Bite Back

Top foods To curb
your cancer risk
Flood Fears
The $
M TuMour
bank rescue
Alberta’s Cancer-free movement
Pet Project
imaging tool is
Stress-saving holiday tips for
combined families
an oncologist takes ovarian
cancer research outside
the lines
(RE) DEfining
Blended Bunch
We’re back this March to leap, lunge & laugh our
way towards raising $1 million for breast health
at the Cross Cancer Institute.
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winter 2013 3
WINTER 2013 • VOL 4 • No. 4 CONTENTS
28 miSSion poSSiblE
June floods nearly put valuable samples
in high water
30 TRAil blAzing
Nordic skiing crosses age and abilities
Life and love after prostate cancer
35 plAnnEd giving
Gladys Cantalini honours her daughter
by donating in her memory
36 Top Job
Tricia Hutchison bridges social work,
cancer and community
39 Why i donATE
Giacobbos’ million-dollar gift of hope
42 blEndEd FAmiliES
Keep the stress down with your Brady Bunch
Jennifer Spratlin takes on the
deadliest cancers
4 oUR lEAp
A message from the Alberta Cancer Foundation
Junior Fundraisers, Pap Test 101, Grape
Expectations, Desk Stretch, Mushroom Barley
Soup Recipe, Top 10 Cancer Flicks, Bust A Move
11 nExT gEn
PhD student Uma Rajarajacholan has turned her
focus to aging, cells and oncology
12 body mind
A look at telomeres
Eating well this holiday season
14 ASk ThE ExpERT
Is SAD (seasonal affective disorder) a real thing?
PLUS: Treatment and bone density and
cancer-reducing foods
16 bEyond CAnCER
Long-term effects of treatment
23 CoRpoRATE giving
ION Print Solutions’ fourth- annual gift
matching campaign
50 my lEAp
Cancer survivor gives back a million times over
WinTER SpoTlighT
ON THE COVER: Lynne Postovit
PHOTO: Aaron Pedersen 3TEN
Eastern ovarian cancer researcher comes West
24 REdEFining pAlliATivE
Integrated Alberta program turning heads
around the globe
26 pET pRoJECT
Canada’s first MMR machine coming to the Cross
Cancer Institute
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement
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Leap_Winter13_p02-03.indd 3 11/21/13 7:33:37 AM
4 winter 2013
alberta cancer foundation
message /
Angela Boehm, Chair
Gary Bugeaud
Heather Culbert
Steven Dyck
Paul Grundy
Edmonton (ex-offcio)
Don Lowry
Katie McLean
John J. McDonald
Andrea McManus
Brent Saik, Vice Chair
Sherwood Park
Sandy Slator
Greg Tisdale
Vern Yu, Vice Chair
myl eapmagazi ne. ca
As we come to the end of another year, it is a good time to take stock
of what we have accomplished at the Alberta Cancer Foundation. It’s been
a busy 12 months, one that started out with a joint announcement with the
Government of Alberta to build a new, much-needed comprehensive
cancer centre in Calgary. We are diligently working with our campaign
committee to ensure we meet the $200 million we committed to this
capital project.
We also continue to invest in research excellence, treatment and care
across this province – many of those projects you will read about in this
issue of Leap. Our cover story features Dr. Lynne Postovit, an ovarian
cancer researcher our donors helped recruit to Edmonton from Ontario
(page 18). Her ultimate goal is to get treatment options to the clinic faster
than the current rate. She believes the research environment here in
Alberta will allow that to happen. We do, too. Dr. Postovit’s arrival comes
too late for Alberta Cancer Foundation donor, Mike Mort, who lost his wife
to the disease. Yet, he invested in her research because as he says, for
other people’s daughters, it’s important. Those are the donors we are priv-
ileged to work with every day and it is why we carefully consider the invest-
ments we make – to accelerate that progress Mike and others are looking
for. We want all of our investments to be focused, have a clear line to
patients and deliver transformational results.
You can read about some of those other important investments we
made over the last year – a provincial palliative care program (page 24), a
healing garden (page 22) and an innovative machine
that combines PET and MRI technology to deliver
better imaging results (page 26). Thanks to our
donors, we are redefining the future for Albertans
facing cancer today.
One of the changes you will notice the most is our
new brand. Throughout the magazine, you will see a
fresh, bold visual identity that we think matches our bold vision. We are
committed to making the Alberta Cancer Foundation one of the most
innovative philanthropic organizations in Canada, so we need a dynamic
look to refect that goal (page 9).
As we head into a new year, we want to thank all of our partners working
together to accelerate progress in this province. We look forward to report-
ing on even more results in 2014. Thank you for redefning the future for
Albertans facing cancer. Happy holidays to you and your family.
Myka Osinchuk, CEO Angela Boehm, Chair
Alberta Cancer Foundation Alberta Cancer Foundation
Partners in Progress
We want all of our investments
to be focused, have a clear
line to patients and deliver
transformational results.
Leap_Winter13_p04-05.indd 4 11/18/13 8:35:54 AM
winter 2013 5
winter 2013 VOL 4 • No. 4
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement
eDitOriAL ADViSOrY COMMittee
Senior Vice-President and Senior Medical Director, Cancer Care
Alberta Health Services
Vice-President, Cancer Control
Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
Director, Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute
Associate Director, Research, Alberta Health Services,
Cancer Care
CEO, Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta
COntriBUting writerS: Colleen Biondi, Tom Cantine, Linda
Carlson, Janine Giese-Davis, Lindsay Holden, Michelle Lindstrom,
Nadia Moharib,Omar Mouallem, Jessica Patterson, Scott Rollans,
Karol Sekulic, Kelley Stark
COntriBUting PHOtOgrAPHerS AnD iLLUStrAtOrS:
Brian Buchsdruecker, Buffy Goodman, Aaron Pedersen, Kelly Redinger,
Raymond Reid, Chris Simon, Eugene Uhuad
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.
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
The information in this publication is not meant to be a substitute for professional
medical advice. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualifed health
provider regarding any medical condition or treatment.
Printed in Canada by Transcontinental LGM.
Leap is printed on Forest Stewardship Council ® certifed paper
Publications Agreement #40020055
ISSN #1923-6131
Content may not be reprinted or reproduced without permission from Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Partners in Progress
Leap_Winter13_p04-05.indd 5 11/18/13 8:38:12 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 6 winter 2013
forefront /
prevent, treat, cure
Nathan Marsh really knows the way
around the block.
This past summer, with the help of his
parents, the six-year-old organized his very
own mini Ride to Conquer Cancer for his
birthday. After circling his block 21 times on
his bike – covering about 23 kilometres over
the course of three hours in late August – he
raised $1,900 for the Alberta Cancer
Foundation in his very own aptly named
event, “Nathan’s Ride to Conquer Cancer.” In
addition to the ride, he asked that people
donate money in lieu of birthday presents to
the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
His mom Alison Marsh had previously
participated in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer
Cancer every year since Nathan’s sister, Erin,
was diagnosed with eye cancer as an infant, and
she says her son wanted to do his part, too.
Following his ride, which was cheered on by
his family – who doused him with a hose on
the hot summer day as he pedalled by –
Nathan was also awarded with his very own
yellow jersey for his efforts, and named an
honorary Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer
rider by the foundation’s CEO, Myka Osinchuk.
When asked why he chose to spend his
birthday doing the charitable ride, Nathan
says: “I want to do this because I think that
collecting money for cancer is more important
than toys and I want kids who have cancer to
feel better after they have it and I want the
doctors to be able to get rid of cancer.”
To donate to Nathan’s Ride to Conquer
Cancer, which has raised $2,170 to date, visit
The Wheel
Six-year-old cyclist gives up
his birthday gifts and hits the
pedals for cancer research
Young Sienna Pearce doesn’t get attached to her hair like some other
little girls might. The seven-year-old has twice lopped off her pretty
brunette locks to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Though her philanthropic initiative started when she was fve, “because
her hair was too hard to brush and she wanted to help someone with
cancer,” her fundraising spirit has persevered – and inspired donations
worth more than $5,000 in total to date.
Sienna frst started “Scissors for Sienna” in 2012 as a way to raise money
in honour of her maternal grandfather, who had been diagnosed with non-
Hodgkins Lymphoma – a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system,
the disease-fghting network throughout the body. (The family is happy to
report he has since been given a clean bill of health).
But in 2013, her grandpa’s improved health didn’t stop her from cutting
her hair a second time to “raze” money for cancer. When asked about her
message to the world on what she had accomplished, the pint-sized
philanthropist says matter-of-factly: “By just growing your hair and
donating it, you can raise money for the other people that are sick!”
‘Razing’ money for charity was inspired by little
girl’s grandpa, but continued by her giving spirit
Leap_Winter13_p06-11.indd 6 11/19/13 2:31:51 PM
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 7
10 Best Cancer-
Themed Movies
Dying Young (1991). Julia Roberts stars as a young woman who
takes the job as a private nurse to a man (Campbell Scott) who
is dying of blood cancer, and the two fall in love.
One Week (2008). Joshua Jackson stars as Ben Tyler, a young
Canadian teacher who learns he has an aggressive, stage four
cancer requiring immediate treatment, but instead takes a
motorcycle trip from Toronto to Tofno, B.C.
My Sister’s Keeper (2009). Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin)
looks to earn medical emancipation from her parents who have
relied on their youngest child to help their other daughter with
leukemia alive.
50/50 (2011). Inspired by a true story, a funny look at a 27-year-
old (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is diagnosed with cancer, and
his ensuing struggle to beat the disease. Anna Kendrick and
Seth Rogan also star in this well-done comedy.
Life as a House (2001). When a man (Kevin Kline) is diagnosed
with terminal cancer, he takes custody of his brooding teenage
son (Hayden Christensen), whose pastimes include getting high,
small-time prostitution and avoiding his dad. Things change for
the pair when they spend the summer building a house together.
Love Story (1970). It’s tough to forget Ali McGraw tearfully
uttering “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Harvard
Law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) and music student
Jennifer Cavilleri (McGraw) share a chemistry they cannot deny –
and a love they cannot ignore.
The Bucket List (2007). The title phrase became very popular
with the release of this comedy about two terminally ill patients
(played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) who escape
from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of
to-dos before they die.
Crazy Sexy Cancer (2007). Weeks after she was diagnosed,
flmmaker Kris Carr began documenting her story, taking a
seemingly tragic situation and turning it into a creative
Terms of Endearment (1983). Shirley MacLaine and Debra
Winger star as mother and daughter in this tear-jerker. The
movie covers several years of their lives as each fnds different
reasons to fnd joy in life.
Wit (2001). A renowned professor, compellingly played played
by Emma Thompson, is forced to reassess her life when she is
diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.
A Bit of a
Try this easy exercise to take
the pain out of desk work
2. Use a large exercise ball as
a chair, which encourages
better posture and improves
core strength.
3. Stop typing
and stretch your
arms in front of
you. Rotate your
wrists in gentle
circles, frst in
one direction,
then the other.
1. Stand up from your chair
every 30 minutes. Standing up
engages your core muscles
and the major muscle
groups in your
legs. Carefully
try to get to
your feet
without using
your arms ro
Leap_Winter13_p06-11.indd 7 11/18/13 8:40:51 AM
• 5½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
• 1 cup Quick Cooking Barley
• ½ cup chopped green onion
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 bay leaf
• ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
• a pinch of pepper
• 2 cups sliced fresh assorted mushrooms
• ¾ cup shredded carrot
• 3 Tbsp snipped fresh parsley
• ½ cup chopped celery
Mushroom Barley Soup
• In a large saucepan, bring vegetable broth to boiling. Stir in onion, garlic, bay
leaf, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.
• Stir in mushrooms, carrot and celery. Add Quick Cooking Barley, cover and let
simmer about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.
AUGUST 9-10, 2014
Space is limited, so be sure to secure your
space TODAY!
Register for The Enbridge
Ride to Conquer
benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation
and experience a 2-day cycling adventure like no
other! You will unite with thousands to fund the
things that matter most to Albertans: earlier
detection, better prevention strategies, improved
treatment and enhanced quality of life.
Serves: 6 Serving Size: Approximately 2 cups
Nutrition Information: 190 kcal, 1 g fat, 0.3 g saturated
fat, 37 g carbohydrates, 9 g fibre, 7 g protein.
This recipe was developed by Progressive Foods,
Inc. and appears in Pure Prairie Eating Plan, by
Dr. Catherine Chan and Dr. Ronda Bell
Leap_Winter13_p06-11.indd 8 11/21/13 7:35:39 AM
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 9
Every day in Alberta, 43 people hear the words “you have
cancer.” The Alberta Cancer Foundation and our donors want to
change that. Together, we are focusing our efforts on the things
that matter most to Albertans – faster diagnoses, better
treatments and improved quality of life.
The Alberta Cancer Foundation is proudly Albertan. As
the fundraising partner for the 17 cancer centres across
the province, including the Tom Baker Cancer Centre
in Calgary and the Cross Cancer Institute in
Edmonton, the Alberta Cancer Foundation invests
in key research and programs benefting all
Albertans facing cancer and their families.
We are making bold new paths forward. With this
direction also comes a new look for the Alberta
Cancer Foundation. This new brand is bold and
optimistic, representing the future for cancer patients and
their families. The cells in the arrow signify the many partners
who collaborate – patients, families, researchers, health providers,
donors and the Alberta Cancer Foundation – to deliver powerful
progress for Albertans. Together, we are redefning the future of
cancer research, treatment, prevention and care in Alberta.
Our new brand complements the story we tell about the
groundbreaking work Alberta’s cancer researchers are able to do –
thanks to strategic investments made through the generous
support of Alberta Cancer Foundation’s donors. This story includes
the patients and families who have already travelled the same road
that more than 16,000 Albertans have faced this year. Our story
and brand are also about the people in communities across
Alberta who ride, run, walk and bust-a-move to raise money in
support of cancer research.
