your car horn or with rude gestures. It isn’t worth it.

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Vegans Have Fun, Too
The Great Life Cookbook: Whole Food, Vegan, Gluten-Free Meals for Large Gatherings By Priscilla Timberlake and Lewis Freedman, RD

“Nearly every Friday for the last 17 years, we have hosted locally grown, macrobiotic vegan dinners in our country home in upstate New York,” writes Priscilla Timberlake. “Our intention with this book is to offer a blueprint so that others can use it to build community around nourishing macrobiotic/vegan meals.” Macrobiotics, Timberlake goes on to explain, is a philosophy of life, one that translates as “great life.” The blueprint for vegan entertaining in the hefty cookbook offers 12 full meals, one for each month of the year. Recipes serve 20 to 24 people, although you’ll find a handy guide to scaling down recipes at the end of the book. (Timberlake says she often doubles the recipes to serve 40 or 50 guests.)

Before readers start the recipes they’re guided through some history, including how Timberlake met Lewis Freedman (her husband and co-author of the book) and the couples’ experience with a whole-foods, plant-based diet. For each month, the book shows recipes for eight dishes including soups, grains, vegetables and desserts. It may seem overwhelming to tackle so many recipes and serving upwards of 20 people, but the book has ample pictures and clear instructions. There are also suggestions for alterative ingredients if some of the more exotic ones listed are not available. Also handy is “The Apprentice’s Guide,” at the back of the cookbook. It introduces 10 less common ingredients Timberlake reccommends, and provides a list of utensils that the authors consider essential. If you’re unfamiliar with sea vegetables (alaria or dulse, anyone?) or a suribachi (a ceramic bowl with ridges used with a wooden pestle to grind various condiments), this section has you covered. A comprehensive index also makes it easy to find the recipe you want, in case an eight course dinner is not your thing. “Offering healthy, delicious food is a very practical way to benefit others,” Timberlake writes, “Cooking with mindfulness fosters one’s own inner peace and joy.” She’s hopeful users of this cookbook will feel the joy.

Steamed Vegetables with Orange Sesame Dressing
Adapted from the Great Life Cookbook (Coddington Valley Publishing, $26.50)

• ¾ pound of asparagus • 2 medium carrots • ½ head small cauliflower Orange Sesame Dressing: • Juice of one orange (about 1/3 cup) • 1 tablespoon tahini • Pinch of sea salt • Parsley for garnish

• Whisk orange juice, tahini and salt together until smooth. If dressing is too thick add a few tablespoons of water to thin. • Cut asparagus into 5-cm lengths, discard tough ends. Peel and cut carrots into roughly the same size as asparagus. Cut cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. In a vegetable steamer add the carrots first and steam for five to seven minutes. Add the cauliflower, steam for another five to seven minutes. Add the asparagus and steam for an additional five minutes or until are vegetables are cooked to desired firmness. • Toss vegetables with Orange Sesame Dressing and serve.


winter 2012


Hope for Multiple Myeloma
A common virus that leaves healthy

people feeling under the weather could be part of the foundation for a new treatment of multiple myeloma. Naturally-occuring reovirus typically manifests as flu-like symptoms such as respiratory infection. Alberta researchers are finding that the reovirus can kills myeloma cells. In an Alberta Cancer Foundation-funded study published in the August issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research, scientists injected the reovirus into animal models containing human multiple myeloma cell lines. Unlike conventional cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which kill both cancerous and healthy cells, researchers found the virus targeted the cancer cells while leaving the normal, healthy cells alone. Multiple myeloma, which represents about one per cent of all cancers, occurs when an accumulation of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow interferes with the production of normal blood cells.

“We’re not into human trials with this yet but it’s certainly where we’re heading,” says Dr. Don Morris, lead author of the study, medical oncologist and a member of the University of Calgary’s Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute. Morris says the treatment might be used in future in conjunction with other cancer therapies. “We’ve recently found that the combination of reovirus and other new therapies currently used in the treatment of myeloma work better together,” he says. “Reovirus has the ability to multiply within the cancer cells unlike chemotherapy drugs, which have a dose limitation due to side effects to the patient,” says Chandini Thirukkumaran, PhD, first author of the study, research assistant professor in oncology and member of the University of Calgary’s Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute. Some experts estimate there will be approximately 2,400 new cases of multiple myeloma in Canada this year − 230 of them in Alberta.

u s… Progres o donors like yo thanks t
More than 600 Albertans survive cancer each year who would not have survived had they developed cancer 25 years ago. More than 50 new cancer research projects ranging from investigating cancer mechanisms at a molecular level to increasing pain control for patients were launched last year, in addition to the hundreds receiving ongoing funding from the Alberta Cancer Foundation. rural Alberta women have access to digital mammography screening through mobile units funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation. grants were given to patients and families in financial need during treatment. Albertans are participating in more than 200 clinical trials across the province, spanning all cancer types. healthy Albertans will teach us more about cancer by volunteering to participate in the Tomorrow Project research study funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation. endowed chairs have been established in Alberta ranging from research on melanoma to palliative care.


Straighten Up
Sitting at a desk all day with your arms extended can take a toll on your

middle back. To reduce the strain, try this simple shoulder exercise. You can do this exercise in your office. • Stand up, extend your arms out at out at your sides, about shoulder height, palms up. • With control bend your arms towards your body, pulling your shoulder blades together. Your elbows should drop to your side. • Hold for five seconds, repeat five times. • You should feel a stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders. • Ease the stretch if you feel a sharp pain, you should only feel a light tension. • Modified version: Start with your hands lower than shoulder height. Increase your range of motion over time by raising your hand starting position over the course of several weeks.

ALBERTA’S CANCER, by the Numbers
will be touched by cancer in our lifetime in Alberta. Whether it’s hearing the dreaded three words, “You have cancer,” or having a loved one break his or her news to you, it’s not an easy thing to deal with. Here are some numbers behind the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s drive towards a cancer-free future.

At least half of us

Number of people who’ll be diagnosed with cancer this year

16,000 6,000 1:2 25

Number of people who’ll die of cancer this year

Ratio of Albertans who’ll develop cancer in their lifetime

Percentage of Albertans who’ll die of cancer

breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers, accounting for 54 per cent of diagnoses and 51 per cent of cancer deaths

Top 4: most common cancers in Alberta:


winter 2012


One of the most significant legacies of the great, 60kilometre-walk fundraiser is the funding of Weekend to End Women’s Cancers Chair in Breast Cancer Research. Dr. Christine Friedenreich has fi lled this chair and her expertise and interest make her a perfect fit. Dr. Friendenreich is a pioneer in the field of exercise and cancer. Long before the benefits of exercise became common knowledge, she was investigating the influence of physical activity on cancer control across the spectrum of the cancer journey – from prevention to diagnosis to survivorship. Stay tuned for more information on the work she has planned to enhance the provincial breast cancer care programs in this province.

Congratulations Are in Order
At a black-tie gala on in November, Dr. Gregory Cairncross was awarded a prize for Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Science for his work in brain cancer research. In front of 700 guests he was presented the award from ASTech, the Alberta Science and Technology Foundation, celebrating innovation in science and technology. Cairncross made advances in the treatment of a kind of brain cancer, doubling the lifespan and improving the quality of life of patients. Also honoured, this time in the team effort category, was Dr. Gino Fallone’s team, which has been creating new vistas for radiotherapy for cancer treatment. The team applied CT-based image guidance for radiotherapy, addressing the limitations of that system. By introducing MRI guidance for radiotherapy, managing to couple an MRI with a Linear Accelerator (LINAC) to produce optimal images and an effective radiation device, they achieved a world fi rst. ASTech is a not-for-profit organization funded in part by the Government of Alberta and supported by more than 20 major patrons. Since inception in 1989, the ASTech Foundation has provided more than $1.3 million in awards recognizing Alberta’s science and technology community. The theme of this year’s ASTech Awards show was “Everyday Heroes,” celebrating the heroes behind the homegrown discoveries, breakthroughs and advances that are changing our world for the better.

Holiday Giving
In your search for the perfect gift this holiday season there are many reasons to consider giving a donation in lieu of another pair of socks under the tree. You can choose to give because a family member recently had a cancer journey, in memory of a loved one, or in the hope of a new discovery. Often choosing to donate is done in the spirit of shared celebration and the holidays are the perfect time to celebrate the bonds that connect us. The simplest way to donate in honour of someone is to visit the Alberta Cancer Foundation website albertacancer.ca. When filling out the donation form, choose to have a letter sent to the honouree by filling in their mailing address and name. The honouree will receive a letter telling them about the donation. However, the amount of the donation is not disclosed. As the donor you will receive a tax receipt for the donation. Also, as donor you can choose to give to general research or have the donation directed to a favoured program by calling Alberta Cancer Foundation at 1-866-412-4222.

Alber ta’s cancer-free movement

winter 2012


bodymind /


Are so-called natural health products beneficial for your health or just hard on your pocketbook?

Naturally Curious

The general public and cancer patients specifically have a huge interest in the use of so-called natural health products (NHPs). Of course we want to know if they’re helpful and when we should use them. Beyond that, we want to know which ones to use and how. There’s a lot of information available online, but it can be overwhelming and confusing trying to make sense of what’s what in a world where everyone is trying to make a profit. The first thing we should figure out is what they are. NHPs are the most commonly used category of complementary therapies in cancer care, and include vitamins, minerals, food products, food derivatives and some hormones. They’ve been touted as curative and preventive, treating a variety of cancers and other conditions. But what’s the reality? I wanted to find out more, and as I began looking at the scientific evidence, I realized there was a lot of really good information out there. I didn’t have the time to find, read and digest it all. So I hired a student, Ngaire King (winner of the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Linda Singleton Summer Studentship), who spent four months this past summer reviewing the scientific literature on NHPs and making summaries to help me and others get a handle on what the research was saying.

of a person’s diet, rather than as supplements. Other NHPs have potential for improving treatment outcomes when combined with standard therapies. These include Coriolus versicolor mushrooms (also known as PSK and turkey tail), shiitake mushrooms, melatonin (a sleep hormone taken as a pill), and flax seed and oil. Others, such as ginseng root, may improve chemotherapy effectiveness, and the mineral strontium may help reduce cancerrelated bone pain. The caveat for all of these products is that more research is necessary to pinpoint how much is helpful for which types of cancer, and when to introduce them to the treatment process. These products aren’t necessarily benign: natural doesn’t always mean safe. There can be interactions with medications you are be taking, contraindications, and the potential for overdose. Check that products have a Health Canada label certifying their contents. Sometimes you may get a product that isn’t what it says, or is contaminated, or has fillers and different ingredients. Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre has a great online database where you can look up products and see what the contraindications and drug interactions are, and to check dosage. Finally, let your doctor and pharmacist know which NHPs you are taking. FIND OUT MORE! Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre’s NHP database is worth a visit: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/11570.cfm. And we provide seminars on complementary therapies at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre’s auditorium, usually on the third Wednesday afternoon of each month. Call 403-355-3207 to confirm dates and times.
Dr. Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.ca) is the Enbridge Chair in Psychosocial Oncology at the University of Calgary and a clinical psychologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

These products are not necessarily benign: natural does not always mean safe.
The results were encouraging, and staggering. King carefully reviewed almost 900 scientific studies that investigated 72 NHPs. Most of these studies were in the context of cancer prevention, but many patients used NHPs to treat symptoms and side effects of cancer treatments. Some studies investigated NHPs as providing potential survival advantages when combined with conventional therapy. The Top-10 list of most-studied therapies emerged, and some stood out for helping to reduce risk for getting a variety of cancers. These include green tea, garlic, calcium, lycopene (found in tomatoes), Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, soy, folic acid (folate) and beta-carotene (orange vegetables). These seemed to help most in reducing cancer risk when consumed in foods as part 12

winter 2012

cookingsmart /


The Wheat from the Chaff
Separating the fads from facts is necessary before you take a step like cutting gluten out of your diet
Everywhere you turn, there’s another food product or cookbook that promotes gluten-free eating. Restaurants offer gluten-free selections. You read about celebrities attributing their weight loss or improved health to a gluten-free diet. Is this a trend or a healthier way to live? What is gluten and why would you need to avoid it? Gluten is a protein that’s found in many grains – wheat, rye, barley – and in foods made with these grains, such as flours, bread products, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies and condiments. Oats are naturally gluten-free but may contain gluten when processed in a facility that also processes wheat. There are groups of people who must avoid gluten. They are people with celiac disease and people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Estimates indicate that about one per cent of the western population has celiac disease and it affects more females than males. It’s an autoimmune disorder, meaning the immune system attacks itself. When someone has celiac disease and eats food with gluten, it damages the intestinal wall. The body is then unable to absorb vitamins such as folate and minerals such as calcium and iron. The result is bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, migraines, depression and mouth ulcers. Over time, gluten in the diet of people with celiac disease can lead to osteoporosis, anemia, infertility and even cancer. But following a strict gluten-free diet for life can lead to healthy intestines and freedom from both symptoms and long-term health problems. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a non-allergic and non-autoimmune response to gluten. Between six and nine per cent of the population has gluten sensitivity. Symptoms can vary. The most common is abdominal pain and other symptoms similar to celiac disease. But exposure to gluten does not damage the intestines. Celebrities have promoted a gluten-free diet as it is a great way to lose weight. But grains without gluten, such as corn, millet, quinoa and rice, are similar in calories to the gluten-containing grains. A gluten-free cookie has a similar nutritional content and calorie count as a similar cookie without gluten, and it’s no more healthful. Before you go gluten-free, consider a few points. If you think you have celiac disease, see your doctor to be
Alber ta’s cancer-free movement

screened for it before cutting gluten out. Symptoms associated with celiac disease are the same as those of many other things, from overeating to lactose intolerance. Getting properly diagnosed is important. The best strategy for losing weight and keeping it off is to work with a registered dietitian on an eating plan that fits your lifestyle. A dietitian can also help you sort through nutritional information to find solid research behind the recommendations. So before you head to the grocery store to purchase gluten-free bread or remove all the wheat flour and gluten-containing products from your cupboards, ask yourself if the drastic change is necessary for a long-term healthy weight and lifestyle. Eating well can be simple, but it’s not easy at first. It takes time and practice preparing and eating foods from each of the food groups as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide.

How do you sort through all the diet information available on the web, television or magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store? Ask yourself these questions: • Is someone trying to sell you something such as a book, food product or supplement? • Is there research to support the claims or is it just personal opinion or testimonial? • Is the research recent and is it documented? • Who is promoting the information? Is it a health professional such as a doctor, registered dietitian, physiotherapist or pharmacist? • Does it sound too good to be true?
Karol Sekulic is a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services who has expertise and interest in the areas of weight management, nutrition and communications.

winter 2012


asktheexpert /


Leap consults the experts to find answers to your questions about an herbal remedy, screening and exercise for cancer prevention

After my mammogram, they called me back in for a breast ultrasound. What’s the difference? What were they looking for?
Both tests are useful in different ways, explains radiologist

What are the cancers that are routinely screened for in Alberta? Why?

Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) website “Screening for Life”

explains cancer-screening practices in our province. Who should be screened and what type of cancer to search for is determined by age and sex since most tests are done on people who don’t have cancer symptoms. Screening is meant to point out early signs of the disease and abnormal cell changes (not cancerous yet, but could become so over time) because early detection makes treatment more effective. AHS health promotion specialist Fazilah Shariff, MSW, says current screening programs are restricted to breast, cervical and colorectal cancers because not enough evidence yet shows that screening for other cancer types, across large populations, effectively reduces the number of cancer diagnoses or deaths. “However,” Shariff says, “tests for cancers such as prostate, skin or ovarian cancer may still be useful on an individual basis, depending on your personal history.” Risks to screening include false positives, and Shariff stresses the importance of speaking with your healthcare provider about your concerns to be able to make a better-informed and personalized plan regarding cancer screening. See screeningforlife.ca for more information. 14

Maureen Hutson, MD, F.R.C.P., of Edmonton’s Medical Imaging Consultants. While mammography has proven useful in screening for breast cancer, ultrasound has not been established as a routine method to screen for breast cancer, instead it is useful for evaluating breast tissue. “A mammogram is performed using X-rays to ‘see through’ the breast tissue,” Hutson says. “Usually only two views of each breast are performed, but sometimes the technologist has to perform some extra X-ray views so that the tissue of the breasts can be adequately assessed.” An ultrasound differs because sound waves are used to create images of tissue instead of X-rays. “Ultrasounds can show differences between solid tissue, including normal tissue and solid nodules, and fluid-filled tissue such as cysts. It can also evaluate breast ducts,” she says. Hutson says it’s likely the radiologist who read the specific mammogram in question probably saw a rounded nodule or area of distorted tissue in one of the breasts. Other reasons for more testing include when your family physician indicates there is a palpable abnormality in one breast or nipple discharge. In these situations, as a radiologist, Hutson would want to further assess the area with a breast ultrasound in order to look for a possible solid nodule, fluid-filled cyst or duct abnormality. If once of those three findings appears in an ultrasound, a radiologist may recommend a needle biopsy of the area under the guidance of ultrasound to evaluate for any early signs of breast cancer. Hutson says it’s important to remember that most patients recalled for further imaging after a mammogram typically have normal or benign findings. “The radiologist is just being very careful to not miss a finding which could indicate very early, and therefore, very treatable breast cancer,” she says.

winter 2012

Are the health benefits the same for mild-to-moderate exercise as they are for moderate-to-intense?

“The exact type, dose and timing in life when exercise is most

beneficial for reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer, is not entirely known,” says Dr. Christine Friedenreich of the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Kinesiology. She says evidence shows that all types of physical activity (e.g., occupational, household and recreational) are beneficial for reducing risk but sustaining recreational activity for longer durations more beneficial. Evidence of the benefits to increasing the frequency and duration – the dose – of an activity has already been found to lower breast cancer risk. “A moderate-intensity activity reduces breast cancer risk by 15 per cent and vigorous activity by 18 per cent,” Friedenreich says. “With respect to the duration of activity needed to reduce breast cancer risk, there is a clear dose-response effect with an eight per cent risk reduction with two to three hours per week; 14 per cent for three to four hours per week; and 28 per cent for 6.5 hours per week or more.” At what point in life does physical activity become most associated with cancer risk reduction? Friedenreich says, sustained lifelong activity offers the greatest benefits however, activity later in life is also very beneficial even if it is preceded by lower levels of activity. “The evidence on physical activity and cancer prevention is particularly strong for colon, breast and endometrial cancers,” she says. “There is also considerable evidence that activity may reduce the risk of prostate, ovarian and lung cancers.” It’s never too late to start moving and reduce your risk of cancer.

My husband is taking saw palmetto from the health food store for an enlarged prostate. Is it safe?

Saw palmetto is a palm tree found in the West Indies and in coastal regions of the southeastern United States, the berries of which are used in herbal remedies, explains Dr. Linda E. Carlson, Enbridge research chair in psychosocial oncology and associate professor at the University of Calgary. “Native Americans used the herb to treat problems of the urinary tract, such as trouble urinating or frequent nighttime urination,” she says. Clinical studies have shown saw palmetto relieves some symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, such as difficult and frequent urination. To clarify, she says that BPH is not prostate cancer and saw palmetto has not been shown to lower prostate cancer risk – although more research is needed in this area. Saw palmetto supplements are very popular in Europe where doctors often prescribe them for BPH treatment. Also popular in the U.S. and Canada, they are not approved for use as BPH treatment here. Although uncommon, side effects can include headache, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, dizziness, constipation or diarrhea, trouble sleeping and fatigue. Its long-term effects and safety have not been studied in detail, but many men use it without incident. “Men who have symptoms that might be caused by BPH, such as difficult, frequent or urgent urination, should see a doctor as soon as possible rather than treating themselves with saw palmetto alone,” Carlson says. “These symptoms can also result from prostate cancer or other serious conditions, and self-treatment with saw palmetto alone could delay diagnosis and treatment.” Ask our experts questions about general health, cancer prevention and treatment. Please submit them via email to letters@myleapmagazine.ca. Remember, this advice is never a substitute for talking directly to your family doctor.

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Top Job


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Of Meals and

Speech pathologist Anna Sytsanko leads a group of cancer patients whose treatment means a new approach to talking and eating



n a Wednesday afternoon in the fall, a dozen people sit around a boardroom table in Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute, talking about bread. A man in his 30s scratches his thinning beard and says he can’t open his mouth wide enough to eat a Subway sandwich anymore. Several others say they’ve had to give up bread altogether – it’s too thick and dry to swallow. Through it all, Anna Sytsanko sits at the head of the table and offers tips and advice. She’s the founder of this swallowing therapy support group for cancer patients, and it’s just one of the ways she lets her patients guide their own care. The first thing Sytsanko does when she meets a new patient is ask what they want to get out of the treatment. She’s a speech-language pathologist, which means it’s her job to help cancer patients who are having trouble swallowing, speaking, or both.

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Top Job
Sometimes this is a direct result of their illness, as kind of moderator. There’s plenty of time for patients when the cancer is located in the mouth or throat. And to bounce ideas off of one another, too. And by far the sometimes it’s a side effect of radiation or chemotherapy most popular topic is food: specifically, what items each treatment for cancer found elsewhere in the body, which patient can or can’t eat. “You should try French toast drenched in maple can impair the body’s ability to produce saliva. Either way, Sytsanko says, it’s important to let the syrup,” one patient says. “It’s the best way to keep patient take the lead. “If they’re happy with their eating bread.” Her husband, who is at the meeting with her, nods his agreement. situation,” she says, “we have to respect that.” Another patient, holding an extra-large Tim Hortons Sytsanko was born and raised in Russia. As an undergraduate, she studied linguistics at Tyumen white hot chocolate – everyone carries some kind of State University, before she immigrated to Canada beverage to combat dry mouth – says she doesn’t like in the 1990s. She received a master’s degree from the French toast. The first woman’s husband replies, “Ah, but you’ve University of Alberta in 2004. She was drawn to speechlanguage pathology because of the breadth of work – it’s never had my French toast.” Meeting with patients as a group isn’t simply a estimated that one in 10 Canadians over 50 has some type of swallowing disorder – and because it meant she matter of efficiency for the staff. The group setting also could work in a hospital setting alongside several other provides a huge benefit to the patients, Sytsanko says. related disciplines. She’s been with the Cross Cancer When a cancer patient talks to Sytsanko one-on-one, he may be skeptical or unsure of his ability to ever improve. Institute since 2007. The occasional reluctant patient aside, Sytsanko says But it’s completely different when he’s surrounded that the bulk of her patients are indeed ready and willing by a group of peers. “They can provide experience and to work to improve their situation – and a surprising suggestions to one another,” she says. “It helps patients achieve their goals number of their goals faster, and they are built around eating “Working in a group helps patients achieve often work harder.” and drinking. their goals faster,” Anna Sytsanko says. In fact, in the four “Often they say, ‘I years Sytsanko has just want to eat a salad run this particular again,’ ” Sytsanko says. “Or ‘I just want to have Christmas dinner with my group, she can only think of one or two patients who family.’ So that’s what we set as the goal, and then there didn’t want to come. Despite some language barriers, are little steps we can take to accomplish it.” Those steps there’s camaraderie in the air. One of the attendees this week is Barbara Riddell, a can include a regimen of physical and mental exercises, as well as adjustments to their daily routines. If they 67-year-old who drives up with her husband from Leduc can’t get back to normal, Sytsanko works with them to every Wednesday afternoon. She was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2011, and began radiation treatment find a new normal. Eating, she says, is a highly ritualized part of our at the Cross Cancer Institute that August. Riddell’s culture. To have any part of that ritual thrown off – doctors had to replace part of her tongue with skin and whether because you have to use a feeding tube, or muscle grafted from the inside of her left wrist, but she simply because it takes you two hours to chew and was still having trouble moving food around. That’s swallow a meal – can lead to embarrassment and social when she met Sytsanko. “I’ve found her to be a warm, caring person,” Riddell isolation, and even malnutrition. In fact, most of Sytsanko’s stories about her patients’ says. “And very concerned: if she didn’t have an answer successes involve food. That’s because if you’re for you, she’d find out and get back to you.” Riddell struggling to swallow correctly, something as simple as points out that at the meeting we’ve just stepped out relearning to eat a cookie, or even ice chips, can feel like of, Sytsanko had been in and out of her chair fetching a major breakthrough. “Speech pathology is very good at headphones, voice recorders, and printed material for the attendees. encouraging people,” she says. Riddell likes to think of her experience with cancer as The importance of food and drink was made particularly clear at the support group meeting. This a journey. “A lot of days it feels like you’re walking on a is an opportunity for several hospital staff – including gravel road in your bare feet. But then, all of a sudden, Sytsanko, a dietitian, and a nurse practitioner – to treat you get a wonderful day on pavement. You know that there’s still more gravel roads – or sometimes you a group of similar patients all at once. Attendees to these informal sessions take turns hit a ditch. But further down the road there’s more discussing how they’ve been feeling that week, along pavement.” And thanks to Sytsanko and the others, Riddell says, with reports of any new symptoms or concerns. The staff ask questions as needed, while Sytsanko acts as a “Right now I’m travelling on a lot of pavement.”