Through the support of Albertans, we will continue to offer new
promise and progress for the 43 Albertans today and the 16,000
Albertans who will face this disease next year. Together – we can
redefne the future for Albertans facing cancer.
Grape Expectations
New research shows the chemical compound, resveratrol, which is found
in grape skins and red wine, can make certain tumour cells more likely to take to
radiation treatment.
The latest research about wine comes from the University of Missouri and it
concerns resveratrol, an organic compound thought to have anti-cancer proper-
ties and that is used as an anti-infammatory drug. It is a natural compound pro-
duced in various plants to prevent bacterial and fungal infections.
The new research studied melanoma cells and radiation treatment. The stud-
ies showed combining a low level of resveratrol with cancer cells enhanced the
effectiveness of the radiation treatment.
The next step is for researchers to develop a successful method to deliver the
compound to tumour sites and potentially treat many types of cancers. As a note
of caution, the research does not imply that consuming large quantities of wine
protects against cancer; instead, the research is
about a chemical extract that is found in high quanti-
ties in wine.
The fndings have been reported in the Journal of
Surgical Research.
or Bust
Third-annual breast cancer
fundraiser is poised to break the
$1 million mark in 2014
It’s nearly that time of year again. Time to bust
out those tired tutus and get moving and shaking for
charity – the Cross Cancer Institute to be exact.
The third-annual Bust a Move For Breast Health is
slated to shake up the Northlands Expo Centre on March
22, 2014. And the six-hour Alberta Cancer Foundation
exercise event to raise money for breast cancer research
is back and “bigger and bustier” than ever, says organizer
and Chief Bust a Mover, Brooke Rose.
An exciting feature of this year’s event is sashaying
into its million-dollar year, thanks to the incredible
dedication of every participant, volunteer, sponsor and
donor, says Rose.
All levels of activity and ftness ability are welcome,
says Rose.“We are saying whether you are a yoga
master or a step class disaster, the six hours of ftness
are adaptable for every person in the room,” she says.
Instructors this year will include football player-
turner-yogi Joe Lomnicki, who will lead the yoga class,
and Blitz Conditioning led by “scientist-turned-
bodybuilder” Chris Tse.
For more information visit
Leap_Winter13_p06-11.indd 9 11/18/13 8:42:17 AM
Pap Test 101
Though Pap tests may not be that complicated
or lengthy, the discomfort factor (or other reasons)
may prevent women from getting their regular
screening. Yet, it’s an important step to take toward
catching abnormal cells early, in the hopes of
preventing them from turning into cervical cancer.
Here are fve reasons not to put of that Pap, and
encourage the ladies in your life to do the same:
1. Cervical cancer symptoms are similar to
other conditions.
Symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding and
discharges, are vague. And, many women mistake
these symptoms for other common conditions. So,
your best chance to fnd and treat cervical cancer as
early as possible is having regular Pap tests.
2. If you are sexually active, you need a Pap.
The more sexually active you and your partner(s)
are, the higher your chances of getting the human
papillomavirus (also called HPV). This virus causes
most cervical cancer cases. And, most sexually active women will be exposed to
HPV at some point in their lives. Luckily, today’s screening exams are even better
at detecting abnormal cells.
3. Just because you have had the HPV vaccine, does not mean you can
skip the Pap.
The HPV vaccine protects women from some types of cervical cancer. But, getting
this vaccine doesn’t mean you can stop regular Pap tests. Not only does it not
protect you from all types of HPV, but it also does nothing to protect from other
sexually-transmitted infections.
4. It’s free.
Your Pap test is covered under the Alberta Heath Care Insurance Plan.
5. You may need the test longer than you might think.
While most women age 65 or older do not need Pap tests, you may if you’ve had
treatment for a pre-cancer or cancer in the past 20 years. You also need to
continue getting a Pap test if you’ve had a hysterectomy to treat pre-cancer or
cancer cells in the past 20 years.
If you are 65 or older and not sexually active, you don’t need a Pap test anymore if
you’ve had:
Three or more normal Pap tests in a row or one negative Pap and HPV test
No abnormal Pap tests in the past 10 years or more
No treatment for an abnormal Pap test in the past 20 years
Source: MD Anderson Cancer Center
Leap_Winter13_p06-11.indd 10 11/18/13 8:42:47 AM
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 11
supporting young minds
next gen /
Uma Rajarajacholan may only be 27, but she’s a
quick study in the feld of aging.
The University of Calgary PhD student, who is working
under Dr. Karl Riabowol in biochemistry and molecular
biology and oncology in the faculty of medicine, has
spent the last four years studying cellular senescence –
essentially how and why a cell seems to grow old.
With an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a
master’s in biotechnology earned in her native India,
the move to study cancer in Canada was a bit of a leap
for her, but welcome, she says.
“Everything was so different from what I grew up
with so I wanted to see that. So far things have been
going on well,” Rajarajacholan says.
She is proving herself to be quite an up-and-comer,
having received the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s
Dr. Cyril M. Kay Graduate Studentship Award, and also
seeing her research recently published in PLOS Biology
and Nature Reviews Cancer. The award includes the
research allowance of $1500, established in honour of
Dr. Cyril M. Kay’s research career, for training and devel-
opment of the next generation of researchers.
“That’s a clear indication of how important it is to the
area,” Riabowol says. “You just can’t submit your stuff
there; people say it should go there. So we were totally
happy with that.”
Riabowol’s lab has long investigated cancer and aging.
He says they look at cancer as a cell that’s avoided the
aging cycle and become immortal, “A cell that’s become
immortalized can therefore divide and divide and divide,
more or less unendingly,” he explains. His team is look-
ing at biological aging and how it is subverted in cancer,
to better understand cancer and aging, “so we can some-
how alleviate the effects of aging and expand cellular
lifespan. It’s a bit of a lofty goal, but it’s doable,” he says.
Years ago Riabowol and his team found a tumour
suppressor, which they called ING1 for Inhibitor of
Growth. Rajarajacholan took the study even farther, her
mentor says. “Uma found that one of the ING isoforms
– we call it ING1a – it induces a premature senescent
state if you make a lot of it. The more interesting part is
that as our cells normally age, the levels of this ING1a
naturally go up. So we were trying to fgure out if this
was a chicken or an egg phenomenon.”
“The phenomenon could be a clue as to how, as
cells get older, they start to lose the ability to divide.
We know that if we block the effects of this gene, the
cells can divide a little bit longer,” Riabowol says. “So it’s not quite yet the fountain
of youth, but it’s a little spring of youth, I suppose.”
Rajarajacholan, who will soon defend her PhD thesis and leave the Riabowol
lab, takes her accomplishments in stride. What’s more, she encourages other
young people interested in science not to be discouraged to try – and sometimes
fail. “If you don’t give up in the early phases when it is actually tough, every day
there is something new to learn,”she says. “As long as we keep that attitude, things
can work – and it’s better than having a pessimistic approach.”
Rajarajacholan says she feels most at home in the lab. “I enjoy doing bench
work much more than actually sitting in a class. It’s more of a practical knowledge
when you do research in the lab. Defnitely there is a lot of background material.
You need to read and understand the basic principles of stuff. So you need a basic
understanding of what you’re doing, which you can only learn by reading papers
or textbooks.”
She’s added as much to his team as he’s helped her, Riabowol is quick to say.
“She’s got a tremendously good work ethic. She’s not afraid of work. She also has
an ability to synthesize stuff from the literature that’s quite amazing. She’s tre-
mendously ‘scientifcally mature’ for her stage of development and all those fac-
tors have played in nicely to contribute to her success.”
A graduate student has proven to be wise beyond her years
in the study of aging and oncology


OLD SOULS: Dr. Karl Riabowol, left,
and PhD student Uma Rajarajacholan
study how cells age.
Leap_Winter13_p06-11.indd 11 11/21/13 7:36:59 AM
making positive connections
bodymind /
How do mind-body interventions affect the body?
We call them “mind-body” interventions for a
reason. Things like meditation, relaxation, hypnosis,
imagery – even yoga – are often classified as mind-
body interventions, meaning they are typically things
you intentionally do with your mind that also affect
your body. Of course, this division or split between
mind and body is a false one to begin with. We are
not walking heads somehow disconnected from
everything else below the neck! Every state of mind
has a corresponding state of body. When we are
nervous, we feel butterfies in our belly or pounding in
our chest; when we are sad, we feel tightening in our
throat or heaviness in our chest. Other things are also
going on that we may not directly feel, like changes in
our immune cells and hormones.
So just what is going on at a cellular level when we
experience various psychological states like stress or
depression? A large body of research has associated
stress with enhanced vulnerability to viruses such as the
common cold. More recently, researchers have looked
at molecules called “telomeres,” which are markers of
cell aging. These are specialized proteins that form the
protective ends of chromosomes, and provide stability
to the cells. Telomeres become shorter with each
round of cell division, and can be affected by toxins
in the cellular environment; when a critically short
telomere length is reached, cells enter old age and
stop functioning properly. Shorter telomere length has
been associated with the development and progress of
a number of different diseases including cardiovascular
disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
We wanted to see if mind-body interventions
could also affect telomere length. This had never
been investigated before, but we thought if stress
was associated with shorter telomeres, maybe
stress reduction could help to lengthen them. So
we conducted a study of breast cancer survivors who
were still feeling moderate to severe distress. They
participated in either: 1) mindfulness meditation
and yoga groups (for eight weeks); 2) emotionally
supportive and expressive therapy groups (for 12
weeks); or 3) a control condition of usual care plus a
one-day stress management seminar.
While the women in the usual care group showed a shortening of telomere
length over the three-month study period, the women who had either of the
longer group interventions showed maintenance of their telomere lengths over
time. The women in the interventions also showed healthier patterns of the stress
hormone cortisol.
So what does this all mean? We don’t know if the size of the effect would be big
enough to be meaningful or affect disease outcomes, or even whether the group
differences would persist over time. This study is compelling, though, because
it’s the first to show that any short psychosocial intervention can change this
potentially important marker of cell aging.
It’s also more proof of the power of the mind and the interconnectedness of
mind and body.
The first part of this study was published in the Journal of Clinical
Oncology, while the telomere length findings are currently under review:
Dr. Linda Carlson ( is the Enbridge Chair in Psychosocial Oncology at
the University of Calgary and a clinical psychologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 12 winter 2013
It’s All Connected
Research reveals cell aging
markers are positively affected
by psychosocial intervention
Leap_Winter13_p12-13.indd 12 11/19/13 2:34:04 PM
food for life
smarteats /
Limit yourself to one or two higher-fat, higher-calorie appetizers. Some
appetizers are small in size but can pack quite a few calories. Examples of
appetizers that are especially high-calorie are fried appetizers such as calamari
or shrimp, or higher-fat meats like ribs or chicken wings. Although cheese is
packed with calcium, most cheeses are also higher in fat. Finger foods in tart
shells or pastry are, too. Creamy dips are often made with mayonnaise and sour
cream; these can cause calories to climb. Nuts provide healthy fats, but most of
the calories in nuts come from fat, so the calories add up quickly. Nuts roasted
in oil (or covered in chocolate!) are even higher in calories.
Tip 4: Plan a healthy plate. You can use this tip at a restaurant, potluck or dinner
at home. Choose a smaller plate, if available, to help keep your portions smaller.
Fill at least half of your plate with vegetables and fruit. Choosing vegetables
with little or no added fats or sauces keeps the calories lower. Vegetables and
fruit add fbre, which can help you feel full longer. For the meat portion of your
plate, choose healthier options such as fsh, lean cuts of meat, or beans, peas
or lentils.
Tip 5: Keep higher-calorie foods like nuts, baked items and chocolate out of
sight. We are more likely to eat food if we see it and/or are near it. If you keep the
sweets or snack foods away from your workspace or in a cupboard at home, you
are not as likely to eat them.
Try one or all of these tips so you can enjoy a healthier holiday season!
During the weeks before the holidays, there are
many chances to have holiday treats at work, special
events or at home. It can be challenging to eat
healthy when you’re constantly exposed to foods
that are high in fat and calories.
By following one or more of these tips, you can
enjoy a healthier festive season and a few treats
along the way!
Tip 1: Go in with a game plan. It is often said that
motivation is not a feeling, but a decision. Simply
deciding to have a plan is the first step to making
healthier choices for yourself. Think about the days
or weeks ahead. Do you know that there will be
sweets or potlucks at work, or a few parties that you
will be attending? If so, create an eating plan. For
example, tell yourself: “When my co-worker brings
in a tray of holiday cookies at work, I will limit myself
to one cookie per day.”
Tip 2: Choose healthier beverages like water or low-
fat milk whenever possible. Avoid drinks with added
sugar and calories. Science tells us that drinks do
not help us to feel full. By avoiding drinks with sugar
and fat, you can reduce your calorie intake without
feeling deprived. The calories in holiday beverages
(such as apple cider, eggnog, hot chocolate, regular
pop and punches) add up quickly. Alcohol calories
can add up quickly, too. Liqueurs and mixed drinks
are also higher in sugar and/or fat. Adding lemon or
lime juice to soda or mineral water can add interest
and favour, without the added fat.
Tip 3: Choose healthier appetizers like vegetables
with low-fat dip, whole grain crackers and hummus,
and fruit or lean meats, like chicken or plain shrimp.
Karol Sekulic is a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services who has expertise and interest
in the areas of weight management and nutrition communications.
Choose healthier appetizers
like vegetables with low-fat dip,
whole grain crackers and hummus,
and fruit or lean meats, like
chicken or plain shrimp.
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 13
It’s All Connected Healthy Holidays
Nutritious eating doesn’t have to go by the
wayside this festive season. Try these tips to
treat yourself without packing on the pounds
Leap_Winter13_p12-13.indd 13 11/18/13 8:48:26 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 14 winter 2013
Hormonal therapies that treat breast and prostate cancer can sometimes
lead to decreased bone density, says Susan Bocchinfuso, a physical therapist whose
practice, Oncology Rehab, specializes in treating people living with cancer.