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beyondcancer /


The case for providing patients with a road map to guide them after active treatment
When cancer treatment ends, many survivors


aren’t clear about who will provide their care going forward and wind up feeling a bit lost as they try to navigate their way back to their normal lives. In 2006, the Institute of Medicine published a report titled, “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition.” It recommended that all survivors – in conjunction with primary care providers – receive a “survivor care plan” as they leave active treatment. It recommended that each survivor receive information about their diagnosis and treatment, recommended follow-ups, preventive practices, legal protections, and availability of psychosocial services. In the United States, The American College of Surgeon’s Commission on Cancer intends to mandate that all accredited institutions provide care plans to survivors by 2015. A number of organizations provide access to online care plan templates, so survivors can fill out the details of their diagnosis and treatment and receive a printout of recommendations. For example, LIVESTRONG™ has a web-based tool allowing survivors to generate care plans. The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) care plan templates integrate their recommendations to guide care. Journey Forward’s templates tailor educational materials and resources to the survivor. Our group at CancerBridges reviewed these templates and found that, while they had some great information for survivors, they are oriented to the American health system. In Canada, although we have no similar mandate and no easily accessible web-based templates, most provinces are beginning to facilitate some form of cancer survivor care plans. In Alberta, CancerBridges was fortunate to receive money through the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer to create and deliver care plans to a pilot group of breast and head-and-neck survivors. Based on the success of the pilot, we’ve proposed to extend the delivery of care plans to all survivors across the province. (See “Good Planning,” left.) These individualized care plans would be printed and handed to survivors, faxed to the family physician, and scanned into the oncology record so that each of these people, important in the care of the survivor, is on the same page at the end of active treatment. Research demonstrates that longer survival, higher quality of life, and faster return to work are possible for
Alber ta’s cancer-free movement

cancer survivors who adhere to treatment and follow-up, commit to lifestyle changes such as an active lifestyle, healthy eating and stress reduction, receive psychosocial support, and reduce their depression levels and symptom burden. At CancerBridges we are advocating for survivor care plans and consistent messages to survivors during and following active treatment. We hope to improve communication with care plans and to address these changes in recommended programs during this critical post-treatment phase.

In Alberta, we included templates in our care plan for breast and head-andneck cancer survivors. We found several items that we considered to be crucial to the document. • Diagnosis and treatment • A brief medical history including chronic diseases and allergies • A list of current prescribed and over-thecounter medications, vitamins, and other therapies • Guidelines for survivors’ follow-up care, a list of next follow-up appointments and who will provide surveillance within the health system, • List of the survivors’ family physician, surgeon, medical and radiation oncologist, nurses, social workers, psychologists, dieticians, and others, along with their locations and phone numbers • Signs of possible recurrence and cancer spread • Management of physical and psychosocial treatment-related side effects • A list of the survivors’ side effects and treatment plan • An interactive section on coping and adjustment that allows survivors to indicate their levels of distress so nurses could refer them appropriately • Interactive section on managing health after treatment allowing survivors to prioritize goals and action plans for physical activity, diet, weight, alcohol, and smoking • Interactive section on managing the transition: goals, and action plans for relationships and support, intimacy and sexuality, spirituality, finances, employment, and retirement • A section to highlight other strengths and needs

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Transforming CANCER

Beyond the Blade
The sharpest tool the surgical oncologist has on hand at the operating table is information



f Terry Fox were diagnosed today, not only would he probably survive the cancer but he might be running without a prosthetic, too. That’s according to one of Canada’s leading surgical oncologists, Dr. Walley Temple, who came to Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre in 1983 and has been a major player in the field’s rapid evolution. In those three decades, he watched the centre go from three surgeons dealing with tumours – two gynecologists and himself – to approximately 30. And he’s witnessed treatments and cure rates of specific cancers improve at a similar pace. In the case of the Canadian hero who died at 22 of osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumour that most commonly affects adolescents, systemic chemotherapy could have reduced the size of the leg tumour and the disease might not have spread to his lungs. Not only could it have greatly limited the required surgery, but artificial parts could have rebuilt his leg from the inside so that a prosthetic wasn’t necessary. Temple is the director of Cancer Surgery Alberta. And despite a reputation as a jokester, he is serious in his desire to limit the number of times surgeons reach for the scalpel. “Surgical oncology,” says Temple, “is looking at how you can do less surgery with better results.” So today, a young man diagnosed with osteosarcoma has an 85 per cent chance of recovery – almost double what it was at the time of Fox’s diagnoses – and only a two per cent chance of requiring amputation, when in the 1980s it was 20 per cent. Other technological advancements to roll into the Tom Baker Centre and Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute include robotic surgery tools that allow for precision in constrained areas; tools that cauterize blood vessels automatically;


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MEETING OF MINDS: Dr. Walley Temple, in the glasses, attends a multidisciniplary team meeting aimed at treating the whole patient.

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Transforming CANCER
surgical simulation hand sensors used in training to measure the amount of force used by a resident surgeon; and hot (40˚C) chemotherapy treatments that bathe the abdominal cavity after a tumour is removed multiply the drug’s strength as a cancer killer by 50 to 100 times – a method that Temple and his University of Calgary team pioneered. At Cancer Surgery Alberta, a body to create and standardize surgical cancer care, Temple helped found a web-based network of surgeons to compare results for improved future outcomes and knowledge translation. But most of the “phenomenal progress” Temple has witnessed is not the result of anything turbo charged, nor any great leap by a genius scientist working solo in a lab. The great innovation – cancer surgery’s big leap is “a multidisciplinary approach, where we no longer work in silos.” To that end, the greatest advancement he’s seen in cancer medicine is the holistic weaving of all the three modes of cancer treatments – radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. He says, “Surgery is very challenging,

“Surgical oncology,” says Dr. Walley Temple, “is looking at how you can do less surgery with better results.”
technical and requires the utmost of the entire team.” Dr. Todd McMullen, a Cross Cancer Institute surgical oncologist specializing in endocrine cancers, says Temple was instrumental in pushing the field in this multidisciplinary direction, and he reserves high praise for him. “He’s one of the key figures who established surgical oncology to Canada and pushed it forward as a specialty where it wasn’t just about the surgery but understanding the nature of oncology, tumours, their natural history, their behaviour, and a multidisciplinary approach.” McMullen is the director and adjunct professor of the department of oncology at the University of Alberta. Like Temple and many other doctors at Alberta’s leading cancer clinics, he holds cross-appointments across institutions. “Surgical oncology is not just the surgery, it’s knowing when to operate so that you integrate what you plan to do with the radiation oncologists and the medical oncologists,” McMullen says. “So the plan is made by a group of physicians instead of just a surgeon saying, ‘OK. You’ve got something that we’re going to try to take out.’ ” Every week at Alberta’s two major cancer centres, 30-plus oncologists, as well as pathologists, specialized nurses and sometimes psychosocial professionals sit on a tumour board. At the roundtable meeting, the group closely examines the condition of every newly registered patient so that each expert with something to contribute, does. From beginning to end, the roundtable will abruptly switch gears as many as a dozen times, from a patient with an abdominal tumour to one with a tumour of the 22

LIGHT HEARTED: Dr. Walley Temple makes humour a part of his stressful job of surgical oncology.

limb to another with gastrointestinal tumours or sarcoma of the lungs. “We go everywhere in the body,” says Temple. “It’s become a very intense ‘lookup’ of each patient to make sure we deliver the best possible treatment.” He adds, “That’s our role: To keep interpreting the new possibilities of other modalities to provide a totally different solution.” Traditionally, McMullen says, professionals simply presented patients with the numbers – the statistics of survival based on a whole population. “Now we’re tailoring our therapy,” he says. “It’s very nice to give patients detail and say, ‘We’ve done an indepth analysis and for you we think this is the best treatment,’ instead of, ‘Well this is what works for everyone else.’” Esther Harris, an 87-year-old writer and retired academic, knows the story all too well. In 2003, she was living in Vancouver when her gynecologist referred her to a hematologist after finding an alarmingly high white blood cell count. “I walked into his office and 10 seconds later he told me I was going to die,” she recalls. The diagnosis was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which can attack any tissue in the immune system. “He said, ‘I don’t think we can give you any of the chemotherapies because, at your age, they will probably kill you.’ ” This was not the first time she’d been diagnosed with cancer. Fifteen years prior, she

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developed a tumour close to her eye and had to have her squamous-cell carcinoma, a non-fatal skin cancer that causes protrusions. It took 10 eyelid surgically removed and replaced with a skin graph months of radiation to shrink the tumours and surgery to excise the ones dangerously from behind her ear. Throughout it all, she ploughed near her eye. On the plus side, Harris says jokingly, “They drew a line of stitches across through her work, got more articles published, earned my hairline and pulled skin over my forehead, so I don’t have an old woman’s forehead. another degree and continued teaching. Few things No wrinkles or lines, it’s like a facelift.” can slow her down but the diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s Needless to say, the Calgary cancer centre has come to know her well. “I don’t lymphoma stopped her in her tracks. She accepted the think I would have survived without them. I’m madly in love with all my doctors, men death sentence and moved and women.” to Calgary to be closer to her Dr. Temple is pleased, but not surprised, The tumour group examines the daughter. There, she registered to hear her praises. “In Alberta, our patients condition of every newly registered at the Tom Baker Centre and, identify that we have a wonderful system,” to her surprise, got a different he says. “Alberta is just way ahead in terms patient so that each expert with story: The oncologists assured of what we can offer our patients.” Most something to contribute, does. her they’d find the right chemo Albertans, unfortunately, don’t find this out dosage for her situation. until they’re diagnosed with cancer. That was just the beginning for Harris. In less than But there’s much that’s still unknown about surgical oncology, says Temple. “It’s a a decade, she has endured three chemotherapies to bit like asking how much do we know about the solar system.” As oncologists better overcome non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, plus treatments understand tumour behaviour, unique genetic receptors and mutations, they’ll better for two more cancers that she developed and beat. understand the individual and therefore the particular patient’s disease. When she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in “We’re at the very beginning of this phase of personalized medicine,” says McMullen, 2008, the oncologist took one look at her medical profile who is helping the Cross Cancer Institute lead a trial to determine why, if at all, presence and agreed that, given her age, predisposition to cancer of a newly discovered gene mutation requires more aggressive thyroid cancer surgery. and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he should attend to her When it comes to surgical technology, McMullen says there’s always going to be right away. Within weeks, surgeons removed the tumour incremental innovations – better devices, more advanced robotics that become cheaper and resectioned her bowel using new robotic technology and more common. But, if you were to touch base with him on the topic in 2022, “I still that allows for precision in very small areas. think personalized therapy and tailoring my surgical technique to a given patient, and Then, three years later, she developed what she the oncologist being able to pick the right therapy – those changes are where we’d have says looked like horns on her forehead, the result of the most to discuss.”

Transforming CANCER Sharing Sharing: FACE CANCER WITH STORIES

Of all the tools we have to cope with cancer, it’s important to stop and smell the roses


association.” The committee was charged with leaving a legacy to honour the volunteers who, over the past 50 years, have raised $4 million in support of patient care and comfort. From Carr’s perspective as a patient and as a volunteer, there was one thing missing that might boost the care patients received and the solace their families needed: a garden. “There was no place at the Cross for patients and their families to sit outside, catch a breath of fresh air,” she says, “and for a short period of time, perhaps, be distracted from the reality of a cancer diagnosis.” Carr says that people who have been on the brink of death understand that nature can have a profound buoying effect on the spirit. And she wasn’t alone. A garden of one kind or another at the Cross has long been a goal. At times, it has come close to fruition, but has never panned out. The volunteer association’s 50th anniversary committee also recognized the connection between nature and health, and set about to make it happen. The legacy project, the Healing Garden, was born. “It seemed appropriate,” Carr says, “to serve as a sanctuary for patients and their families – to renew the spirit and comfort the soul.” Alberta Cancer Foundation funds will help build and maintain the Healing Garden. Jane Weller of the foundation describes the project as “a natural fit” with her organization’s goals. “We consider the volunteers our valued partners as we both work hand-in-hand to enhance care and ease the journey for patients and

usan Carr always took solace in the outdoors. Never more so than after her diagnosis with cancer. About eight years ago, Carr began experiencing severe abdominal pain. After a year of trying to find answers, she met a gastroenterologist who told her it wasn’t all in her head and ordered a CT scan. Unfortunately, the scan revealed pancreatic cancer. (The pancreas is an organ that releases enzymes into the intestines so they can absorb food and fat.) Early on, there are no symptoms and by the time pain strikes, the disease is often advanced. But today, she counts herself as lucky. “I had an extraordinary surgeon, Dr. Norman Kneteman, who chose to operate on me when hope was slim,” she says. Doctors found that, despite her pain, Carr’s cancer had not spread to other tissues and organs. And then Carr recalls her first appointment with her oncologist, Dr. Charles Butts. “He pulled up a chair, bent over to look me squarely in the eyes, and asked me to tell him about myself. When I began to talk about my health, he said, ‘No, tell me about you. Who are you?’ From that moment on, I felt safely enveloped at the Cross Cancer Institute.” She would end up spending countless hours at the Cross for treatment. Later, when her health was better, she dedicated countless more hours as a volunteer. “Here I am today, alive and well,” she says, “and privileged to chair the 50th Anniversary Committee of the volunteer


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their families at the Cross Cancer Institute,” she says. Weller says that though the Healing Garden is the foundation’s first official partnership with the volunteer association, volunteers are often a patient’s first brush with cancer care in Alberta, and they help set the tone. “When we talk to donors about their motivation, many of them will speak about volunteers and medical staff in the same breath,” she says. Weller adds that the Healing Garden has already captured the interest of donors as a meaningful way to become involved. In November, Carr was on hand for the sod-turning ceremony. Once the Healing Garden is complete, patients and families can head to the west side of the cancer centre to find it. A $600,000 wheelchair-accessible space, it was created through a partnership that includes the Cross Cancer Institute Volunteer Association, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Alberta Health Services and Delnor Construction Ltd. It will include two plaza areas, a winding walkway and a small private seating zone surrounded by vegetation and shrubs and it will offer some protection from wind and rain, while still connecting patients to the outdoors. The garden opens in June 2013. As Susan Carr would tell you, the cancer-busting power of the latest surgical treatments, along with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are pretty aweinspiring. But you should never underestimate the healing power of the sun falling through the leaves and the breeze gently caressing your skin.

The team at work behind the Cross Cancer Institute’s Volunteer Association legacy project, the Healing Garden, encompasses deep commitment and talent. They are: Susan Carr, Eugene Malo, John Jacob, Marg Smith, Minota Dundas, Debbie-Hall Lavoie, Shirley Gaudet, Lynda Harker, Deborah McTaggart-Baird, and Paula Germann. In conjunction with the Cross Cancer Institute’s Volunteer Association, the space is also made possible by support from Alberta Cancer Foundation, Alberta Health Services and Delnor Construction Ltd. To find out how you can help, call the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Jane Weller at 780-432-8358.

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Transforming cancer

Before surgery to remove a tumour, a patient signs a consent form authorizing physicians to save and store samples of her tumour for possible use in future research projects. here is nothing quite as valuable to a researcher as human tissue. No one knows that better than Kathryn Graham, PhD, manager of the CBCF Tumour Bank in Edmonton. (There is a sister facility in Calgary and the research benefits of both extend through Alberta and beyond.) Graham says that many major medical developments start with a well-crafted research idea that requires multiple tissue samples of a certain type. The biobank of tissue samples that she oversees may be behind tomorrow’s breakthroughs. Here’s how a tissue sample gets from the patient to a researcher’s lab.


Each vial is labelled with a code that does not identify the patient. Minimal information is recorded so the team can contact the patient later to gain consent to use the sample in research. The patient’s identity is never released to researchers.

Surgeons remove her tumour and send it to pathology. The pathologists dissect the tumour to confirm the diagnosis. The patient may donate a blood sample, too.

Because the rest of the tumour is not needed for the patient’s diagnosis and care, the pathologist saves it, placing it in a vial and dropping it in a dewar of liquid nitrogen. A dewar is a small, portable tank that will keep the sample frozen. Less than 30 minutes have passed since surgeons removed her tumour.


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Every two weeks team members from the provincial tumour banks travel to pathology labs, picking up the dewars and replacing them with empty ones. At the Cross Cancer Institute, the team empties the dewars, barcodes the samples and enters the information into a database. They load the tumour samples into huge tanks and store them at -196ºC. Blood samples are stored in tall, upright freezers at -80ºC.

Researchers have access to a log of materials stored in the tumour bank. They can apply for samples based on tumour type. But the study must meet with approval from the ethics board; the researchers have to provide study details, which must meet with approval from the scientific review panel.

Once patients give consent, clinical information is entered into a database. “We link this data to the patient, at the back end of our system. No researchers or anyone else has access to that information. Patient samples are identified only by a code,” says Graham. Being able to link the disease history to the biological sample makes it more valuable to researchers. It allows them to tie their observations to clinical factors, such as response to a drug, for example.

At the end of the study, the researcher must destroy anything remaining of the sample. Published findings are shared among researchers and can have a global reach.

At this point, team members go back through the records and contact patients to gain full informed consent to perform research on their tissue sample and store their clinical information that relates to the cancer.

Information researchers gain from experiments on these banked tissue samples adds to the sum total of cancer knowledge and much of it will be the basis of better cancer care and treatment in the future.

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Transforming CANCER

Is screening for lung cancer around the corner?


t’s the leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada, killing more people than prostate, breast and colon cancer combined. “There are more deaths from lung cancer than any other cancer,” says Dr. Paul MacEachern, a respirologist who knows firsthand how deadly the disease is. Much of the Calgary doctor’s day-to-day work is spent evaluating patients with masses in their lungs. MacEachern sees patients who are referred to him because they’ve had abnormal CT scans or chest X-rays. He frequently diagnoses patients with lung cancer before referring them to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre for treatment.


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The survival rates for people diagnosed with lung cancer otherwise the potential for harm is greater,” he says. are low, because most people are diagnosed too late. “The As doctors like MacEachern evaluate how a lung canmajority of people who present with lung cancer, present at cer screening program should be implemented across a stage where it’s already advanced,” explains MacEachern the province in a widespread fashion, Canadians across over the phone from a hotel room in Atlanta where he’s at- the country are participating in a lung cancer detection tending a lung conference. Because people show symptoms study that recognizes the need to create a lung cancer after the cancer has progressed, the early detection and treat- screening program. The Terry Fox Research Institute ment of lung cancer is the most promising strategy to reduce and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer are undermortality from the disease. “It’s very attractive to think, ‘Well taking an early lung cancer detection study. MacEachern if we can just catch these lung cancers early, then we can save notes Calgary is one of seven sites across the country parlives.’ ” MacEachern says. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. ticipating in the study and about 250 Calgarians make up There is currently no screening program for lung cancer the study’s 2,500 participants. “The main purpose of the in Alberta. Until quite recently, there was no evidence to study was to try and validate the risk prediction model. suggest that screening Is there some way worked. In the fall of There is currently no screening program we can predict bet2011, a U.S. study, the ter who is at risk for lung cancer in Alberta. Until quite “National Lung Screenfor lung cancer that ing Trial,” demon- recently there was no evidence to suggest would allow us to strated that lung cancer then hopefully be that screening worked. screening with a CT able to screen fewer scan had the potential people but to catch to save lives and reduce mortality for lung cancer. “That was most of the lung cancers?” he asks. The study is nearing big news because we’ve never had a screening test for lung completion. All participants have had scans and are now cancer before,” MacEachern says. While the new study was in followup stages while data is collected. exciting and seemed promising, it left doctors like MacEachThe study screened current and former smokers ern wondering how to move forward with the information between 50 to 75 years of age at high risk of lung cancer. without putting a strain on the medical system. Through the data gathered, the study aims to track the “The reason people aren’t automatically jumping on type of diagnostic tests and treatment, as well as their this is because screening is a process, not just one test,” costs, thus determining the health-care resources resays MacEachern, adding that resources need to be put quired and how much it would cost the public if a lung into place to properly screen patients for lung cancer. The cancer screening program were to be implemented screening test that would be used, if a lung cancer screening across the country. A primary objective of the study, program were to be introduced in the future, is a simple low which has brought together experts in radiology, respidose CT scan that aims to minimize radiation exposure. Yet, ratory medicine, thoracic surgery, pathology, oncology, giving a CT scan to thousands of people is no easy feat. “The epidemiology, health economics and health-care policy, magnitude of people that need to be screened is huge in the is to find an effective way to identify lung cancer in its sense of the workload it could potentially generate,” says early stages, thus increasing survival rates. MacEachern. If everybody in Alberta who was potentially Whether we can implement lung cancer screening eligible for screening were to be screened, the workload in across the province, or from coast to coast, is still in terms of the sheer number of CT scans would very quickly question. “It’s exciting in a way because we’ve never overwhelm the health-care system and the surgeons and had a screening test for lung cancer and it does have the radiologists who work in it, MacEachern says. potential to save lives,” MacEachern says, adding: “The Another problem with blanket screening is that the rate excitement is tempered by the fact the magnitude of the of detection of nodules that turn out to be nothing is high. problem is huge.” As Canada’s deadliest cancer continAbout 20 per cent of people screened will have an abnormal- ues to take lives, MacEachern says it’s imperative that in ity, usually a nodule in the lung. Of these nodules, more than the future, the right people get screened for lung cancer, 95 per cent are benign. Unfortunately the CT scan does not in the right fashion. “People get excited about screening show which nodules will turn out to be cancer, leading to and there is reason to get excited. It has significant pofollowup testing and investigation of all nodules. This leads tential,” he says. “I just want to stress that it’s going to to anxiety and worry for people being screened, extra tests take some time before we can implement this. We’d like such as followup CT scans, and occasionally invasive proce- to try to implement something because there is benefit dures such as biopsies or surgeries and the attendant risk of to Albertans if we do so, but there are potential harms complications associated with the procedures. and we have to make sure we do it right to minimize the If a screening program were introduced, the ideal can- harms and maximize the benefits.” didates for screening would be those with the highest risk Despite the potential risks involved with screenof lung cancer. Factors that increase the risk of lung cancer ing for lung cancer, MacEachern stresses, “A screening include age and smoking and, as such, MacEachern says the program should not be considered a substitute for a best candidates would be people aged 55 to 75 with a history tobacco control program. The best way to reduce your of heavy smoking. “If we’re going to implement screen- chance of getting lung cancer is to quit smoking or never ing, we have to take our time and make sure it’s done right; start smoking.”