“The goal of hormone therapy is to reduce estrogen levels in women and tes-
tosterone levels in men, since these hormones can stimulate the growth of breast
and prostate cancers. These hormones also help maintain healthy bones, and
reducing their levels can lead to bone loss,” Bocchinfuso explains. “Bone density
levels can also be affected by treatments that can induce early menopause like
chemotherapy or surgery to remove the ovaries.”
Although bone loss is not reversible, there are things you can do to build bet-
“Is it true that some cancer treatments can
lead to decreased bone density?”
asktheexpert /
a resource for you
SAD is most defnitely a real disorder, says Linda
E. Carlson, a clinical psychologist at the Tom Baker
Centre, and Enbridge Chair in Psychosocial Oncology
at the University of Calgary.
“It is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders V (the handbook of all
psychiatric conditions) as a subset of recurrent major
depressi on wi th a seasonal pattern,” explai ns
She goes on to say research shows the prevalence
of the disorder in the U.S. ranges from 1.4 per cent in
Florida to 9.7 per cent in New Hampshire. It is esti-
mated to be higher in more northern climates, includ-
ing Canada, where exposure to daylight decreases
substantially in winter months.
Carlson says to look for the telling signs something
more serious is wrong than just a blue mood.
“Symptoms of SAD include diffculty waking up in the
morning, tendency to oversleep and overeat, particu-
larly sweet or starchy foods, accompanied by weight
gain,” she notes. “Other symptoms include a lack of
energy, difficulty concentrating on or completing
tasks, withdrawal from friends, family and social
activities, and decreased sex drive. This is often
accompanied by feelings of depression, pessimism,
hopelessness, and lack of pleasure in everyday life.”
Carlson suggests a visit to your general practitioner
and/or a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, any of
whom should be able to assess for and diagnose the
The remedy?
“Simple strategies such as spending more time out-
doors, exercising and maximizing light exposure
“Is SAD (seasonal affective disorder) a real thing? I feel
like my mood is affected by the shorter days and cold
weather. How do I know if I have it and what can I do?
We put your questions to the experts about
how the seasons can affect mental health,
the link between treatment and bone
density, and cancer-curbing foods
By shelley williamson
indoors by sitting near windows, leaving blinds open and trimming tree branches or
other shade sources can help,” says Carlson. “And one of the most effective treat-
ments is bright white light therapy. This is done with a home device called a light box,
about the size of a small laptop computer. You sit about 30-60 centimetres from the
box, with your eyes open but not staring at the light source for about 30-60 minutes
per day, for up to a month or even longer.” Carlson says other treatments with some
evidence for their efficacy include cognitive-behavioural therapy, antidepressant
medications, ionized-air administration and melatonin supplementation. Plus, get-
ting two and a half hours or more exercise per week benefts most depression.
More information on SAD and its treatment can be found online. One good
source is from the Canadian Mental Health Association:
Leap_Winter13_p14-15.indd 14 11/19/13 2:35:02 PM
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 15
Ask our experts questions about general health, cancer
prevention and treatment. Please submit them via email to Remember, this advice is never a
substitute for talking directly to your family doctor.
Though there are other lifestyle factors that affect cancer risk like physi-
cal activity, smoking and obesity, what you eat can also have an impact, says
Karol Sekulic, a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services.
The plants have it, she suggests. “Choose fruit, non-starchy vegetables,
grains, beans and legumes in as close to their natural state as possible,”
Sekulic says. Non-starchy vegetables include broccoli, eggplant, bok choy,
carrots, rutabaga, turnips and green leafy vegetables, whereas examples of
starchy vegetables that are not as protective against cancer are potato, yam,
sweet potato and cassava. Other good foods to eat to reduce the risk of cancer
are whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats and millet) versus refned grains,
white four and white pasta. And when it comes to proteins, limiting your red
meat intake and avoiding processed meat (ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, sau-
sages and frankfurters) altogether is best. “The report Food, Nutrition,
Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer, a Global Perspective indicates
there is evidence that red meat is a cause of colorectal cancer,” Sekulic says.
She also advises consuming higher-calorie food and drinks in moderation,
as these can increase your risk of becoming overweight or obese when con-
sumed regularly and in large portions. And those who imbibe will want to do
so sparingly, drinking no more than two alcoholic beverages a day for men and
one drink each day for women.Sekulic gives these suggestions to get started
on a cancer-reducing diet:
• Add 1/2 cup of beans to your day. Add chickpeas to your green leafy salad
for a lunch entrée.
• Making meat sauce? Replace half the red meat with lentils.
• Snack on non-starchy vegetables like celery, broccoli, peppers or carrots.
• Have a seasonal fruit for dessert. Try berries, citrus, apples, pears, plums
or peaches.
• Choose water to drink instead of sugar-sweetened pop or iced tea.
• Substitute brown rice, quinoa or barley for white pasta or rice.
• Choose plain oatmeal for breakfast instead of a sweetened cereal.
“Are there foods that reduce
the risk of cancer?”
ter bones and stop it from progressing, she notes.
“Besides adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, exer-
cise is key. Bone is living tissue, and just like muscle,
needs to work against resistance to get stronger,”
Bocchinfuso says. “Even if your bones are less dense,
the right kind of physical activity can increase the quali-
ty of your bones, which in turn can influence their
Bocchinfuso, who also teaches yoga, says the most
important elements of an exercise program to main-
tain optimal bone health include: postural exercises
and core stability work to take undue stress off of weak-
ened structures, balance activities to help increase co-
ordination and reduce falls, vigorous weight-bearing
activities like brisk walking and strengthening activities
like lifting weights to promote the building of better
quality bone.
“If in doubt, seek the help of a physical therapist who
can design a program that will match the most appro-
priate activities for your level of fracture risk and ensure
you are working effciently and safely,” she urges.
Leap_Winter13_p14-15.indd 15 11/18/13 8:50:27 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 16 winter 2013
stories of survivorship
beyondcancer /
In our last Survivorship column, we focused on
one of the long-term effects of cancer treatment
that patients must monitor, the risk of second can-
cers. We continue discussion of these long-term
effects by focusing on the risk for side effects of
radiation treatment that may occur months or even
years after your treatment has ended. Not everyone
will experience these problems, but it is good to be
aware of the kinds of symptoms to look for.
Your radiation treatments focused on specific
areas of your body near the site of your cancer. Those
are the areas most likely to be affected by late and
long-term effects. However, radiation can also
impact your overall function. Many survivors report
ongoing problems with fatigue following radiation.
This more general symptom can occur due to the
impact of radiation, combined treatments, and the
diffculty recovering to a new normal following treat-
ments. Depression and anxiety combined with poor
sleep can make problems with fatigue much worse.
If you are feeling enough fatigue that you are not
able to enjoy pleasurable activities you used to
enjoy, or not able to get back to work or routines you
value seeking treatment can help you. There are
treatments to improve your sleep, increase your abili-
ty to exercise very gently and gradually, and begin to
recover lost activities. On we have
resources listed within our live calendar. Access
them by clicking on “fatigue” in the word cloud on
the right side of the webpages. Talking with your
medical team is crucial.
We have listed some of the kinds of long-term
effects of treatment to watch for based on the site of
your radiation. How much radiation you received and
how focused the radiation was to a small field of
your tissue will determine how likely you are to
experience these symptoms. If your radiation cov-
ered a larger feld, you may fnd that your long-term
effects are listed under a different “site of radiation.”
For instance, you may have had a head and neck
cancer that because of its location required radiation
that might also impact your chest or another part of
your body.
It is important to have your nurse of doctor explain
the kind of side effects you might have long into sur-
vivorship even if you have had no side effects like
these during your active treatment. Sometimes it takes many years for these dif-
fculties to occur. It is also important to alert your family doctor, who can help
you monitor these symptoms.
It is true that everyone wishes that when they finish active treatment, they
could be completely finished, and have cancer and treatment-related side
effects out of their lives for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, radiation
works by eliminating the more rapidly reproducing cells in your body. Because
cancer is one of the most rapidly reproducing cells, radiation successfully elimi-
nates cancer cells. However, it also can affect other important cells that also
reproduce more rapidly. This is the reason cancer patients undergoing treat-
ment lose their hair, eyelashes, and have skin and bone changes. During active
treatment, clinicians and patients sometimes fail to discuss the longer-term
symptoms to monitor.
What can you do to cope? Talking with other cancer survivors can help you to
compare symptoms and create strategies to adjust to these changes. Take
action to make sure your health care providers are aware and able to refer you to
specialists for help if you need it. Visit for updates on new
information about late and long-term effects.
Monitoring and coping with late and long-term
effects of cancer treatment can include diffculty
recovering to a new normal
Site Of
tiSSueS WheRe
Late effectS can
Late Of LOng-teRM
effect tO Watch
Brain Brain, eyes Cognitive diffculties, vision
changes, cataracts, “brain
fog” or memory problems
Head and Neck Oral soft tissues, salivary
glands, skin
Dry mouth, cavities and
tooth decay, skin fbrosis,
tightening of the jaw, tin-
gling in arms and legs
Chest or Breast esophagus, lung, heart,
Lung scarring, esophageal
stricture, heart problems,
lymphedema of the arm,
decreased mobility of the
shoulder joint
Intestinal obstruction, liver
Abdomen Intestine, pancreas, liver,
Incontinence, ulceration, sex-
ual dysfunction , infertility
Pelvis Bladder, rectum
Leap_Winter13_p16-17.indd 16 11/18/13 8:59:19 AM
18 ReseaRch Redefined
Alberta’s newest research recruit takes on
ovarian cancer
ancer doesn’t mean what it used to. With new technology, new tests,
new research fndings happening every day, the team working on oncology
from behind the scenes right here in Alberta is helping redefne the way we look
at cancer, and strive towards a world without it.
From better detection of ovarian cancer, to better machines that fnd problem signs
early, to better co-ordination of palliative care, here’s a look at some of the people re-
sponsible for the shift in thinking.
24 Redefining Palliative
Alberta program gi ves end-of-life care a
26 Pet PRoject
The Cross is adding Western Canada’s first MMR
(Re)defining canceR
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 17
Leap_Winter13_p16-17.indd 17 11/18/13 8:52:28 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 18 winter 2013
(re)defining cancer
Leap_Winter13_p18-23.indd 18 11/18/13 8:54:32 AM
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 19
Alberta gains a strong recruit
from the East who is ready to take
ovarian cancer by surprise
hyllis Mort stood in front of her husband
Mike and asked him bluntly, “Do I look fat?”
He says, “Any male who has any brains
never tells a female that she’s getting fat.” He po-
litely avoided answering the question and got to
the root of why she wanted to know.
It was spring 2004 when Phyllis had her annual
physical – roughly one month before posing that
burning question to Mike. All exam results came
back normal for the 59-year-old, but Phyllis felt un-
usually bloated weeks later and decided to go back
to her doctor for further testing.
By Michelle lindstroM / photography By aaron pedersen
Leap_Winter13_p18-23.indd 19 11/18/13 8:55:43 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 20 winter 2013
(re)defining cancer
Leap_Winter13_p18-23.indd 20 11/18/13 8:56:25 AM
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 21
“I always believe that a group is
better than just one, so everyone is
going to have a different perspec-
tive, especially since we come from
different backgrounds. It’s now my
job to help co-ordinate that.”
She had an ultrasound and underwent other non-
invasive procedures before the Morts got two opinions,
telling them that Phyllis’s ovaries had a mass. Doctors
diagnosed her with late-stage ovarian cancer at the end
of April 2004 and scheduled surgery.
“They removed most of the mass but unfortunately,
by the time it reaches stage three or four it means that
it has spread to other places,” Mike says. By September,
Phyllis had her frst round of chemo and “she had about
two years of good sailing,” Mike says.
Caught of guard by the diagnosis, the couple re-
searched everything they could about ovarian cancer.
They found that the prognosis for life past fve years
with her stage of ovarian cancer was not good. Phyllis’s
life-span didn’t falter much from their fndings and she
died on October 7, 2008 at age 63.
Typical symptoms for ovarian cancer – cramping,
weight gain and a bloated belly – are so similar to those
of regular menstrual cycles, or even menopause, that
early detection rarely occurs. Only about a ffth of the
175 women in Alberta diagnosed each year with the dis-
ease will fnd the cancer still confned to their ovaries,
meaning better treatment options.
Mike told his “Do I Look Fat”
story to Dr. Lynne-Marie Postovit,
an associate professor in the Uni-
versity of Alberta’s department of
oncology, when her recruitment to
the University of Alberta was an-
nounced earlier this year. “I think
it’s a little light in the dark sky,”
Mike says in regards to Postovit’s
lab moving from London, Ontario to Edmonton for
a new ovarian cancer initiative. “For my situation, it’s
not going to change it now, but for others’ daughters,
maybe it’s important,” says Mike. Like many Alberta
Cancer Foundation donors, he wanted to know where
his money was going, with the hope it would one day
save lives.
Postovit remembers the exchange with Mike, and
shares his frustration that ovarian cancer is not detected
earlier. “The ultimate goal would be to have something
akin to the early screening that we have in other cancers,”
she says. “In breast cancer we have self-screening and
mammography. Colon cancer, we have colonoscopy. Pros-
tate cancer, we have exams and PSA tests.”
For ovarian cancer, researchers would like to create a
test women can do at their regular check- ups showing a
marker that helps predict if an ovarian cancer is there:
part of the Postovit lab’s new initiative.
Postovit’s funding – more than $5 million – came from
the Alberta Cancer Foundation, University of Alberta,
Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation (administered
through the Women & Children’s Health Research Insti-
tute) as well as the Noujaim and Sawin-Baldwin families.