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planned giving /



John Porter lost his wife, brother and father to cancer. Now he is leaving behind a gift to help families of the future
Married 52 years, 10 days. Together, in total, for 58

years and four days. John Porter can tell you exactly how long he and his wife Virginia shared their lives before she died of cancer. He speaks of the days and years he spent with his teenaged sweetheart and “dear partner in life,” now comforted by the many memories. “We were blessed with a happy and satisfying marriage,” says Porter, 90. “We had an extremely full life together.” After marrying in 1948, they moved from Saskatoon to Calgary, where Porter found work as a geologist. They bought the home where Porter still lives and the couple – who never had children – enjoyed a life of hosting dinner parties, visiting the local theatre and taking road trips. As a homemaker, Virginia found her niche behind the sewing machine making dresses and suits. Things took a turn in 1986 when she developed uterine cancer and spent the next five years receiving treatment at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. Nine years after her treatment, she developed osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer, and she died in 2000. “I still miss her dearly,” says Porter. “I have a lot of memories and a lot of photographs and it sustains me, but it’s rather lonely.” Unfortunately he’s no stranger to the losses of cancer, which had already claimed the lives of his father, twin brother and both of Virginia’s parents. Cancer also struck his mother and sister, who lived past the illness. Before Virginia died, the couple decided to make yearly contributions and to commit part of their estate as a gift for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. During his trips back and forth to the Tom Baker, Porter came to know the facility well and appreciate the high level of care his wife received. And the research projects he learned about impressed him. As a result, his legacy will be distributed evenly across patient care and research. “I’m so impressed – being a geo-scientist myself – it’s just amazing, the changes and new ideas they’ve come up with,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a magic bullet, but a lot of intelligent people and researchers are working on this. I think we’ll look back in another century and say ‘Boy that was a real renaissance period.’” Derek Michael, gift planning specialist with the 30

IN LOVING MEMORY: John Porter came to know the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and appreciated the level of care his wife received.

Alberta Cancer Foundation, says future gifts such as Porter’s are crucial. “Making that commitment for cancer patients down the road means we’ll have funding available for future research and patient care programs,” Michael says. “There can be a longterm vision and plan. People like John benefit complete strangers they’ll never meet and yet they’re still willing to make that generous commitment.” There’s a misconception that gift planning is only for the wealthy, Michael adds. He says that any amount is significant. “It can be whatever makes sense for your circumstances. It adds up quickly.” After 12 years, Porter says finding closure over the loss of his wife is difficult. But when it comes to the disease, he has great faith the foundation will use his future gift to help families down the road. “This gives me some quiet satisfaction.”


Girish Agrawal, senior executive financial consultant, says most people underestimate the charitable potentials of their estate. “Once there is a commitment, there are ways to enhance that commitment or make it more efficient.” Future gift options range from a specified amount or asset in a will, a charitable remainder trust, a life insurance policy, or setting up a private foundation. The Alberta Cancer Foundation can guide interested donors through the process. Contact Derek Michael, gift planning specialist, 780-643-4662. “It may not be part of their day-to-day job, but they do have access to the resources you need,” says Agrawal.

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why I donate /


A pair of PET/CT scanners reduce wait times for diagnosis and testing and improve new treatments for Albertans. Meet some of the donors behind the project


r. John Mercer is understandably bullish about the most recent of his department’s gleaming new machines. Cutting-edge PET/CT scanners were installed in Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute in 2005 and 2012. The machines look obviously clinical and a little futuristic. The scanner comprises two parts. The first – the part that contains the machinery to scan the patient – is shaped like a Lifesaver that’s taller than a man and standing on its edge. The second part is a bed on which the patient lies that moves through the ring in the centre of the scanner. In preparation for the scan, a patient takes a kind of nuclear medicine called a tracer by intravenous injections. The tracer moves through the body localizing in tissues, allowing the nuclear medicine physician to visualize healthy and diseased tissue. The scans are used mainly to find and monitor cancer, but can be used for other conditions, such as diseases of the brain and circulatory system. Including preparation and scan, the process takes about half an hour.

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why I donate /

stories of giving

The presence of the machines means that more patients can be scanned in a shorter time more accurately, significantly reducing wait times for cancer screening, arguably the most stressful days or weeks in a patient’s journey. The new PET/CT machines will process three times as many patients The machines are the latest as conventional scanners. But they bring much more additions to what Mercer calls than reduced wait times to “a fantastic facility, one that in Alberta. the last 10 years has become The machines are the latest additions to what a globally recognized leader Mercer calls “a fantastic in radiopharmaceutical facility, one that in the development.” last 10 years has become a globally recognized leader in radiopharmaceutical development.” Mercer is the research director of the Edmonton PET Centre. Whereas other facilities might use just one or two tracers, the Edmonton PET Centre at the Cross Cancer Institute maintains a library of tracers, tailored to find and monitor various cancers. “The machines operate in two different modalities,” Mercer says, “taking two different types of images at the same time.” The PET modality (positron emission tomography) looks for a specific tumour. “The problem with PET is that there is no anatomical reference point, so we don’t know where a tumour is exactly,” Mercer says. The CT (computed tomography) is like a 32

three-dimensional X-ray. “It allows us a precise idea of where a tumour is located.” Together, the scans show a transparent, 3-D version of the patient that doctors can manipulate and zoom in on. The tracers light up the tissues doctors are looking for. Since the PET Centre came online in 2002, Mercer says there have been more than 50 clinical trials in which physicians have use this imaging technology. “The tracers allow us to fine tune our choice of therapy for each patient,” he says. “We are trying to tie ourselves to personalized medicine. Having these instruments here lets us get even closer to that.” Of course there is a pricetag. At $3 million per machine it’s a significant one. The Alberta Cancer Foundation has funded these machines through the generous support of its donors. By strategically investing its funds, the foundation provides opportunities for donors to invest in research programs, equipment and patient care. The Muhlenfelds: Making home a better place Reinhard Muhlenfeld knows a good opportunity when he sees it. “We came to Canada in 1975,” the 82-year-old businessman says. Originally from Germany, Muhlenfeld had been living for years in England. His expertise brought him to Alberta to build a feed plant in Sexsmith. “It was a two-year project and we didn’t intend to stay,” he recalls. But after that project was over another opportunity came. “We bought a small mill in Barmyleapmagazine.ca

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second donation. “They needed some toys to go with it,” Muhlenfeld says. EECOL Electric: Employees for a better future EECOL Electric has had a part in powering Canada since 1919. An employee-owned company, EECOL services the electrical material supply requirements of industry. The company boasts large inventories, qualified personnel, and great service. And, like every organization, EECOL has lost valued colleaugues to cancer. “We are long-time supporters of the Alberta Cancer Foundation,” says Garry Tansem, EECOL’s regional manager for Northern Alberta. “We’ve been looking for more structure and more significant choice when we direct our charitable dollars,” Tansem says. “We wanted to put the funds into the region where we live and work.” To that end, EECOL developed a five-year plan for its corporate donations. Tansem says that he and others from EECOL consulted Jane Weller of the Alberta Cancer Foundation and explained the kind of projects the company wanted to fund. “We wanted something specific to Northern Alberta,” he says, “and we wanted to help patients today and into the future.” Weller presented a few options and the EECOL team identified the PET/CT scanners as an investment they could get behind. “People from our region, Northern Alberta, usually go to the Cross for cancer diagnosis and treatment. We saw the scanner as significantly impacting care in our area.” The Stollery Charitable Foundation: Building a healthier community In 1994, after a lifetime of profitable work for PCL Construction Group, Bob Stollery (who died in 2007) along with his wife Shirley, already generous philanthropists, wanted to create a legacy that would last. They were the driving force behind the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton and the wide-reaching Stollery Charitable Foundation. Like the Muhlenfelds, they wanted to give back to the community that had afforded them success. “The Stollery Charitable Foundation is a private, endowed, family foundation,” explains executive director Scott Graham. He says that the foundation’s mandate includes the goal of improving the health of the community in cooperation with other funders. “We heard about the PET/CT scanners in an early inquiry from the Alberta Cancer Foundation in 2008. We discussed them with Dr. Tony Field, and he made a compelling case for how they would help the community.” Field explained how the scanners would reduce wait times and improve the detection and monitoring of cancer. His enthusiasm and clear explanations captured the interest of Graham and Jeff Bryson, director of granting at the Stollery Charitable Foundation. “We took Dr. Field’s information to the family to see what we might do to help.” Graham adds that part of the attraction was the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s reputation as an organization that uses donor dollars effectively. “We knew that we’d be able to paint with a wide brush,” Graham says, “that the scanners would help a large swath of people in the community.”

rhead and hired someone to run it,” he says. Other feed mills followed and Reinhard, his wife Elisabeth and their children Sandra, Angela and Peter, sold the house in England and put down roots in Alberta. Today, with Elisabeth at his side, he is reminiscing from his book-lined office at his home in Edmonton and it’s clear Muhlenfeld knows a good opportunity when he sees it. On one of his regular trips to visit the feed mills, he came across a bag of pet food. “I took a look at this bag, and I saw it was made in the United States,” he says. “It turned out there was no one manufacturing pet food in Alberta.” In 1985, Muhlenfeld set out to change that. Today, Champion Pet Foods makes high-quality protein-rich dog and cat food mainly from locally-sourced ingredients at its two plants in rural Alberta. It markets its product to 40 countries. “We have two production systems and 225 employees,” Muhlenfeld says. “Our son Peter is the chief salesman.” The business has been profitable, and the Muhlenfelds wanted to give back. “As Reinhard says, we made the money here and it should stay here in Alberta,” says Elisabeth. “We chose to give to hospitals.” Early in the process, they sat down with Jane Weller from the Alberta Cancer Foundation, who presented some options, among them, the chance to direct funds to a PET/CT scanner. The Muhlenfelds saw this as a good opportunity. They made an initial generous donation and, after a tour of the facility during which they found out what the machine could do, they followed up with a
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corporate giving /


CHEQUE MATES: Peter Fargey (left) with Daryl Silzer of the Alberta Cancer Foundation and Craig McEwen of ION Print Solutions.