She will also get an Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions
Translational Health chair post. And with a hefty title –
associate professor, department of oncology, Sawin-Bald-
win Chair in Ovarian Cancer and Dr. Anthony Noujaim
Legacy Oncology Chair – it’s obvious Postovit will wear
many hats and co-ordinate many groups in her multi-chair appointment.
“The package really comes together to help facilitate research,” Postovit says.
“Without the hybrid group of all this funding coming together, we couldn’t do this
type of work.” Work that includes pre-clinical models, making drugs and testing them,
all with the goal of getting treatment options to the clinic faster than current rates.
The university’s new recruit moved with her almost three-year-old son Mason and
engineer-husband Terry to St. Albert from Ontario in July. Most of her lab team fol-
lowed and set up shop at the U of A in September.
Most of Postovit’s work happens in her modest ofce in the Katz Group Build-
ing, kitty-corner to the Butterdome. Mason’s framed photo sits on a window ledge
opposite the wall holding a 2007 framed cover of Nature Reviews Cancer magazine
containing Postovit’s research relating to cancer.
Postovit jokes about being a nomad on a fve-year cycle, having gone to Queen’s
University (Kingston, Ontario), then Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois),
followed by the University of Western Ontario to start her microenvironment cancer
study program, before moving west this summer.
New challenges invigorate her.
“Change allows you to grow and being in a diferent atmosphere with a diferent focus
really helps that,” she says. “You’ll never really lose what you’ve already built.”
For example, a previous discovery of hers regarding the protein “Nodal” found in mela-
nomas and breast cancer, is something she hopes will help with her ovarian cancer focus.
What makes her current study diferent from those also trying to fnd and prevent
the cause of ovarian cancer, is that she’s
more interested in a cancer cell’s environ-
ment than the cell itself. “We’re saying if we
go in and destroy their home, we’ll start to
unravel the whole tumour,” Postovit says.
“In cancer, you have this thing that no lon-
ger listens to the cues around it. It’s able to
change in response to its environment and
it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do any-
more. We think that has a lot to do with the
surroundings of the cells.”
Her lab is working to detect cancer at its beginning stages with biomarkers (cancer
indicators) rather than working on treatment for late-stage cases. “Let’s just prevent
this completely,” she says, adding that Alberta’s entrepreneurial spirit is ideal to sup-
port the development of an ovarian cancer biomarker test within the next fve years.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do it, it’s just going to take some work,” Postovit
says. “I always believe that a group is better than just one, so everyone is going to have
a diferent perspective, especially since we come from diferent backgrounds. It’s now
my job to help co-ordinate that.”
Some factors include:
• Having a family history of ovarian cancer.
• Taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause.
• Using fertility drugs.
• Being taller than 5 feet 8 inches.
• Being obese.
• Having increased levels of CA 125, cancer antigen 125, a tumour marker
that might be elevated in blood of patients with some cancers.
• Having certain hereditary conditions, such as hereditary nonpolyposis
colon cancer (HNPCC), also called Lynch Syndrome.
• Having certain changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene that are inherited
(passed from the parent to the child).
Risk factoRs foR ovaRian canceR
Leap_Winter13_p18-23.indd 21 11/21/13 7:38:08 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 22 winter 2013
Cross Cancer Institute’s
Healing Garden comes to
fruition, leaving a legacy for
50 years of volunteers and a
comforting place to gather
By Shelley WilliamSon
t’s been seven years since Susan Carr was
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but she still
recalls her visits to Edmonton’s Cross Cancer
Institute for treatment as though it was yesterday.
But despite the excellent care she credits her medical
team with having given (she’s had a clean bill of health
since), there was always something missing at the world-
class treatment centre, she says.
Enter the Healing Garden, a nearly $700,000 initiative
conceived by the Cross Cancer Institute Volunteer
Association (CCIVA)’s 50th anniversary committee –
which is chaired by Carr. The committee was given the
task of creating a legacy for the volunteers, like Carr, who
have collectively raised upwards of $4 million over the
past 50 years for patient care and comfort.
The garden, which became a joint venture between
the CCIVA, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Delnor
Construction and its trades and partners, and Alberta
Health Services, ofcially opened September 19. Carr
says she couldn’t be happier with how the outdoor space
shaped up.
“There were a couple of benches out on the west side,
but other than that there wasn’t a place to sit,” explains
Carr of her time at the Cross undergoing treatment in
the spring of 2006. “Healing gardens; I think there’s been
recognition fairly recently to the benefts that gardens can
bring in terms of healing the spirit and providing comfort
to just be outside in the greater outdoors and be able
to soak up the sun and feel the breeze and enjoy plants
and trees and fowers. I believe,
certainly for me they had a
benefcial efect. It’s not going
to cure you, but it can be a
great comfort.”
Carr says the idea of a garden
was long part of the plans at
the Cross, but it took the eforts of the CCIVA and some
dedicated fundraising to get boots on the ground and
shovels in the earth.
The partnership with the Alberta Cancer Foundation
came about because the $300,000 originally set aside
for the garden came up short after designs for the space
had been inked. “Alberta Cancer Foundation approved
matching funds of $200,000,” says Carr, adding Delnor Construction also reduced its
price by more than $190,000. “It allowed us to complete the full design.”
That full design now includes two plaza areas
and private seating, surrounded by shrubs, trees,
perennials and grasses, with a pergola covering part
of the lush outdoor space. The partnership was a
frst between the ACF and the association.
“We wanted something to honour the
accomplishments of volunteers over the past 50
years. They really were a very resourceful, visionary and bold group of individuals that
developed important programs and services over the years,” says Carr.
Jane Weller of the Alberta Cancer Foundation says while this is the frst “ofcial”
time the Foundation and volunteers have teamed up, the volunteers’ impact can’t be
stressed enough.
“They are such treasured and valued partners here at the Cross Cancer Institute each
and every day, building relationships with patients and families and staf,” says Weller.
(re)defining cancer
Outdoor Oasis
“Healing gardens; I think there’s
been recognition fairly recently to
the benefits that gardens can bring
in terms of healing the spirit.”
Honouring Volunteers:
Susan Carr, chair of the Cross Cancer
Institute Volunteer Association’s
50th anniversary committee, at the
Healing Garden.
Leap_Winter13_p18-23.indd 22 11/18/13 8:58:00 AM
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 23
Peter’s story
Peter Fargey didn’t initially realize his persistent stomach ache, for which he
was popping Tylenol to no avail, was anything serious. When he fnally went
to the doctor and then had a gastroscopy – a test that involved threading a
tiny camera down his throat to see inside – the doctors found a rare duodenal
cancer. That was 2009.
After several surgeries and nearly a year into Fargey’s chemotherapy,
his business partner Craig McEwan came up with a way to give back for
the excellent care he’d received at the Cross Cancer Institute, through a
gift-matching campaign to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, proceeds of
which go to cancer research in Alberta.
Now in its fourth year, Fargey remains the public face of the successful
campaign. His wife, Gwen, says she is thrilled to have her husband’s story
behind the initiative.
“It’s very gratifying to have Peter’s name associated with the campaign.”
Annual matching fundraising campaign
attracting regular support
corporate giving /
working for a cause
If it’s not broken, don’t fx it. That’s the approach
that ION Print Solutions took this year with its fourth-
annual matching campaign to raise money for the Alberta
Cancer Foundation.
Craig McEwan, managing partner at ION, says he has
been impressed by the level of interest the Nisku-based
company has seen in its eforts to raise money for cancer
research through the Foundation. The campaign, which ran
from mid-June to August 15, encouraged citizens and other
companies to give money, and ION would match the funds
raised, up to an additional $50,000 per year.
To date, the matching campaign has raised $1,220,927
in donor dollars, with an average around the $300,000
mark each time. With the matches from ION, that brings
the grand total to date for the summer campaigns to
$1.43 million.
The campaign was inspired when founding partner Peter
Fargey was diagnosed with stomach cancer back in 2010,
which resulted in the removal of his duodenum and a full
year of chemotherapy. He’s since been given a clean bill of
health, but he remains the public face of the campaign, says
a delighted McEwan of his business partner. “He’s 100 per
cent. He’s cancer-free, which is awesome. He retired last May
and he’s really loving his grandkids. He’s loving every day.”
McEwan has found that the gifts through the campaign
keep getting better. “It’s been such a positive thing. We
were quite excited that the numbers had actually increased
from last year, which is just dynamite,” he says of this year’s
$301,437 in donor funds.
“I am hoping to really bring it to a new level next year in
terms of having a few more events and such so I think that
will help it to keep some legs.”
The campaign has been tied to the company’s environ-
mental stewardship, because cancer is sometimes linked
to environmental pollutants, he says, noting the company
has kept its commitment to better practices since it went
“green” back in 2010.“It keeps reminding folks of the
importance of the environment and our position as a
company on that.”
Sean Capri at the Alberta Cancer Foundation says one
trend he’s seen in the matching campaign is the same people
donating year after year. “Looking back over the past four
years, it gives me chills to think about the donors who have
connected so strongly with Peter Fargey, his family and story,
and the Ion Print Solutions Matching Gift Campaign,” says
Capri. “Their commitment to supporting cancer research,
prevention and screening, and enhancing patient care right
here in Alberta is truly humbling and inspiring.”
Good Match: Peter Fargey, with his wife Gwen, has been
the face of the gift matching campaign since its inception.
Leap_Winter13_p18-23.indd 23 11/19/13 2:35:50 PM
An integrated Alberta program is injecting
compassion and comfort into end-of-life care,
drawing recognition from around the globe
alliative care, a program designed to
provide treatment and comfort at the end of
life is a relatively new practice. Though hos-
pice has been around for centuries, palliative
care programs have only been around for a few decades.
Researchers are making large strides in eliminating suf-
fering and improving the quality of life of patients need-
ing end-of-life care but there is a lot more work to be
By Kelley StaRK
done. Luckily for us, Alberta is at the front of the pack and
the doctors in charge are passionate about what they do.
Alberta Health Services, the University of Alberta and
Covenant Health with the support of the Alberta Can-
cer Foundation have come up with a program to pro-
vide all Albertans with the best palliative care possible.
The Edmonton model, in particular, has been infuen-
tial worldwide. “We’ve achieved world recognition for a
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 24 winter 2013
(re)defining cancer
Leap_Winter13_p24-25.indd 24 11/18/13 9:01:45 AM
community-based, comprehensive, integrated, co-
ordinated palliative care program,” says Dr. Konrad
Fassbender, scientifc director of Covenant Health’s
Palliative Institute. “Almost all other centres, all over the
world [hospitals, homecare, hospices, special consultant
care] don’t talk to each other. So they’re not integrated,
they’re not co-ordinated, there isn’t a comprehensive ap-
proach to providing services to patients from the time
they are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness to the time
that they die. And so that means the health-care system is
fragmented for these patients and families.”
Alberta’s palliative care program is run so that all
palliative caregivers are linked. If a patient should end
up in a hospital’s emergency room with cancer pain,
the palliative care unit of the hospital is linked with the
palliative care team at the Cross Cancer Institute. “One
of the most fantastic things about our program,” says
Dr. Vickie Baracos, Alberta Cancer Foundation’s chair
in palliative medicine, “is that the whole program is
able to handle people’s cancer pain wherever and when-
ever it may arise. The whole cancer trajectory which,
of course, bounces around between all these diferent
treatment settings, is encompassed by the regional pal-
liative care program.”
Because palliative care is such a new practice, there
are many facets that need to be fgured out. Dr. Baracos
explains, “This is part of an extremely dynamic process
where people have developed palliative care programs,
integrated them, fgured out the composition of what
kind of health-care professionals to put on palliative
care teams: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians,
physical therapists, occupational therapists, chaplains
and oncologists. Now they are working on when to inte-
grate that with the cancer care that is going on.”
A couple of years ago, the New England Journal of
Medicine published a study done by a Harvard-afliated
research team. The study found that when a patient is
referred to a palliative care team at the time of diagno-
sis rather than later, the patient is more likely to experi-
ence an improvement of both quality of life and survival.
“The big innovation in the cancer world is early refer-
ral,” explains Dr. Fassbender. “Up until now, the average
time of referral is somewhere around six to eight weeks
before death. That means that you’ve got patients and
families caught in a terrible state: they’re told by oncolo-
gists that there’s nothing that can be done, but they’re
not symptomatic enough to refer to palliative care.”
The study was based on a randomized control group
for lung cancer patients in which the treatment group
received an early palliative care consult and a monthly
visit with a palliative physician and nurse. “The survival
beneft was close to three months,” Dr. Fassbender con-
tinues, “and that blew the socks of of everyone.”
The results were, in fact, so astounding that the
study was published with no other proof. “The New
England Journal of Medicine article got a lot of people
thinking,” says Dr. Baracos. “A lot of people are starting
to ask the same questions so the next crop of results
will potentially confrm the [study’s] results and come
out with some new clinical practice guidelines about
when to bring in the palliative care team.”
Alberta has nothing to worry about when keeping up to the latest palliative care in-
novations. “Edmonton and Calgary have led and have been recognized worldwide as
leaders, I would argue that you could almost title this article, ‘Much Ado About Noth-
ing,’ ” Dr. Fassbender claims. “Because at the end of the day, many of those new best
practices are already in place. So having an innovative, co-ordinated program? Well,
we invented that.”
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 25
Food For ThoughT
Dr. Baracos’s pet project as chair of alberta Cancer Foundation’s
Palliative Medicine branch is what she calls “Wasting.” (see Leap’s article
in Fall 2012). Wasting is when someone who’s developed a serious illness
wastes away to skin and bones.
in her research, she has found that people suffering from cancer
fnd the taste and smell of food disgusting. She says that humans are
motivated to eat by the appearance, smell and taste of food. “You go to a
buffet,” she says, “you try everything. Why is that?” She goes on to explain
that part of the evolution of humans is to be interested in trying lots of
different foods. Unfortunately, for many cancer patients, participating in
this behaviour can make them physically ill.
Dr. Baracos and her team have published a Phase 2 randomized
clinical trial about this issue. the drug is called Marinol and it has proven
to improve appetite and enjoyment of food. Recently, an international
pharmaceutical company has expressed interest in conducting a Phase 3
clinical trial based on Dr. Baracos’s fndings.
Marinol contains tHC, the same active ingredient as marijuana; it’s
a purifed drug that’s been around for a long time, but has not been
approved for this reason as of yet. “it acts on the brain where appetite
is regulated and turns on or activates the sensation of the desire to eat
which is motivated by the sight, taste and smell of food,” Dr. Baracos says.
Basically, it gives cancer patients the munchies – a premise that was also
found to be valid in a study at the U of a by associate professor Dr. Wendy
Wismer, who found 64 per cent of the cannabis group reported increased
appetite, 73 per cent said they had increased appreciation of food and 55
per cent said the medication made food taste better.
Leap_Winter13_p24-25.indd 25 11/21/13 7:39:03 AM
The Cross Cancer Institute is adding
Western Canada’s first MMR machine to its
roster, combining MRI and PET technology
to deliver better imaging results
By Omar mOuallem
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 26 winter 2013
(re)defining cancer
Leap_Winter13_p26-27.indd 26 11/18/13 9:03:26 AM
nna Bertha Ludwig’s left hand changed the world. She had done little
more than allow her husband, Wilhelm Röentgen, to photograph it using his
19th century doohickeys, but what developed on the flm, a shadowy image
of her bones, gave humans a rare window into themselves. Biologically,
the frst human X-ray merely suggested that she may have been a large woman (her
wedding ring was over her second knuckle), but today evolutions of this technology
allow humans to diagnose and manage complex diseases.
This year, the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton will demonstrate just how far the
technology has come with the purchase of Western Canada’s frst MMR, an imaging
technology that combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission
tomography (PET) scanning. “It’s a generational leap,” explains Sandy McEwan, the
Cross’s medical director and a University of Alberta professor of oncology.
Having been at the Cross for 27 years, McEwan is accustomed to using PET to re-
search cancer and manage patients’ diseases, but MRI remains a utility of biomedical
engineering, where neurological and cardiovascular diseases are the main study. That’s
why his research group teamed up with another group across the street led by Chris-
tian Beaulieu, one of Canada’s preeminent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder researchers.
Together they secured $17.5 million from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the
Alberta Cancer Foundation and other contributors to fund a clinical research program
using a Siemens Biograph mMR, the machine they expect to arrive late this year. And at
about $10 million, it’s one heck of a machine.
An MRI (which depicts vivid greyscale pictures of the body) will show you the brain
and all its wrinkles and details. A PET (which delivers psychedelic 3-D coloured images)
will show you how it’s working. Individually, both are critical but fawed. “You need
to understand the biology, metabolism, biochemistry
and physiology of the patient in the picture,” explains
McEwan, “and that’s what we’re trying to do with the
MMR – understand the biology of cancer, the metabolism
of cancer, rather than the structure of cancer.”
Non-invasive imaging is indispensable to health care. It
provides earlier and more accurate diagnoses, determines
patients’ suitability to various treatments, analyzes how
they respond and aids in drug and rehabilitation discov-
ery. The new machine advances all these benefts. It is the
diference between a single-lens point-and-click camera and a single-lens refex (SLR)
camera which can use multiple lenses. With a higher magnetic feld, the MMR produces
higher-resolution pictures and it produces them faster than ever before. In layman’s
terms it’s “high-def,” says Beaulieu, scientifc director of the Peter S. Allen MR Research
Centre. “This is a pretty big evolution.”
“One of the real advantages of this equipment is that historically our groups have
worked separately – the PET centre worked on PET imaging and cancer, the MRI cen-
tre on neurological, psychiatric and cardiovascular disease,” says Beaulieu. “We haven’t
had much overlap, but this is going to bring the MRI people into the oncology world
where we haven’t been yet, and it’s going to pull the oncology people out of their com-
fort zone.”
There are various links between cancer and neurology. Take leukemia, for instance.
“One of the things treatment does is makes you feel very tired and feel very stupid,”
says McEwan. “It’s called chemo brain and chemo fatigue. We don’t understand the
biological mechanism with that, but we believe we’ll be able to fnd out with the MMR.”
As well, taking sequential pictures of the body rather than simultaneous pictures is
problematic. Subtle physiological changes can throw of a doctor’s understanding of a
patient’s condition. “If I’m testing a patient with the MRI and then an hour later with
the PET, I don’t know if we’re measuring the same thing,” says McEwan. “What’s the
patient done in that time? Have they gone for a walk? Taken painkillers? Had fghts? An-
swered an upsetting phone call? By doing it at the same time, we’ll have absolute conf-
dence that what we’re seeing on the MRI and the PET scan are the same thing.”
When McEwan started practising in England “200 years ago,” he used a slide rule
for calculations, an antiquated analogue computer that few people under 40 would
recognize today. When it came to patient care, there was little more to ofer but clini-
cal examination. “It meant seeing the patient, touching
them; you get a history, and prod and poke and listen,” he
says. While clinical examination is still important, much
has changed in oncology. And with each passing year and
each technological upgrade, including the MMR, doc-
tors are advancing one of the most important health-care
models in human history – personalized medicine.
Personalized medicine is health care that customizes
treatment, practices and decisions for each patient rath-
er than ofering the same to
everyone with a particular
illness. It looks to psychol-
ogy, genetics, physiology,
biology, family history and
more to fnd the optimal
treatment for each patient.
As McEwan puts it, it’s giv-
ing “the right treatment to
the right patient at the right
time with the right dose in the right place.”
For example, two in three people with pancreatic can-
cer fail treatment the frst time. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we
could identify those two-thirds upfront, so we can give
them the right treatment?” asks McEwan rhetorically. He
thinks the MMR could allow that. “We’ll be able to iden-
tify those patients a lot earlier and a lot better because
a) the resolution is better; and b) because we can look at
other parameters.”
However, when the machine arrives late this year,
when the bubble wrap is stripped of and it’s fnally
plugged in, it will be for clinical research only, mean-
ing that for the frst few years, only patients who sign a
research study waiver will lie inside it. The 14 scientists
from the Cross and the Peter S. Allen Centre will all fnd
diferent reasons to use it, but McEwan in particular is
interested in understanding cancer metabolism before
and after treatment, studying the physical and psychiat-
ric efects of treatment and radiotherapy treatment. All,
of course, to advance personalized medicine.
But he’s the frst to admit that, like all new technolo-
gies, he has no idea how to use it just yet. “There are
about a dozen of these in use worldwide. We have to
understand how to best use it frst. Why put it toward
routine diagnostics when it can do so much more?”
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 27
“We haven’t had much overlap but
this is going to bring the MRI people
into the oncology world where we
haven’t been yet, and it’s going to
pull the oncology people out of
their comfort zone.”
Leap_Winter13_p26-27.indd 27 11/18/13 9:03:53 AM
Calgary’s June food
threatened a $40-million
tumour biorepository
years in the making.
Here’s the story of the
11th hour rescue
lbertans could hardly believe their eyes on June
20, 2013, as they witnessed rivers breach their banks
and streets turn to waterways.
Record rainfall coupled with rapid melting of Rocky Mountain
snow loads caused a food that was called the worst disaster in
the province’s history. The food killed four people, displaced
100,000 people from homes, and caused damage estimated in
excess of $5 billion on businesses, vehicles, and residences.
By LindsAy HoLden
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 28 winter 2013
Leap_Winter13_p28-29.indd 28 11/19/13 2:36:46 PM
Among the irreplaceable assets poised for destruction
was a $40-million collection of tumour samples used
worldwide for cancer research, belonging to the Alberta
Cancer Research Biorepository. Steps from the swelling
Elbow River, the samples were secured below ground in
27 ultra-cold freezers at the Holy Cross Hospital.
As river waters steadily rose, and the clouds emptied
onto Calgary’s low-lying communities, warnings for
commuters to stay of bridges and avoid downtown were
broadcast, and a small leadership group in charge of the
biorepository debated whether they should protect it.
“We all saw the weather alert about a massive storm.
Water was roaring down the mountain through Bragg
Creek out into the plains, and moving towards Calgary,”
says Dr. Randy Johnston, who is the director of the bio-
repository, and a researcher and teacher through the
faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary.
“We knew we only had a couple of hours before the
water started to hit the city,” Johnston says, adding a
smaller food in 2005 had given hospital administrators
a chance to put a disaster plan to the test, but the waters
that year were nothing compared to what was coming.
“Everyone said ‘don’t worry’,” says Johnston, who
was in Vancouver, B.C. at the time of the food. He was
trading hurried calls and emails with managers about
whether to leave or take action. “We reached a decision
that we couldn’t take a chance.”
“It was surreal,” says Charlene Karvonen, manager of
the biorepository. The speed and sound of rushing wa-
ter steps from the hospital was incomprehensible and
frightening to her. “Everything we did was just trying to
stay one step ahead. There was 13 feet of foodwater in
24 hours.”
The collection of samples was stored in 27 massive
basement freezers, poised to be submerged in
foodwater, sewage, and mud. But each unit weighed
approximately 1,000 pounds and required temperatures
of below -80°C – some even colder and operating on
liquid nitrogen. Moving them would be risky, if not
downright difcult.
The biorepository comes from 15 years of painstak-
ingly detailed collecting and cataloguing of human
blood, saliva, tissue and tumour samples, which re-
searchers could access at any given time for dozens of
worldwide studies. Today 47 diferent cancer studies
draw from the biorepository, which is one of the largest
of its kind in the world and growing. The Alberta Can-
cer Foundation has also been a long-time supporter of
the facility, investing $2.8 million this year alone.
To lose the samples would have been “traumatic,” Johnston says. “Not only to
society and the researchers who invested in the collection and clinical annotation,
but all those people have entrusted us with their specimens,” he says, adding some
samples originate from people who have since died. “It would be horrible it would
have been a loss of trust,” he says. Meanwhile, it is impossible to assign a value to the
potential discoveries that may come from continued study of the material, as past
work on them has led to efective molecular therapies resulting in cancer survival,
he says. “Already it is paying of.” The creation of an antibody therapy called
Herceptin, for example, was developed by a U.S. frm based on the biospecimens
from Calgary’s bank. Researchers learned about a particular mutation of breast
cancer cell occurring in fve to 10 per cent of cases. It features an excessive number
of growth receptors that cause cells become overly sensitive to growth signals, and
to rapidly divide and multiply.
“It’s bristling with antennae – even a tiny growth signal that would not trigger a
healthy cell is stimulated to start dividing, dividing, dividing,” he says, adding the
therapy was a breakthrough that involved a worldwide efort of shared research.
Other samples stored at the biorepository belong to the “Tomorrow Project”
which is a venture that employs 60 members of a research team, and is about halfway
through collecting samples from 50,000 healthy Albertans. The intent is if any of the
participants come down with cancer later, researchers can go back to their sample
history and potentially identify a sign in the urine or blood. If indicators are found
to exist, they could become the basis for future screening and prevention programs.
By 4:30 p.m. on the day of the Alberta foods, Karvonen and her team
called in a moving crew to begin lifting the freezers onto freight elevators to the
fourth foor of the Holy Cross – a vacant space on higher ground, but gutted, dirty
and under renovation. Temperatures in the freezers could remain at safe levels for a
period of time provided freezer doors were kept locked, so the managers knew there
was only a small window to make the move. Relocating them via truck through food-
ed streets was impossible.
“Just as the last freezer was coming up, the food waters came rushing in where the
freezers had been stored, power went out, and elevators stopped working. All electri-
cal stations shorted out,” says Johnston.
The team sourced four diesel generators, and brought in emergency electricians
who ran a power cable from the outside of the building through a window to main-
tain the temperatures.
When the waters receded, a massive cleanup was underway in Alberta backed by
2,200 Canadian Armed Forces troops, and within a few weeks, the Calgary Stampede
went ahead as scheduled. A spontaneous volunteer campaign saw complete strang-
ers show up for impromptu shifts to help shovel mud and restore damaged homes,
and an uplifted can-do spirit prevailed.
Life in Calgary and communities downstream was returning to normal for many,
with downtown ofces reopening, and dark skies turned bright. “But our story wasn’t
quite over,” Karvonen says.
Shifts of workers who were tasked to monitor the freezers on an hourly basis,
which meant a buddy system of staf paired up to climb dark stairwells with fash-
lights and headlamps and navigate a disaster zone with dust masks and protective
gear to ensure generator power was on. Over the months, crews hauled 120 carbon
dioxide tanks up the four foors, changed flters, and attended to alarms and stalled
“As a result of tremendous eforts we did not lose a single specimen,” Johnston says.
Karvonen also credits a dedicated team that was representative of Calgarians’
positive spirit even in a crisis. Four months after the food, elevators were fnally re-
stored at the Holy Cross, and the freezers were fnally moved October 2013 to safer
territory in a clinic in south Calgary.
“People really rose to the occasion, and everyone had a role and did whatever they
needed to do,” recalls Karvonen. “You would listen to the media about stories of peo-
ple losing everything in their homes or businesses. There was hardship everywhere,
but I saw people were not being defeated or defated. We were strengthened by how
we pulled together.”
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 29
“Just as the last freezer was coming
up, the f lood waters came rushing
in where the freezers were stored,
power went out, and elevators
stopped working. All electrical
stations shorted out.”
Leap_Winter13_p28-29.indd 29 11/18/13 9:05:42 AM
Cross-country skiing is more than just a winter sport.