A Campaign


Peter Fargey’s experience with cancer was the inspiration for a campaign that has raised more than $1 million – and counting


winter 2012



McEwen thinks the combination of his colleague’s story, the environhese days, cancer survivor Peter Fargey feels like a million bucks – which is roughly the sum he and his mental message, and the fact that ION was helping the public leverage company, ION Print Solutions, have raised for the Alberta their donation dollars, appealed to people. “It was incredible how many Cancer Foundation over the last three years. Since 2010, calls we had from people considering donating to make sure we would the Nisku-based printing company has been involved in a summertime match what they donated,” he says. The third campaign officially ended in August 2012, but the company matching gift campaign, matching public donations to the foundation of looks forward to doing it again next summer. The fourth year of the $50,000 or less. To put this into perspective: the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s summer campaign will be similar to the look and feel of the first three, but McEwen campaigns have historically netted $30,000 per year, while the ION Print hopes to recruit other companies to take part, as well. October 2012 marked two years since Fargey’s last chemo treatment Solutions campaign has netted an average of $350,000. The campaign’s success might stem from its source. Back in 2010, and he’s happy to report that he’s officially free of cancer. However, like anyone who has endured the Fargey – one of ION’s founders – began suffering from persistent gut pain that McEwen approached his business part- treatments, he’ll continue to get tested regularly – every six months – wasn’t eased by the usual remedies, like ner to see if he’d be up for telling his for several years. “Everyone hopes to dietary changes or Tylenol. While he was on holiday, the pain grew worse – story in a big way. Fargey didn’t hesitate. get to five years,” he says, and all signs point to a good long-term severe enough that he had a hunch it wasn’t a normal stomach ache. “We were in the States at the time,” Fargey prognosis, especially after his most recent tests. And while Fargey’s been the face of the campaign for three years running, he’s more than says, “and when I got home, I went to see the family doctor.” Fargey’s physician ordered tests that revealed he had cancer. “I think happy to keep telling his story. “As long as they think it’ll continue to it’s always in the back of your mind, but when they found it, of course, it raise money, why not?” was a shock to be told all of a sudden that you have cancer,” he says. For that matter, it wasn’t just any cancer, but a rare cancer in his duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). In fact, it puzzled his oncologist, Dr. Michael Sawyer. “It was so rare that he didn’t know how to treat it,” Fargey explains. Erring on the side of caution, Sawyer chose a treatment that involved surgery (the removal of Fargey’s duodenum, bile duct and half of his pancreas) and an entire year of chemotherapy. “Thankfully, Dr. Sawyer decided to treat it very aggressively and thankfully, it worked,” says Fargey. The staff at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, where he received his treatments, made the experience much more tolerable, he says: “The people at the Cross were magnificent, they really were. Let’s just say they’re very good at what they do.” At the same time as Fargey was receiving his treatments, ION Print Solutions was greening its operations: “We made equipment investments, building and lighting changes – things to reduce the amount of water and power we use,” explains managing partner Craig McEwen. Cancer, which is increasingly linked to environmental pollutants, was also on his mind, thanks to Fargey’s experiences. He wondered if perhaps the company could publicize its new environmental initiatives while at the same time, raise money for cancer research, patient care, screening and prevention programs. He thought Fargey could be the face of the campaign. McEwen approached his business partner to see if he’d be up for telling his story in a big way. Fargey didn’t hesitate: “I bought in right away,” he says. “I thought it was a great idea.” ION approached the Alberta Cancer Foundation and together they launched a campaign in the RARE BIRD: Always one to do it his way, Peter Fargey’s cancer was so unusual his doctors weren’t summer of 2010, a few months before Fargey’s chemo ended. Donations sure of the best treatment approach at first. began pouring in and it became apparent that the campaign resonated with Albertans.

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KEEPING TRACK: Christy Soholt has just returned to work after a parental leave with her first child, a whole new organizational challenge.


winter 2012


A new daily planner, designed by a cancer survivor, is available to help people cope with the process of cancer treatment





’ve always had good intentions to stay organized. I have Somehow this small change in organization helped me feel like I was taking vowed to be prepared, punctual, and keep my promises. For the most control of something that felt out of control before. Mom found her own part I’ve been able to live up to my own expectations. Despite having system for Dad’s records – a very large file folder. And while my box was the reputation of being the last to show at a family function, I’ve been sorted by subject, Mom’s was organized by date. Both systems seemed to called “the organizational guru” at work. I could rattle off my jammed help us manage the cancer journey just a little bit better. Then there was the matter of a slew of new appointments and contacts. calendar in mere minutes, and I could find a specific piece of information in the blink of eye – well, maybe that last one is a slight exaggeration – but I From doctor appointments to support group contacts to self-help seminars and treatment dates, being a cancer patient seemed to be a fullconsidered myself fairly on top of it. Until May 7, 2008 after a visit with my family doctor, I went thinking time job. I laugh when I think about my naiveté at diagnosis, thinking I was she would tell me that the biopsy of “my lump” (as I affectionately called going to continue working through my illness. Bless those who can make it) proved to be nothing to worry about. Instead I came home with a stack that happen, I was lucky to make it to the lab for blood work on time! My of literature on breast cancer. Thus began my love-hate relationship with solution was low-tech; a quick trip to a stationary store and I was armed with a pocket calendar and a pencil that tucked into my purse. At a quick documenting the hundreds of details of my cancer journey. glance I now not only knew what the Shocked at my diagnosis, particularly at my young age of 28, I had a lot of I was quickly buried under a mountain of next day and month had in store, but I had my key contacts close at hand. I questions. A lot. I had not ever been information and overwhelmed by could jot down my questions as they close to anyone on a cancer journey and an appointment schedule I could came to me, and I could take more I had no idea what to expect. Thankfully control of my journey. Mom’s system my cancer care staff blew me out of the not keep track of. for Dad was similar and though it’s not water with answers. All the information I could possibly need and then some; a four-hour explanation of my specific revolutionary, having this sort of system for my personal life was a brand diagnosis and treatment plan, supported by a handout with additional new idea to me. After treatment, I turned my passion for a cancer-free future into a information. The first meeting was followed by another appointment with another specialist, and a seminar that would help me with that issue, oh, career by joining the Alberta Cancer Foundation team. Understanding and a clinical trial that would be perfect, and a support group that would be that information, support, contacts, appointments and more is a large worth meeting, and so on. In just a few short months, I was buried under a component of the cancer journey, we at the Foundation wanted to give mountain of information and overwhelmed by an appointment schedule I patients a gift to help ease this burden. After sorting through my box, reviewing my pocket calendar, and consulting researchers, nurses, could not keep track of. Four short months later, my Dad heard the dreaded words “you have volunteers, patient education specialists, nutritionists, and more, the cancer” when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Just My Journey patient journal and file folder gift was born. I am so pleased like that, there were now two cancer journeys in my immediate family of that the foundation offers this package to all patients throughout the four to keep track of. Being the seasoned expert on the subject that I now province, and I hope it will help patients navigate and take control of their was, I accompanied him and Mom as much as possible to his seemingly journey. Patients can pick up a copy, free of charge at any Alberta Cancer endless appointments, trying to write down anything that would make Foundation office. I would not wish anyone this difficult journey. I hope in some small way sense, remembering to ask the hundreds of questions that had been going through all our minds, and now trying to make sense of a new mountain of that my journey and book helps ease others. handouts. Complete with side-effects of treatment, cancer was taking over my life, and my house. The Alberta Cancer Foundation is updating the journal on Eventually the handouts and books made their way into a pretty pink box a regular basis and your feedback is welcome. Please send I purchased for that purpose. Now my office desk had a box with the fitting suggestions to acfonline@albertacancerfoundation.ca saying “everything is possible” on it where there was once a stack of papers.

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There are no excuses to let your exercise regimen grind to halt in the deep freeze of an Alberta winter
By Michelle lindstroM

to Move
When you work out at home, you’re amongst loved ones instead of spending hours lberta’s outdoor race season is over for the average fair-weather athlete, but training across town in a gym, meeting your plank and burpee quota. A con is the lack of space in most homes to set up exercise machines. McLean’s answer is a bike trainer, especially if definitely isn’t … or at least it shouldn’t be. Finding the motivation to exercise in the winter you already have a bike. (A bike trainer lifts one wheel off the floor and turns your road or months can be harder than actually working out. Dark mountain bike into a stationary one.) She plunks her trainer in front of her TV. “I’ve watched some great movies,” she mornings, dark evenings. Comfort clothes, comfort food. says. McLean makes it a social gathering by inviting friends, and their bikes, over to use But it doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. Katie McLean, an Alberta Cancer Foundation trustee another trainer she has and off they go – stationary bike buddies. She and her husband and chair of Joe’s Team Calgary, shares how she pushes trained together in their basement last winter to prep for the 2012 Enbridge Ride to past the times she wants to snuggle deeper into her couch Conquer Cancer – her husband’s first long-distance bike race. Inside or outside, you should grab a friend. “When and slip into hibernation. someone pushes you further on a lazy day,” McLean says, “You might know a few “I like to take on a challenge “your competitive side kicks in. On your own, you’re more people that just look like that frightens me enough and likely to say, ‘Ahh, I’m finished. That’s enough.’ ” they’re fit all the time and motivates me to get ready for it,” When training on your own, discouragement is inevitable – they never have any issues that’s where music comes in. “Get a playlist together that motivating themselves,” she McLean says. inspires you,” McLean says. Movies are just too hard to says. “I guarantee you that without a goal, those people are not that motivated.” concentrate on when she’s working out really hard. Training for running is more difficult than biking in winter if you don’t have a What she does, along with many others who never seem to lose their desire to exercise, is set a new goal days or treadmill at home, a gym membership or the desire to suit up appropriately and run outside. If you have a room with the space and a high ceiling, McLean suggests skipping weeks before achieving the current one. It’s OK to base your goal on fear. “I like to take on a to build cardio endurance. Her modification, because she doesn’t have the space, challenge that frightens me enough and motivates me is to jump up and down while making small circles with her arms – all the motions of to get ready for it,” McLean says. For example, she plans skipping without the rope. A person’s existing fitness level and goals will determine the intensity of their to do the 2013 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in March. “I’m so scared, I actually get nervous just thinking about winter workout regime. “I love the idea of always maintaining a base level of fitness,” it – and I’ve done a lot of races.” Fear can be the driver to McLean says, “because that means you’re ready for training for almost any sport.” make trainees head to the gym instead of home and bed. Her definition of “base level of fitness” includes a routine of working out three times An alternative can be to work out in your home, driven a week in, for example, a spin class, yoga or playing some kind of sport. This by the knowledge that training is required to cross the foundation of fitness makes it much easier to kick things up a notch, take things finish lines in spring and summer of all race types and outside and train for a June event, like her pet project: Joe’s Team Triathalon/ distances. Besides, maintenance in the off-season makes Dualthalon, a sprint event to raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of head-and-neck cancers. for easier spring training. 38


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Kari Berridge of Fit 2 Motivate is an Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA) trainer who trains (and inspires others) for triathlons, ultramarathons, and more. Below, she describes five low-space indoor exercises she encourages everyone to do while the weather outside looks frightful. PUSHUPS (chest muscles and triceps) How to: Palms on the floor about shoulder width apart. Push whole body up, with back and legs in a straight line, then lower yourself back down staying about a fist width from the floor. To focus primarily on strengthening chest, place your hands wider apart. To focus primarily on strengthening triceps and back, move your hands closer together. SQUATS (thigh muscles/quadriceps and buttocks) How to: Stand up straight with arms stretched in front, parallel to the floor. Bend knees until thighs are parallel to the floor. Centre weight in heels (you should be able to lift your toes up slightly at all times) and push your body back up to standing position. (pictured below) SKIPPING ON THE SPOT (entire body, great cardio exercise) How to: Keep back and head straight, then gently jump from one foot to the other (shifting weight side to side) as the rope passes under your feet, as you skip. Aim for about 70 skips a minute (each time you change feet counts as one skip). Pick up speed to 80 as the workout progresses. Fast skips, aim for 90 per minute. BURPEES (chest, arms, front deltoids, thighs, hamstrings and abs and burns fat) How to: Place hands on the floor, palms down. Jump both feet straight out behind you (you can also step your feet back one at a time). Jump both feet back in to your body so knees are to your chest. Come up to standing. Raise arms straight up into air then jump straight up. Crouch back down and start again. (pictured below)

STATIC LUNGES (quadriceps, hips, buttocks and hamstrings) How to: Stand with right foot forward, left foot straight back about three feet apart. Bend knees to lower the body towards the floor (hold weights in each hand if desired). Keep front knee behind the toes (in line with your heels) and be sure to lower straight down rather than forward. Keep torso straight and abs engaged as you push through the front heel and move back to the start position. Avoid locking the knees at the top of the movement. Switch lead leg and repeat reps. There are lots of variations. THE PLANK (builds endurance in abs and back, as well as stabilizer muscles) How to: Lay face down on mat, resting palms flat on the floor similar to a pushup start position. Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on forearms and elbows. Make sure elbows are directly under shoulders to protect shoulder muscles from unwanted strain. Keep back flat, in a straight line from head to heels. Tilt pelvis and contract abdominals to prevent rear end from sticking up or belly sagging. You can also drop to your knees, if staying up on your toes is too hard. Once you drop down to your knees do a pelvic tilt. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for three to five times.