It’s about family, fresh air and forging traditions
By Nadia Moharib




myl eapmagazi ne. ca 30 winter 2013
Leap_Winter13_p30-31.indd 30 11/18/13 9:07:46 AM
Cross-country skiing is more than just a winter sport.
It’s about family, fresh air and forging traditions
Get on track:
• Trails can be found within many cities and towns
or, for those wanting to venture a little farther
from home, there are many options around the
province. Most are free.
• The Nordic Centre has a series of trails, and the
cost is affordable – with a family pass running
$250 for an annual pass for two adults and all
their children. There are day rates, too.
• Trails stretch anywhere from a few kilometres to
several dozen.
• Getting suited up, so to speak, costs less than it
does for downhill outings and many suggest
second-hand gear as an affordable option.
• Layers. Don’t wear cotton, but instead opt for
lightweight, sweat-wicking layers and a wind-
breaking outer shell – on the top and bottom.
• Make sure you have a hat and mitts or gloves
(perhaps even an extra pair) and sunglasses.
• Try not to go solo – if you do, let someone know
where you are going and when you will return.
• Cross Country Canada has links to clubs across
(Look for club fnder under the “membership tab”)
• The City of Edmonton website has a list of ski
trails and clubs:
• For a list of trails in and around Calgary:
Fees for memberships vary from club to club but
are generally quite affordable, starting at as little
as $25 per year.
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 31
rinn Watson waxes poetic about cross-country skiing, and so she
should, since it’s been a lifelong passion for her. “Before I could walk, I was
strapped to my dad’s back,” the 27-year-old says. “And when I could walk, they
strapped skis to my feet.”
For her, cross-country skiing is about family, fresh air and heart-warming traditions
forged in winter’s cold – chilly adventures often rewarded with hot chocolate and turkey
sandwiches. And every Christmas, provided snow conditions cooperate, her family hits
the trails together.
“Anybody can do it,” says Watson, who grew up in Grande Cache and honed her
abilities with practice and tips from her father, who coaches biathlon and cross-country.
“We’ve skied everywhere from golf courses to random back-country trails to anywhere
where the snow is thick and deep enough. For me, it’s always about family time. It’s
peaceful, you are out in the middle of the snow, and quite often the only things you are
hearing is snow falling from trees and angry squirrels.”
Cochrane resident Evan Londry lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains and
is a short drive from world-renowned slopes but he, too, is content to take his ski out-
ings cross-country. “Mostly, it was just being outside and being active,” says Londry,
who went through Jackrabbit lessons (which teach kids the fundamentals) as a boy in
Ontario, where a cross-country trail was always nearby and well-travelled. “It was the
lifestyle,” he adds.
When he and his family moved to Alberta about six years ago, it was a lifestyle he
was happy to continue, strapping his baby daughter, Madelyn, into a chariot and hitting
the trails. While he intends to introduce both of his children to cross-country skiing
– like anything, the sport isn’t for everyone – and his wife has opted out. “Nicole tried it a
couple of times and wanted nothing to do with it,” Londry says.
Still, he encourages those looking for an ideal winter outing, suitable for all athletic
levels and for outdoor enthusiasts young and old, to give it a try. Getting started won’t
break the bank compared to, say, downhill skiing, and the majority of trails in the prov-
ince are free to travel. And while there is a common misconception cross-country skiing
isn’t an overly exacting workout, many say it is what you make of it. “It’s kind of like any
endurance sport. Once you get good at it, it becomes easier and easier and much more
enjoyable,” says Londry, who is a triathlete. “It’s a great way to get out.”
Jamie Carpenter, events and marketing supervisor at Canmore Nordic Centre,
says the time to get out is now as most trails are open from November to March, with
65 kilometres of groomed trails at the facility west of Calgary, alone. While the centre
is no stranger to high-level athletics, it is also a mecca for regulars drawn to the sport.
“Anyone can get into it, no matter what their ftness level,” Carpenter says. “Generally,
any trails have easy, intermediate and more difcult routes.”
While it does the body good, the sport is gentler than others physically, Carpenter
says. “It’s pretty easy on the body, in fact, the basic motion of cross-country skiing. And
the classic style, the one you might imagine shufing along in snow – engages the upper
body, the lower body and the heart is engaged.
“Although there are times when you might pick up speed and every now and then you
might crash, the speeds are not high and you are not falling on the snow or the hard pave-
ment. It’s not a high-impact sport – it’s a nice, fowing motion.” Sprained thumbs, he
adds, are a probably the most common injury anyone sustains.
But make no mistake, say enthusiasts, countering claims by some downhill afciona-
dos – it is not boring. “It’s diferent; you don’t get the exhilaration,” says Alasdair Fergus-
son, former president of the Calgary Ski Club. “But you do get the scenery that you miss
blasting down runs at top speeds.”
And after more than four decades of doing the sport, he says the scenic beauty typical
of most cross-country ski outings never gets old. “I think there is a magic to snow, to see
the sun glinting of all the snow,” he says. “My wife says we are so rich, we are skiing in a
feld of diamonds.”
Calgary has some nice ski trails at Confederation Park and Shaganappi golf course and
Edmonton has its river valley and trails on golf courses. “I think a lot of people look at it
as walking on snow; the fun of cross country is when you can do the sliding and gliding,”
Fergusson says.
Joining a club has several advantages – learning from more experienced skiers, car-
pooling, fnding new trails and meeting people. There are numerous clubs throughout
the province, including some specifcally for seniors.
“Cross-country is a very social activity,” Carpenter
says. “You can go as hard as you want and talk after or
shufe along and chat. It’s kind of fun to stay ft together.”
And youngsters like it, too. On Wednesday evenings,
for instance, almost every kid in Canmore is at the
Nordic Centre for night skiing, “giggling, laughing and
shufing along,” he says. “It’s really cute and inspiring
to see … they are not really co-ordinated, but they are
picking it up pretty quickly.”
Leap_Winter13_p30-31.indd 31 11/18/13 9:08:21 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 32 winter 2013
Leap_Winter13_p32-34.indd 32 11/18/13 9:09:14 AM
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 33
A workshop tackles post-prostate cancer intimacy
and helps couples fnd their way back to basics
By Colleen Biondi / illustration By raymond reid
t was the summer of 2012 and 58-year-old Kim
Armstrong, a retiree from the Edmonton area,
was going for what he thought was a routine
annual checkup. But when a digital exam was suspect
and his prostate specifc antigen (PSA) numbers
“spiked dramatically” from his last exam, he knew
his life was changing.
A biopsy confrmed the
worst. He had prostate
cancer and surgery was
booked for March 2013
to remove the tiny,
walnut-shaped gland,
which wraps around the urethra and impacts urine and
semen fow.
The six-month waiting period before surgery was
traumatic for Kim, now 60, who’d never dealt with a
major health issue. But the da Vinci (robotic-assisted)
prostatectomy was successful and virtually pain-free.
As well, the cancer was confned to the prostate. Although
he and his wife, Bonnie, 59, were quite overwhelmed
(she was just completing her own treatment for breast
cancer), they were looking forward to moving on and
facing a future beyond their cancer experiences.
Kim is not alone in facing prostate cancer. In the
province of Alberta, one in seven men will be diagnosed
in his lifetime. When caught early, it is one of the most
successfully treated cancers.
But although optimistic about the prognosis, what
Kim and Bonnie discovered next (which was not a total
surprise; they’d jumped on the Internet early on) was a
common, yet upsetting, side efect to prostate cancer
treatment. “You can’t get an erection,” explains Kim.
“It is a dramatic life change. You feel less like a
man.” There are drugs and
devices to use, but their
efcacy is variable and
they can interfere with
that link between arousal
and fulflment. Nerve
function, which surgery
damages, can come back over a two-year period, but
there are no guarantees. “You need to take time to heal,
to be patient, to look at sex diferently. We’re still trying
to fgure all this out.”
Fortunately, there is help. A specialized workshop,
designed by Dr. John Robinson – psychologist at the
Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary – now helps
prostate cancer patients and their partners deal with
this “new normal.” Called “Intimacy After Prostate
Cancer,” the three-hour seminar is held regularly in
Calgary and is now being piloted in Edmonton. The
seminar explains what prostate cancer is, what the
treatments are, what the impacts of treatment are
on the man and on a relationship and how to manage
troubling repercussions.
Nerve function, which surgery
damages can come back over a
two-year period, but there are
no guarantees.
Leap_Winter13_p32-34.indd 33 11/18/13 9:09:38 AM
“All men will have some degree of sexual
dysfunction following treatment for prostate
cancer,” says Kevin Wallace, pre-doctoral
psychology resident in the psychosocial and
spiritual resources department at the Cross
Cancer Institute in Edmonton who, along with
psychologist Dr. Andrea Beck and urologist
Dr. Derek Bochinski, facilitates the Edmonton
groups. “It is the most
troubling side efect.”
As well as the physiology
of erectile dysfunction (ED),
there is also its psychological
impact. Loss of self-esteem,
depression or anxiety are all
common responses to the
sudden loss of sexual function and not knowing
if the situation is permanent or temporary. “Our
goal is to help people adapt so those stressors are
not so profound.”
And it is not just about sex. The key goal of
the workshop is to maintain, or even increase
intimacy, which if left alone to fade away, can
be disastrous for a couple. “It is hard,” admits
Bonnie. “When diagnosed, you think about – do
we want to do this and do we even want to stay
together? There is no other way to describe it.
It is a real test of a relationship.”
One of the biggest benefits of the workshop, and a key ingredient in intimacy, is
communication. “I learned even more about how Kim was feeling and he learned
how I was feeling,” says Bonnie. And the talking continued once the couple got
home. It is not always easy to talk about such personal things, even to a partner.
“I call it the John Wayne syndrome,” says Kim. “Guys think they have to be
tough. But you need to reach out to your spouse and consider whatever supports
that are offered.” The Armstrongs, for example, have also attended counselling
and will consider prostate support groups down the road.
To help with ED, they are currently
trying medication to increase blood
flow to the penis and a vacuum therapy
pump. More invasive options include
injections or surgical implants.
But there are also recommenda-
tions for non-traditional sex, called
outercourse (masturbation, mutual
masturbation, oral sex, sensual touching), and/or the use of devices like vibrators
or dildos. “People are often uncomfortable at first, but are generally very open
to learning,” says Wallace. “We want to dispel the myth that different sex is
inferior sex.”
A private couple, Kim and Bonnie have agreed to come forward because they
feel it is important to get the message out about early screening, the reality of
treatment and its aftermath and the tremendous support that exists in Alberta.
“We are fully committed to being outed,” Kim says with a laugh. “If it helps
someone else, it will be worth it.”
For more information about Edmonton groups (funded by the Alberta Cancer
Foundation), call 780-643-4303. For information about Calgary groups (funded
by the Prostate Cancer Centre), call 403-943-8958.
The key goal of the workshop is to
maintain, or even increase intimacy,
which if left alone to fade away, can
be disastrous for a couple.



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family everyday health and
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Look for apple at 1,800 locations across Alberta.
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Leap_Winter13_p32-34.indd 34 11/21/13 7:40:20 AM
Al berta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 35
For Gladys Cantalini, good shoes have taken her to
great places in life, and enabled her to express herself
through style and deed.
On Christmas Day in 1949 she met her husband Joe
Cantalini, and went on a date with him the next day. “I had
a nice black dress and a black pump,” says Gladys, recall-
ing how the smart fashion choice transitioned from a
holiday party to a romantic date in Calgary.
She was one of a handful of girls from Manitoba who
fnished modelling school that year, and decided to hitch-
hike west to Osoyoos, B.C. On the journey home, Gladys
met Joe in Calgary and married him in 1950. Their daugh-
ter Debbie was born three years later.
Back then, Gladys earned $20 a week in a shoe store.
But it became a foothold in a 25-year retail fashion career
where she earned a reputation for good taste and a
thoughtfulness that exceeded standard expectations for
customer service. When the marriage to Joe ended,
daughter Debbie as an only child became Gladys’s focus,
while sales success at Robert Spence shoes in Chinook
Centre more than paid the bills for the single mother.
She was the frst employee to ring in $1 million in foot-
wear in one year and was promoted to head buyer, travel-
ling around the world to fashion shows or to negotiate
deals with the best brands in Europe. “There isn’t any-
thing I wouldn’t do for Debbie,” she says. “I was making a
lot of good money, and never spent on myself,” says
Cantalini, who simply loved working and helping her cus-
tomers. “I’ve had a nice life, and have met beautiful peo-
ple all over the world,” she says.
Gladys kept the names and shoe sizes of top custom-
ers in a thick notebook, and made side tours on her buy-
ing trips to source out custom-made footwear for hard-
to-ft clients, such as one who paid $900 for a pair of size
4.5 Italian designer boots which Gladys carried home in
her personal luggage.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, daughter Debbie
was a connector, and made a lasting impression on cus-
tomers at Eaton’s and other department store cosmetic
counters in Medicine Hat. Her broad smile and selfess
nature earned her many friends.
In 1995, Debbie contracted breast cancer. Gladys witnessed her daughter fght the
disease with the same spirit she approached life with. She received care and support at
Medicine Hat’s Margery E. Yuill Cancer Centre, and Debbie survived.
Debbie became focused on raising funds for cancer research. Through an annual
golf tournament she created and ran for 16 years, she raised $400,000. “She never
complained, and couldn’t give up, even when she was very weak,” says Gladys.
Among Debbie’s advocates is Bill Yuill, a businessman in Medicine Hat who contrib-
uted $2 million in his mother’s name to the cancer centre. “She did some very good
work and was able to keep it together for all those years – incredible. With some sup-
port of some good friends of hers, she raised a signifcant amount of money all on her
own initiative,” says Yuill.
Debbie was ultimately found to have cancer once more and on March 8, 2013 – just a
week before Gladys’s 89th birthday – Debbie died at the age of 59.
Gladys respected her daughter’s passionate devotion to helping others get care.
“She had become highly respected, and she worked so hard,” says Gladys. “I really miss
her.” Gladys’s insurance policy named Debbie as benefciary, but at her daughter’s pass-
ing she contemplated what to do with the funds, and decided a gift to the Alberta
Cancer Foundation in support of the Margery E. Yuill Cancer Centre was the best way to
honour Debbie’s legacy. The $150,000 gift will be paid from Gladys’s estate.
Insurance advisor Chris Geldert of the Calgary office of Daystar Financial, says
promised gifts to charity in the future such as those paid from an estate are not com-
mon, but deserve serious consideration as part of a fnancial plan. “For most donors,
part of the issue is not knowing the options,” he says. “Charities need funding for today
and the future. The planned giving makes sure necessary assets are available in the
future,” he says.
Every policy is different, says Geldert, and recommends getting advice from profes-
sionals. They can help examine the tax advantages for donors in the present where
receipts are issued immediately. Alternatively, the charity can receive a maximum pay-
out if the funds are dispersed from the estate in the future.
For Gladys, she’s just happy to give back to a cause her daughter would have
approved of, she says.
“I wish Debbie was still with me, but there are so many who are sick and need care,
and the funds are going to a good place.”
Former shoe buyer hopes to
continue her daughter’s legacy of
giving to cancer charity with a
$150,000 estate donation. Experts
advise doing the groundwork
before taking a similar step
From Heels Healing
planned giving /
working for a cause
Leap_Winter13_p35.indd 35 11/18/13 9:11:44 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 36 winter 2013
SUPPORT SYSTEM: Social workers like Tricia Hutchison
help line up support for cancer patients all over Alberta
through the Communities of Practice Program.
myl eapmagazi ne. ca
Top Job
Leap_Winter13_p36-38.indd 36 11/18/13 9:23:41 AM
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 37
By Michelle lindstroM / Photo By eugene uhuad
Tricia Hutchison plays an important part in a collective
that bridges small towns, social work and cancer care
t a glance, you wouldn’t peg tricia hutchison, a wife,
mother of three and social worker for Community Oncol-
ogy, Community Cancer Centres, as an oncology special-
ist. But you wouldn’t really expect any social worker to
purposely choose that specialty – it’s not a traditional path. Yet Hutchi-
son, 44, says her feld is ripe with patients in need of advocates like her: a
community cancer social worker and co-ordinator for a communities of
practice project, funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Communities of practice (CoP) is a social theory of learning that
started to gain some fame when anthropologist Jean Lave and educa-
tional theorist Etienne Wenger published Situated Learning: Legitimate
Peripheral Participation in 1991. Ultimately, CoP means that people with
similar interests or professions coming together to share information
and experiences with each other, purposely to develop better practices
or enhance existing ones.
Tricia Hutchison’s community of practice is oncology, but it didn’t
start out that way.
Following her bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of
Calgary, Hutchison went back to her hometown, Drumheller, to be a so-
cial worker covering acute care, home care and long-term care patients
in the town’s hospital.
An impressive team led by Dr. Tony Fields, Order of Canada recipient
and University of Alberta professor emeritus of medical oncology, vis-
ited Drumheller to talk to hospital staf about the town’s future cancer
centre – its purpose, benefts and details – all before it was built. Their
passion impacted Hutchison who set her professional goals, right then,
on cancer care.
After approximately 13 years flling various health-care social work
roles in Drumheller, Hutchison and her family moved to Red Deer where
she took her master’s in social work through the U of C’s distance pro-
gram. She graduated in 2010. During her master’s practicum, Hutchison
fnally got the chance to be fully involved with oncology services.
Soon after completing her master’s, a temporary community oncol-
ogy position opened in Red Deer that Hutchison was perfect for. Around
the same time, an Alberta Cancer Foundation two-year Enhanced Care
Grant became available for a CoP initiative. “It was the right time,”
Hutchison says. “It was a concept that was being talked about more
widely and commonly.”
She helped with the grant application, and when the team got it, the
CoP role was tacked onto her other part-time oncology community
social worker role. “All small towns don’t necessarily have supports in
place,” Hutchison says, noting cancer patients don’t always have easy
access to things like childcare, transportation and fnancial support.
The grant supported Hutchison, who was instrumental in
co-ordinating communities in Alberta that met the pilot requirements:
bring together local oncology stakeholders to speak about system chal-
lenges, gaps and successes all from his or her professional vantage point
and do this for six monthly meetings.
“Even in a small town, someone in home care might not know a
service exists in another area of Alberta Health Services,” Hutchi-
son says. “You get to know your area of expertise and it becomes hard
to know what’s around you or outside of your area of expertise.”
Bringing together people who typically have little physical interaction
can be very efective if done correctly. To do that, the CoP facilitator
role becomes quite a complex balancing act, says Hutchison – noting he
or she must encourage relationship building, respect all ideas and egos
while keeping the group’s agenda on track.
Three other Enhanced Care Grants were awarded at the same time
It takes a
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement
Leap_Winter13_p36-38.indd 37 11/18/13 10:58:08 AM
Top Job
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 38 winter 2013
“You can’t fx people and you
can’t make them do anything.
You can only help guide them to
better advocate for themselves
and to fnd a way to improve
their own scenarios.”
as the CoP’s – patient education, screening for distress and
navigation (cancer patient navigators). The four groups
met to brainstorm about the best implementation meth-
ods for each initiative that wouldn’t overwhelm any staf
The suggestion for CoP was to have each community
cancer centre’s newly-appointed navigators to be the facili-
tators. (Cancer patient navigators aid people from the point
of cancer diagnosis through their journey of appointments,
paperwork, medication and so on.) They were already try-
ing to develop their roles and connect with resources in
their geographical area.
“There are cancer patient navigators in all of the 11 com-
munity cancer centres across the province [from Fort Mc-
Murray to High River] and in all of the four associate cancer
centres: Grand Prairie, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine
Hat,” Hutchison says.
Three communities took Hutchison up on the CoP
initiative – Lethbridge, Canmore and Drumheller – and
their frst meetings took place between late 2012 and
early 2013.
But Hutchison doesn’t want people to know about her;
she wants them to know about her program and the people
who are making it work.
Among them is Lynne Ratzke, who was new to her posi-
tion in July 2012 as Canmore and Banf’s community care
social worker. The area’s patient navigator, Isabelle Ram-
say, asked if Ratzke could co-facilitate the CoP with her. Ba-
sically, the answer was, why not?
“Each community will have unique challenges and
so the idea is that they create the innovations or solu-
tions based on their own community needs,” Hutchi-
son explains. “It’s not someone else telling them, ‘This
is your problem and this is how you’re going to fx it.’ ”
The CoP co-facilitator role worked out perfectly
for Ratzke, who had moved from Calgary to
Canmore for the community care centre posi-
tion. “Because I was new, I didn’t know any of
the services,” she says. “It was good timing.”
With a binder full of CoP literature Hutchi-
son assembled for each community facilitator,
Ratzke studied up before sending out a meet-
ing request to locals whom she thought may be
interested. “Our frst meeting was January 8, 2013,” she
says. “We had a group of about eight people from Canmore,
Banf and Exshaw attend.”
The group went through an A-to-Z list of cancer-patient
needs and paired those up with existing resources. “Now,
we’ve got our ‘Resource Pathway’ for people in the Bow Val-
ley and we know where people should go if they need day-
care, if they have a fnancial concern, if they need psychoso-
cial support,” Ratzke says. “You name it, we covered it.”
The Resource Pathway became a welcome and well-used
“cheat sheet” for Ratzke and others in the local community
cancer care centre. “It’s a fuid document to continually
build on,” she says.
Ratzke reported back to Hutchison with the group’s
fndings after each meeting. There were occasional stale-
mates, which is where Hutchison coached Ratzke, and the
other community facilitators, in a new direction for the
next meeting’s discussion.
Everyone is keen, Ratzke says, but right before her group’s sixth meeting, southern Al-
berta was hit by a devastating food late in June 2013. Community resources and time were
allocated elsewhere, making the rescheduled last meeting a poorly attended one. That
doesn’t mean this initiative is done with; when time permits, Ratzke expects the Canmore/
Banf CoP will continue where it left of – that being, with a community member suggest-
ing Canmore to house a satellite Wellspring can-
cer patient facility similar to Calgary’s.
Another gap to fll came up when Ratzke invited
a Stoney Reserve home care worker to one of her
CoP meetings because she wanted to understand
why First Nations weren’t coming to the cancer
centre she worked at. The home care worker ex-
plained that First Nations cancer patients typi-
cally go into Calgary for care, even though Can-
more is closer, for a multitude of reasons. One reason is that it’s a long-distance call from
Stoney to Canmore, but not to Calgary. Ratzke is looking into getting her centre a toll-free
number, something she quotes Hutchison as saying would be “a real easy win.”
It took Ratzke’s group most of the six meetings to feel competent in the process
and complete their frst set task. Lethbridge and Drumheller were in a similar position,
something that didn’t surprise Hutchison. What did pleasantly surprise her is that all three
volunteer communities want to continue, even though they fulflled their total meeting
commitment for the grant program.
“It’s a simple concept, but it can be difcult to implement,” Hutchison says about com-
munities of practice. “You’re working with people and relationships, and that is complex.”
In March 2014, the current grant funding will end. Hutchison is applying for an addi-
tional two years to implement CoP in the rest of the province’s cancer centres in commu-
nity oncology, starting with Medicine Hat and Hinton, then hopefully Grande Prairie and
Red Deer.
“Those communities that have implemented communities of practice, they know how
to come together to improve services for cancer patients whether I’m here or not,” Hutchi-
son says. “Any time you can pass on your knowledge to someone else and help to create a
bit of passion in them, it feels like you’ve made a diference.”
myl eapmagazi ne. ca
REACHING OUT: Building relationships
is a large part of Tricia Hutchison’s job.
Leap_Winter13_p36-38.indd 38 11/18/13 9:24:35 AM
An Edmonton couple’s $1.25-
million donation will go far
toward research at the Cross
Cancer Institute
By Tom CanTine
of Gift
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 39
e all know what scientifc discovery
is supposed to look like: a white-lab-coated
scientist, triumphantly holding up a test
tube and announcing “Eureka! A cure for
cancer!” perhaps before a backdrop of brave test sub-
jects rising from their hospital beds. Of course, in the real
world there is no one “cure for cancer,” because there are
so many diferent kinds of cancers. But even when an ef-
fective treatment is found, more often than not, its eureka
moment likely took place in front of a spreadsheet.
The other sort of eureka moment we like to imagine is
the sudden fash of insight, when a scientist notices a pat-
tern or combines some ideas in a new way and wonders if
maybe this could be useful. But sometimes, despite the
stories of giving
why I donate /
MILLION DOLLAR DAY: Dr. John Mackey, left, and
Myka Osinchuk of the Alberta Cancer Foundation,
right, with Laurence and Isabelle Giacobbo.
Leap_Winter13_p39-41.indd 39 11/18/13 9:17:35 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 40 winter 2013
initial brilliance, a research concept does not arrive at its intended result. The creativity
behind an idea has little bearing on how likely it is to be an efective treatment for cancer.
And that’s why we have clinical trials.
Lawrence and Isabelle Giacobbo know the importance, and that is why they decided to
donate $1.25 million this fall to the Cross Cancer Institute, to go toward clinical trials. “We
decided to put it into cancer because it would touch the most people. We wanted it to go
to research,” Isabelle says. The Giacobbos’ donation will help enormously with research
at Alberta institutions such as the Cross, where as many as 650 patients participate in
new intervention trials every year, according to Dr. John Mackey, a professor of medical
oncology at the University of Alberta, who also leads the clinical trials unit at the Cross.
There are all sorts of reasons why someone might get better after taking a particular
drug, and all sorts of reasons why an efective drug might fail in any given patient. Clin-
ical trials employ controls and sophisticated statistical methods to rule out all those
other explanations. But there’s more to a clinical trial than ensuring that the results
are valid.
“We need to be very well organized and prepared to safely and rigorously do studies
ethically,” says Mackey. A clinical trial needs to be designed in such a way as to provide
stories of giving
why I donate /
benefts to – or at the very least, not to make worse of
– every patient who participates. That, too, can be a dif-
fcult thing to ensure, requiring careful planning.
A lot goes into carrying out a proper clinical trial, and it
can be fairly expensive in terms of time and money, even
before factoring in things such as travel and the material
cost of the medicine being tested. Very large international
studies can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Where a drug promises a proft, it can be worthwhile
for a big pharmaceutical company to invest in expensive
trials, but not all valuable research ideas are about pat-
entable drugs. That’s another reason why charitable do-
nations to fund cancer research are so important.
Underwriting the cost of research specialists – the eth-
icists and statisticians as well as the people in white lab
coats – pays of by allowing more and better studies than
would otherwise be possible. For one thing, it leverages
SWEET GIFT: The Giacobbo grandchildren
were on-hand for the donation ceremony.
Leap_Winter13_p39-41.indd 40 11/18/13 9:18:37 AM
Pharm Fresh
Phases of clinical trials
Before they reach the clinical trial stage, new drugs
have usually been extensively studied in the labo-
ratory and computer models. Clinical trials them-
selves are usually divided into fve or six phases.
Phase 0: Traditionally, Phase 1 was the frst phase
of clinical trials, but in recent years researchers
have started testing micro-doses of new drugs in
healthy human volunteers in order to study how
the drug behaves in the body. If a drug is immedi-
ately broken down by some enzyme in blood, for
example, that will inform how to proceed with fur-
ther study.
Phase 1: The trial team closely monitors healthy
volunteers as they are given a gradually increasing
dose to see when it begins to show toxicity. This
helps to inform the planning of later phases.