Berridge recommends doing these exercises three to five times per week as a circuit workout. For the lunges, squats and pushups, each should be done in 12 to 15 repetitions for three to five sets. Plank can be done by working your way up to 60 seconds for three to five sets, as well. For each round of burpees or skipping (these can be interchangeable for circuit), proceed continuously for one minute and complete at least three rounds during the circuit.

Professional triathlete Scott Curry is Calgary resident Katie McLean’s coach. He posted a core routine on YouTube (http://youtube/ub3mZZNZLT8) as a way to train her remotely from his home in B.C. McLean focuses on her core to support her back. “If you have a strong core,” she says, “you are far less likely to get injured.” Refer to the video link if you already have a base level of fitness – the routine is challenging. McLean searches the Internet frequently for videos and says many are out there for all levels of fitness.

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Research Rockstar



A sense of humour, a master’s degree and a set of skis will get you far in stem cell research, just ask the director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute


e’s much less Grizzly Adams than you’d expect for a confessed mountain-loving man. “My love of the mountains is the mountains,” Dr. Sam Weiss says. Only when he says it, there is a big, growly emphasis on the “is.” He gets out of the lab or office, destined for Banff, as often as he can. You’ll find him hiking in the warmer, dryer seasons and cross-country skiing in the colder, snowier seasons. But mostly Weiss looks more the part of a clean-cut, scienceloving, stem cell expert. His many titles in the faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary include professor, department of cell biology and anatomy/pharmacology and therapeutics member, genes and development research group and director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. But he keeps his CV simple: “I’m not a physician, I’m just a PhD.” In 1992, Weiss co-headed a team that found and reported that the adult brain contained neural stem cells. “It was a bit of a serendipitous discovery,” he says, since he was actually studying something else at the time. Stem cells can divide, self-renew and change into specialized cell types, so Weiss’s discovery stirred inquiries throughout


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CELLS & SCIENCE: Dr. Sam Weiss is a man of discovery in the lab and the mountains.

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Research Rockstar
thesis: could harnessing stem cells in the brain be used after an injury or stroke by reactivating or rewiring the organ in some way to rebuild it? By that time, Cairncross had already written an article about brain stem cells and how cancers of the brain may arise from those cells. “His science intersected with my ideas of the origins of brain cancer,” Cairncross says, adding that’s why he remembered Weiss and looked him up years later. Cairncross was recruited for a position, head of the clinical neurosciences department at the University of Calgary, over a decade ago and specifically asked to meet with Weiss when he travelled west for his job interviews – all due to that New York Times article. “He was about the way I thought he would be,” Cairncross says, undaunted by the long wait to meet the scientist. Cairncross knew he had the clinical background and Weiss had science behind him, nudging his suspicions that their knowledge and interests could complement each other. He was right. They belonged to different departments, maintaining their own research teams for years, until more brain stem cell discoveries around the world triggered Weiss to specialize his studies further, and his connection with Cairncross became closer. Five years ago, Weiss made the decision to direct his entire lab’s focus on studying glioblastoma multiforme (an aggressive malignant brain tumour). “I work very closely through my lab with four or five other investigators who are very interested in brain tumours,” Weiss says. His investigative connections span the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, the Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute in the faculty of medicine, at least four labs in Calgary and numerous others throughout Alberta, B.C., Quebec and Ontario. This means that, on any given day, Weiss can be found running between his office and his lab, and the offices and labs of his colleagues, and doing all that running around while trying to push forward discoveries, applications, and improve neurological and mental health. “If you look up ‘team director’ you’ll probably see my picture there,” he says. “Wisely, I’m denied access to direct experimentation.” On June 5, an $8.2-million grant was presented to Weiss and Cairncross as the principal members of a five-year project to study glioblastomas and the drugs used to treat these tumours. The grant was funded by a large partnership including the Terry Fox Research Institute, The Terry Fox Foundation, Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Genome Canada, Genome B.C. and the B.C. Cancer Foundation. “This grant is about growing brain cancer cells in the laboratory using Sam’s methods and then testing whether they’re sensitive to thousands of different types of drugs,” Cairncross says. The need for the study is because even though brain cancers can look very similar under the microscope, most have different genetic subtypes and require different treatment regimens. Currently, the same drugs are used for all subtypes.

MAGNETIC PERSONALITY: Top students want to be in on Dr. Weiss’s groundbreaking studies.

“He has the ability to see the big picture and describe what he’s doing in an exciting way to everybody in the room.” – Dr. Gregory Cairncross
the scientific community, mainly questioning if brain injury and disease (including cancer) could be repaired with the use of neural stem cells. Weiss’s discovery was big news in 1992. It even appeared in the New York Times. Dr. Gregory Cairncross, a professor in the oncology department at Western University in London, Ontario at the time, read it and started following the work of Professor Weiss at the University of Calgary. The article discussed Weiss’s 42

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Today’s treatments control glioblastomas (keep patients’ pain levels down and stall additional cancer growth) for a year or two with drugs; Weiss, Cairncross and their network of clinical investigators would like to increase that to five, if not eight, years with newer and more effective drug compounds. “We have a collective responsibility to do everything in our power to improve the quality of peoples’ lives,” Weiss says. The goal of the newly funded study, he says, is to give patients a longer, more fruitful and enjoyable life with a plethora of available, viable drugs to enable personalized treatment plans. “I’ve transferred my energies to seeing other people make the next discoveries,” Weiss says. He’s directed his current focus on the bigger picture rather than on individual scientific return. “I believe that is the future of science: its impact on community,” he says. Cairncross is not surprised Weiss is so successful in science and has become a talent magnet. “He has the ability to see the big picture and describe what he’s doing in an exciting way to everybody in the room,” Cairncross says. “Some of the very best students seek out Sam

to work with and many of them have gone on to very successful careers in science after being in Sam’s lab.” Whether or not his love for science has passed on through his genes is questionable, though. He says, although his almost-18-year-old daughter shares an interest in biology, she’s more inclined to pursue a career in the arts and design. “It’s not up to me to suggest for a moment that she should be like me,” Weiss says. “She could give you a thousand reasons for thinking why she shouldn’t be like me.” He jokes, but he’s worked with enough students to know that people need to determine their own dreams. Weiss is a lot of things – a mentor, researcher and director of a major medical institution – but a less obvious strength stands out to Cairncross as being Weiss’s best quality. “There are a lot of hardworking people, lots of ambitious people, lots of determined people, lots of people who persevere, but not everyone has that certain quality to notice something important when they trip over it,” Cairncross says. When other people would just carry on, Weiss turns to get a closer look.

Why did you become a scientist? My mother tells me that I was extremely inquisitive as a child and definitely interested in nature and biology and I liked to ask questions. So I guess there was an inclination. But for a while I was inclined as much to go be a ski bum as I was to be a post-graduate student. Where did you study? I was an undergraduate in Montreal – I went to McGill University in 1975. I began graduate studies (at the University of Calgary) in 1978 and I had season’s pass at Lake Louise so I was able to effectively balance my personal and professional interests. I graduated with my PhD in ’83. I trained for two years in France, three years in the United States and I returned in ’88 to Calgary, where I’ve been ever since. Why did you train in France? I believe in international collaboration and cooperation so I felt that this was a great chance to exercise that concept and it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I learned all about discovery – I also learned about fine wine. I was one of the first post-doctoral fellows funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research to train abroad. What would your colleagues say about you? I think their descriptors would focus around energy and ambition. I think most people would say that my positive energy and passion for my work are probably my greatest strengths. What would your wife and daughter say about you? If they were talking about my professional perspectives, they would say, ‘He works too hard’ – although I would argue that I do get out to the mountains enough to counter-balance that – ‘but loves what he does, and mostly has a smile on his face when he goes to work.’

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Stress begets stress, so I’ve decided not to wait until my current frantic patch at work is over. I’m making some life adjustments today

t is 2 a.m. and I’m at my computer fighting a deadline. Again. I know too much stress is bad for me – who doesn’t? I’ve read how excessive stress sets off fight-or-flight alarms in my brain (the hypothalamus to be exact), which triggers my adrenal glands to release floods of adrenaline and cortisol. I know this hardwired response creates a burst of emergency energy that I really need right now, but it’s always followed by a crash. And I have scanned the research that shows how continuous stress, and the high cortisol levels that go with it, can cause hypertension, digestive problems, high cholesterol levels and a rundown immune system – all of which increases my risk of serious health problems, including obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart problems and possibly cancer. None of this is news to me, one of the chronically stressed. I also know the answer isn’t more chocolate, yet another cup of coffee, or cutting back on sleep in a desperate bid to create more time to get things done. So why, oh why – when I am well aware of the health hazards – don’t I stop the stress-inducing behaviour? Why do I keep repeating a pattern of bad choices that don’t work? I know what I should do to safeguard my health. It’s simple: eat well, sleep well and exercise. So why don’t I? I asked three experts for some badly needed advice and helpful tips for getting back on track. If I can do it, so can you.
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MASTER THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION EXPERT NO. 1: Deepika Mittra, therapist and certified practitioner of mind-body medicine in Edmonton INSIGHT: Smart people do stupid things under stress because we literally stop thinking rationally. Most of the time, our cerebral neocortex is in control, Mittra explains, directing us with rational, logical thoughts. But when we’re stressed, the primitive, instinctive amygdala takes over. Or, in non-brainy terms, Mittra says we revert to the reactions of a screaming threeyear-old. When we most need the support of mind over matter to pull us through, our brains desert us. We want to feel safe, we want comfort and pleasure – and we want it now! This answers the big question of why we make bad choices under stress, and fall back into harmful habits. Seeking instant gratification, we look for the quick fix, whether that’s overeating, overdrinking, overindulging or over-doing in general. ACTION: Regain control of your hormone-driven brain by deliberately switching from mindless reactions to a state of mindfulness. Stop and breathe. Not the usual shallow, upper-chest breaths that we take, but deep and slow breathing from the abdomen. Concentrate on breathing in, slowly and deeply through your nose, hold for several seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth. You should see your lower stomach rise and flatten as you breathe in and out. There’s real science behind this, Mittra says. This breathing Regain control of your hormonestimulates the driven brain by deliberately switching exercisewhich will lower vagus nerve, your from mindless reactions to a state of heart rate, your blood pressure, and your stress level. Now that mindfulness. Stop and breathe. your thinking brain is back in the driver’s seat, you can start thinking like an adult again and make healthy choices. “The beauty of this breathing technique is that you can do it anywhere, anytime, without anyone realizing what you’re doing,” says Mittra. “It can be your secret weapon for slaying the stress monster.” Mittra also recommends taking mini-mental holidays through visualization by imagining yourself in a favourite place and taking mini-breaks throughout the day to stretch, move and breathe. The tech-minded can download a smartphone app called MyCalmBeat for feedback on personal breathing rates. Also, look for ongoing advice from Mittra. Visit her website, openingspaces.ca, and select Blog.

UNDERSTAND THAT FOOD IS MOOD EXPERT NO. 2: Robin Anderson, registered dietitian at Revive Wellness INSIGHT: Don’t blame your lack of willpower. There’s a reason you crave cheesecake and chips under stress. Like Mittra, Anderson points out that stress affects our brains, increasing our desire for higher-fat and higher-sugar foods. When we’re stressed, the brain’s internal reward pathways tend to shut down, so it desperately looks for a replacement pleasure from foods we perceive as rewards or comfort food. The trick is to know that default is ready to take over when you’re under pressure. “Be pre-emptive and proactive,” says Anderson. “Plan and prepare!” ACTION: You’re less likely to reach for a chocolate bar if temptation isn’t nearby and you have healthy options at hand, Anderson says. Clean out your environment by removing all junk foods that may trigger your desire to comfort yourself with food. Take the time to shop and restock with better options. But you don’t want to add to your stress by investing a lot of time and effort preparing a healthy meal. Keep it simple, Anderson advises. Meals don’t have to be elaborate; eggs, toast and fruit are a quick, nutritious supper option in a time crunch, as is flavoured tuna with crackers and veggies. (Buy your veggies pre-prepped to save even more time.) Become a batch cooker. Make Sunday night cooking night and prepare a big batch of soup, stew or a large casserole. Then freeze in individual containers for a quick meal. Make a large salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing that keeps well, and even improves over time. For this, use ingredients such as shredded cabbage, grated carrots, lentils and beans. You can serve it over several days, adding tomatoes, crumbled cheese and fresh greens at the last minute. Tape recipes for your favourite “fall-back meals” that use ingredients you always have on hand, inside your cupboard doors for inspiration when you’re too tired to think. If you have kids, enlist their help in preparation. “My kids were making salads when they were eight, which made the difference between whether we had a salad or not,” Anderson says. For more of her tips and recipes, see revivewellness.ca.


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MOVE YOUR BODY NOW AND OFTEN EXPERT NO. 3: Chris Tse, fitness trainer at Blitz Conditioning INSIGHT: Exercise is fantastic for stress relief, with the bonus of mood-boosting endorphins as a side effect. Yet people say they don’t have time to work out. Tse says doing something is always better than nothing, and if you’re making the switch from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, start by focusing on small gains. “Ignore the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines that call for 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorousExercise is fantastic for stress relief, intensity aerobic activity per week,” Tse suggests. with the bonus of mood-boosting Moving from non-active endorphins as a side effect. to 150 minutes can seem daunting. “Just start, even if it’s only five minutes a day, or five minutes every couple of hours. You’ll get there, but it’s not going to happen overnight.” ACTION: Choose an activity you enjoy; you’re not going to do daily lanes if you hate swimming. Start where you’re comfortable, and then add progression. Tse finds that the difference between clients who succeed and those who don’t is motivation. He suggests keeping your motivation strong by using the buddy system. Or, put a modern twist on it and build an online support system by making your goals and progress public on Facebook or Twitter. Aim for functional, overall fitness rather than concentrating on an isolated part of your body. And ditch the no-time and bad-weather excuses by learning exercises you can do anywhere. Check out the Blitz Conditioning blog (under Workouts) for examples of no-equipment exercises, at-home step routines and simple strength-training lifts at blitzconditioning.com.

From the Alberta Cancer Foundation



Thank you to everyone who supported this year’s Cash & Cars and More Lottery.

To date, the Cash & Cars Lottery has raised more than $21.5 million for progress in cancer research, prevention, screening, treatment and support programs for Albertans. Your support makes this possible. Thank you!

A great fundraising event requires skill and planning. Are you ready for the task?


n 2009, Kim Arseneault found herself making regular and unwanted trips to Edmonton from her home in Manning, nearly 585 kilometres north of the capital, in the scenic Peace Country. Her destination was the Cross Cancer Institute where she was receiving treatment for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. “My first treatment was not pleasant,” she says, “but they made some adjustments to the medicine that made it tolerable.” Fortunately, Arseneault has a daughter in Edmonton for support. “Treatment wasn’t a walk in the park,” she says, “but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.” It certainly was not as bad as it had been for her mother, who died of cancer in 1988, despite some aggressive treatments. “When I walked into the Cross, I was damn scared. But I looked around and I saw caring people. There was spiritual care, mind-body care... It was an amazing place.” The treatment she received made a big impact. Her health is good she says, and there’s been no sign of cancer in her twice-yearly follow-up tests. She’s grateful for her own physical health. Arseneault says that she was so impressed with all levels of care that she wanted to give something significant back. “I was talking to a friend from Manning, K.R. Vreeling, who took his treatments for multiple myeloma at the same time I was being treated,” she says. Vreeling had similar experiences and was likewise motivated to help. Many people experience the urge to give back, but are stymied by inertia, not knowing how to start or letting the moment pass. Arseneault and Vreeling set themselves apart

with a successful fundraiser for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Here is how their approach netted $80,000 in four hours in one evening in Manning, Alberta, population 1,164. Arseneault is not without experience, she has been active in the community, raising funds for various things for more than 25 years. Some of the practices she has developed over the years are ones that Joe Garecht espouses. He is the driving force behind the Philadelphia-based company The Fundraising Authority, a consultancy and website he has built that specializes in training people and non-profit organizations to rev up their fundraisers. The first thing a successful fundraiser needs, according to Garecht, is a fundraising goal. “You need to decide what you want your donation to accomplish,” he says, “and then find out how much it will cost.” The target amount will define the parameters of the event. For Arseneault, this event hits close to home, and her goal was to raise money earmarked for patient care. “The first thing we did was to gather a committee,” says Arsenault. “We set a goal of raising $35,000.” She got on the phone, accessed her network and used her own story to tug at people’s heartstrings – what she describes as key to the event’s success. Committee members booked a hall and started selling tables of eight, either in memory of a person who died of cancer or in support of someone undergoing treatment. “Every table at that hall had people who had been affected by cancer at one level or another,” Arseneault says. “We sold out in two weeks, and each table cost $500.” Arseneault says that it proved more successful to sell whole tables to companies or families than it did to sell single seats. Businesses, such as the local branch of Finning Canada, the mill, and other oil-and-gas industry services companies all bought tables. The group’s first course of action was fundraising, rather than event planning, which Garecht calls a sound approach. “The most common mistake I see is that committees spend too much time on event details and not enough on actual fundraising,” he says. Garecht says that a fundraiser should have a budget and a written event plan. “It doesn’t need to be long or involved, but it needs to state your goal and also describe how you are going achieve it,” he says. “Half the document should be devoted to the fundraising aims.”


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PARTICIPATE: When you choose to stage your own fundraiser or get involved with an existing one, you need to connect your donors to your cause.

Arseneault’s committee looked at their budget and opted for a cocktail event with appetizers to keep things low-key and keep costs low. A sit-down meal would have bit into the budget too heavily. “We sold pink and blue fancy martinis for $10 each, in support of men’s and women’s cancers,” she says. “With the purchase came a chance to win a prize. We thought we might make a little extra money that way – the martinis sold out in less than an hour.” Garecht describes this approach as “the fundraiser within the fundraiser.” It offers donors, most of whom have paid an entry fee already, a chance to donate further, directing money more specifically. And Arseneault advises that a great event will be emotional and relatable. For her it was a no-brainer. She simply had to recount her own experiences to the audience openly and honestly. K.R. Vreeling did the same. In addition to dedicating tables in memory or in honour of cancer patients, the team also devised a touching slide show they called “Faces of Cancer.” “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” she says. After the event sold out, Arseneault’s team devised other ways to reach their goal. They started gearing up for a silent auction and live auction. “We contacted local artisans for contributions, got a signed Jersey from Edmonton Oilers CEO Patrick Laforge, local quilters made a beautiful quilt, there were dinners for 10 – lots of things.” In fact, there were more than 200 silent auction items and 10 live auction items.

In a particularly innovative take on the fundraiser within the fundraiser, she says, “We approached five local companies to decorate a bra and a hockey can, which, like the martinis, signified men’s and women’s cancers,” she says. “We auctioned these off as novelty items – they were a big hit.” Arseneault suggests that committees not forget the fun in fundraiser. An evening out, a cocktail party, prizes, sporting events where participants seek donations – these will all make for a memorable event. And donors should have an appreciation for where their money is going. “Mostly, donors want to feel connected to what they are giving their money to,” Garecht agrees. “If your goal is to raise 10 per cent more money than last year – well, no one is going to get behind that. If you plan to use that 10 per cent more towards a piece of machinery or a particular service for patients, then your donors will get excited.” Arseneault looks back on her fundraising event with satisfaction. “It seemed like we couldn’t do anything wrong that night. From 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. we raised $90,000,” she says. “After we paid our expenses, we donated $80,000 to the Alberta Cancer Foundation earmarked for patient care, and $2,500 specifically for palliative care in Manning.” Her advice for a fantastic event that brings in top dollar is to “grab those heart strings. People have to want to come, not feel they have to. They have to want to support your cause. They have to see themselves or their family members or friends as potential beneficiaries.”

STEPS TO A GREAT FUNDRAISER To find out more about raising money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, contact Bobbi Wolbeck at bobbi.wolbeck@albertacancerfoundation.ca or 780-643-4338. For more general information consult Joe Garecht’s website thefundraisingauthority.com. He has lots of material available to fundraisers of all levels of experience.

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myleap /


BUSTING OUT SOME MOVES: (Left to right) John Waters, Denis Dubord, Betty Sampson, Danielle Schnurer, Kylene Nauman hold keynote Bust-a-Mover Richard Simmons.

When Betty Sampson’s daughter Sarah, a nurse who works at the Cross Cancer Institute, brought home an issue of Leap magazine, she encouraged her mom to participate in a new event highlighted on the cover: Bust a Move for Breast Health, or BaM, running in both the Edmonton and Calgary this year. “She said ‘Hey Mom, you should do this. You’re an exercise nut and this is really cool. I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it together.’ She said ‘No, you do it,’” Sampson recalls with a laugh. Undeterred, Sampson turned to her colleagues at PCL Constructors Inc., where she has participated in an in-house boot camp for years. “I approached one of my girlfriends in the boot camp and said, ‘Do you feel like doing this with me?’” The answer was yes and soon Sampson had recruited a team of five women and men, including one member whose wife recently went through cancer treatment. Sampson, who describes her teammates as headstrong and motivated people, says the group began asking friends, family and co-workers for donations. They also adopted a new name – Chesticles. In their one month of fundraising, the Chesticles raised more than $33,000, which was the highest amount raised by a team at Edmonton’s new Bust a Move event. Next it was time for the actual event, which involved hundreds of people in 50

Constructing Success

outrageous costumes participating in a giant fitness class at Edmonton’s Northlands Expo Centre. “We had no idea it would be so much fun,” she says. “It was hard work but it was such an amazing atmosphere; it was inspiring. We walked away and could not shut up about the event for weeks.” As for Sampson’s motivation for joining in, aside from a pestering daughter? “I did it because I don’t have a cancer story,” Sampson says. “I don’t want a story; I want to go through life without one. I have two daughters at home and I want them to go through life without these stories, too.” – Cailynn Klingbeil

Visit bustamove.ca for more information

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JUNE 22-23, 2013
THE RIDE IS BIGGER AND BETTER IN 2013! The Enbridge® Ride to Conquer Cancer® benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation has a new route, campsite, and a whole new direction to ride in! Space is limited, so be sure to secure your spot in history today!



MARCH 2013



For an unforgettable six hours this March, join hundreds of women and men as they jump, jive, dance and laugh while raising valuable funds for breast health in Alberta.


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