Phase 2: Researchers attempt to establish that
the drug actually has a therapeutic effect by
administering it to a few dozen volunteer patients
in research clinics. Most trials end at this phase if
it turns out that the drug is not effective at least at
doses smaller than the maximum tolerated dose
from Phase 1.
Phase 3: In Phase 3, the researchers invite prac-
ticing clinicians and their patients to participate.
At this stage, there may be several thousand vol-
unteer patients receiving the drug through their regular physicians. This is the
last stage before regulatory approval of the drug.
Phase 4: The original researchers continue to monitor a drug’s long-term
effects after approval.
Phase 5: Members of the scientific community at large continue to study
established treatments.
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 41
investment from drug companies, who know they can get
top-notch clinical trial data from the Cross, and some of
the revenue these drug trials brings in gets poured back
into supporting local investigator-initiated research.
As important as it is to carry out clinical trials of new
drugs to ensure they are safe and efective, there’s much
more to improving treatment. A clinician who stumbles
upon a neat trick for administering an established treat-
ment, or who notices a curious pattern in the symptoms
described by diferent patients, should be able to ex-
plore these questions in a safe, ethical and rigorously
scientifc manner. And that is what investigator-initi-
ated research is all about.
So one innovation implemented in the Cross Cancer
Institute research unit involves better access for anyone –
not just veteran researchers – to the investigative resources
needed for clinical trials. A new research grant application
process has been introduced, and in the frst year, 18 appli-
cations were received – of which three ultimately received
funding. Dr. Mackey hopes to see three or four such projects
approved next year.
The Giacobbos, who made their money in homebuild-
ing, aren’t scientists, but they understand science can be
full of surprises. “There are some very bright people,”
says Isabelle. “Many times in research, even if they don’t
fnd something that helps cancer, it may help with some-
thing else.”
And even if making a generous donation to support
cancer research can’t guarantee a cure, it can feel pretty
good on its own. “Nobody has any idea how happy we
were and are that we were able to come to this decision,”
Isabelle notes. Of her speech on the dim October day
that the couple presented their cheque, Isabelle recalls
saying, “As cloudy and dull as it is today, it’s a very sunny
day that we’re able to do this.”
A FAmily AFFAir: Lawrence and Isabelle
Giacobbo pose with their grandchildren.
Leap_Winter13_p39-41.indd 41 11/19/13 2:37:41 PM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 42 winter 2013
CHRISTMAS CARDS: Jen Walker (standing on left) and her
partner Craig Fisher, (seated at right) clown for the camera with
their respective kids (from left) Jonah Bommassar, Paige
Bommassar, Tyler Fisher (lying down), and Joshua Fisher.
Leap_Winter13_p42-45.indd 42 11/18/13 9:20:35 AM
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 43
Juggling kids, exes and traditions
over the festive season can be a real
balancing act. Here’s a how-to guide
for keeping it together
s the holiday season approaches, many blended
families are thinking about how to plan for a happy
and stress-free melding of worlds. And experts say
those who are not, perhaps should be.
“The hope is that parents can meet beforehand and discuss what everyone
would like to see happen and how to implement that,” says Christine Nelson-Voigt,
an Alberta Health Services social worker. “Children may experience a sense of
loss because of things changing, but change can also mean positive, fun, and new
experiences. It’s all in the reframe.”
Sometimes the blending can be beautiful. Other times juggling it all, especially
during the holidays, can be stressful.
Craig Fisher and Jen Walker have the formula down and fnd a little planning, a lot
of patience and open lines of communication (between everyone, from each other to
former partners to all their children), make it work.
“Our scenario is very special, in that we get along with our exes and all of us have
the same mentality – it’s about the kids,” Walker says. “You have to let go of your ego;
that has to be put aside. The biggest part is put the kids frst.”
Fisher adds: “We’ve always said to the kids, ‘This is the schedule we set out but if
you want to be with the other parent, that’s totally cool.’ ”
The PerfecT
By NAdiA MohArib / photos By buffy GoodMAN
Leap_Winter13_p42-45.indd 43 11/18/13 9:21:12 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 44 winter 2013
Still, there is a learning curve. And for the modern-day Brady Bunch – which includes
Fisher’s two sons and Walker’s daughter and son, aged from 10 to 17 – it meant realizing it
is all about perspective.
“If you are looking at it from the kids’ perspective, they get two Christmases, two
birthdays, pretty much two of everything,” Fisher says, extolling the virtues which can
be found in blended family-dom. “As a parent, I get to share in the growth and develop-
ment of other people’s children. I love being around them,
hearing about their day and hearing about experiences. Not
that I didn’t enjoy my kids. I do every day, but I get to do it
all over again.”
The couple says one ingredient to a happy holiday is
respecting old traditions and creating new one albeit in
diferent households.
Nelson-Voigt agrees. “Holidays can be emotional times,
in particular if one partner or family is feeling they’re
losing time or something of signifcance with their child,”
she says.
“If possible, if one parent values a certain aspect of
the holiday more than the other, they should be able to do it with the kids. For example,
if decorating the tree or baking cookies, or whatever it may be, holds special meaning,
perhaps then the other parent could take on something else or create a new tradition
which will carry forward. The goal is always to add to the children’s and families’
experiences as opposed to taking away from it.”
Walker and her partner say another golden rule is to never trash-talk any parent and
acknowledge if one has custody of the children, the other parent does not.
“If you are that parent that has that child, I would say put all your diferences aside just
for one day and appreciate and understand the other parent doesn’t have the children for
that Christmas,” Walker says. “Pick up the phone [for the kids to call them] and say ‘Merry
Christmas,’ ‘I wish you were here.’ Take pictures of yourself opening presents – ‘Dad and
Mom are still happy even though you weren’t there,’ ” Fisher adds. “I think every kid
thinks about every parent.”
Charles Coleman, with Journey Counselling in Calgary, says it isn’t always so
easy. Sometimes unresolved issues can’t be patched up all pretty just because Santa
is paying a visit. “Usually, I would classify parents in two categories – those who have
come to accept the separation and new family setups and those who have not,” says
the registered psychologist and marriage and family therapist. “Those who have
accepted should be able to set up a meaningful experience,” he explains. “Those
who haven’t … It doesn’t matter whether it was Halloween costumes or Christmas
holidays, any topic that brings them together where they have to talk becomes
an opportunity for confict.”
If that’s the case, Coleman, citing an African proverb –
“When two elephants fght, it is the grass that sufers” –
cautions parents to remember to make children the
priority. “It’s better not to talk about the other parent at
all than to talk negatively,” he says.
But, no matter how well the blending is done and how
seemingly perfect parenting partnerships between exes,
some pragmatic conundrums can prevail.
Sometimes that is to be expected. “One of the major
issues I’ve heard coming up often is where the kids will
spend Christmas and with whom,” Coleman says. “It’s
usually a mishmash of parents and new parents and kids
and then grandparents and then existing traditions the
nuclear family had – and one parent trying to keep the
tradition going, but the other parent has married a new
partner and wants to set up a new tradition, so there is a lot
of chaos that can occur.”
A lot can be mitigated, however, with planning, patience
and compromise.
“While Christmas can be the most meaningful of holi-
days, it’s not the only holiday,” Coleman says. “Stepping
back gives them an opportunity to have a long-term view.
This year they will be with one parent, the next year with
the other.”
While older children might have connections with
friends, enhanced with social media, younger children are
more isolated and might fnd it the transition into a newly
blended family a little more
tough, says Coleman.
He suggests “creating
an environment where
the other parent is pres-
ent,” which could mean
displaying a photograph
of the other parent, shop-
ping for a gift for them,
or making a phone call or
sending a text to deliver
holiday greetings.
“Just create a little moment while [a child is with] one
parent to create connections with the other parent,”
Coleman says. “The kids’ experience is, ‘We do have two
homes now, two Christmases and two traditions’ – and the
sooner they can accept it, the better they will be long term.”
Of course, people can’t turn back time, but Walker
and Fisher say setting their family up for happy,
healthy holidays comes down to striving for that sort of
environment on the home front year-round and it even
goes back to how they waded into combining their kin
years ago.
“We didn’t jump into a relationship, we really eased the
children into the potential we might be an item,” Fisher
says of the six- or seven-month process. “It was a strategy
of success.”
And for all blended families bracing for the holidays,
Nelson-Voigt says expecting perfection may be setting the
bar too high. “Recognize it’s not going to be perfect and
that this is OK,” she says. “Holidays are often stressful for
all kinds of families – too much pressure can be put on all
of us and emotions run high – if it doesn’t go as planned,
try to let that go and learn from it and move on.”
“Holidays are often stressful for
all kinds of families – too much
pressure can be put on all of us
and emotions run high – if it
doesn’t go as planned, try to let
that go and learn from it
and move on.”
Leap_Winter13_p42-45.indd 44 11/19/13 2:38:54 PM
Since every blended family’s dynamic is different, there isn’t one
recipe for guaranteeing the holidays are happy and healthy.
But here are some tips.
• Create two separate experiences rather than trying to mimic
experiences between parents.
• Connect with the other parent for the sake of the children.
• Settle on a schedule, but be fexible and let children feel they
are part of the process.
• Emotionally try to disengage with your ex if the situation is
combative, and remember to put the kids frst.
• Meet beforehand with all parties to discuss how the holidays will go;
have things organized and don’t leave too much to chance.
• Develop new traditions without taking away from the old.
• Parents need to compromise, be fexible and recognize things
may need to shift a bit, always being respectful. For example,
if tree decorating is important to one parent or to the kids,
maybe the other parent could do the gingerbread house or
other traditional activity on a different weekend.
• Don’t try to do too much in one day. Two houses or two big
celebrations may be too taxing for everyone.
• Think of kids’ needs frst, which means you may need to let go
of what you want.
• Communication is key. Letting the kids know what is happen-
ing on what day. If appropriate and feasible, try involving them in
• Discuss what went well, what could be better, and remember
that for next year.
• Try not to overwhelm children by trying to compensate for
the separation by buying them more gifts or splurging. Keep it
simple and meaningful.
• Don’t trash talk the other parent or compare experiences
from one household to the other.
Tips for a healThy blended holiday
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myl eapmagazi ne. ca 46 winter 2013
Research Rockstar
Leap_Winter13_p46-49.indd 46 11/18/13 9:25:38 AM
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 47
An oncologist and researcher who
deals with the deadliest of cancers
considers it a privilege to be part of
her patients’ lives and clinical trials
astrointestinal cancer is a complex and often
deeply frustrating feld. But Dr. Jennifer Spratlin
has never regretted making it her medical spe-
cialty. As an assistant professor at the U of A and a medical
oncologist at the Cross Cancer Institute, she knows she’s
making a diference, both for her own patients and for pa-
tients in the future.
By Scott RollanS / photos By KEllY REDInGER
Leap_Winter13_p46-49.indd 47 11/18/13 9:26:01 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 48 winter 2013
Research Rockstar
Like every oncologist, Spratlin wishes she could send
every patient home with a clean bill of health. When a
tumour turns out to be operable, and followup treatment
successfully stops the cancer in its tracks, that situation
falls into what she calls the
“good spectrum” of her
job. “When you’re treating
somebody to cure them,
it’s always a good day when
you get to see them after
they’ve completed their
chemotherapy [and say]
‘Congratulations, you’re done! You made it through.
Hopefully I never see you again, unless it’s in the
supermarket.’ ”
Of course, the road is not always that easy, for either
Spratlin or her patients. For example, pancreas cancer
ranks among the deadliest forms of the disease, with a
fve-year survival rate of about fve per cent. Although
it’s only the 10th most common cancer in Canada, it’s the
fourth leading cause of cancer death.
Often, when Spratlin meets a patient for the frst time, she knows that the
relationship will end with their death. Despite the difcult emotions involved, she has
learned to cherish these experiences. “It’s a privilege,” she says, “to help people as best
as we possibly can through the difculties of end-of-life care.”
For a physician and researcher, no area of
oncology can match the wide variety of tumour types
represented in gastrointestinal cancer. “I see anything
from esophagus, stomach, small and large colon, liver,
gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and anal canal cancers –
basically the whole gut,” Spratlin explains. She
became fascinated by the feld during her residency,
when she was mentored by several physicians who
treated gastrointestinal cancers. Her family medical history also infuenced her
choice of specialty – “I have two uncles who died, one with rectal cancer and one
with pancreas cancer.”
In addition to treating patients using established procedures, Spratlin devotes much
of her energy towards clinical trials. “Part of my job as a medical oncologist is to try to
make sure we’re advancing the care of our future patients,” she explains. “The goal is to
get better treatment for the patients we’re seeing next year. The early drug development
clinical studies that I’m part of are the beginning stepping stones toward having better
treatment for cancer care.”
“The early drug development
clinical studies that I’m part of are
the stepping stones toward having
better treatment for cancer care.”
Leap_Winter13_p46-49.indd 48 11/18/13 9:26:33 AM
Al ber ta’ s cancer- f ree movement winter 2013 49
Spratlin’s current research includes two projects funded in part by the Alberta
Cancer Foundation – both aimed at improving outcomes for pancreas cancer patients.
The frst involves pancreas patients who have a good chance at being cured – patients
who have made it through surgery to remove tumours, and who are now moving on to
Currently, most of these patients are treated using a drug called gemcitabine, which
for many years has been the only available chemotherapy for pancreas cancer. However,
previous research at the University of Alberta and the Cross Cancer Institute has shown
that gemcitabine only works when a patient’s cancer cells contain certain proteins – in
particular, one called “human equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1,” or “hent 1” for
short. In the absence of that protein, cancer cells don’t absorb the drug – meaning that
the patient ends up with all of the side-efects but none of the benefts.
“So, we actually test the patient’s cancer for that protein,” Spratlin explains. “If their
protein is high, we would choose one chemotherapy [gemcitabine]. If the protein on
their tumour is low, we choose a diferent chemotherapy. The hope is that we’ll have
a better chance of cure down the road. That’s pretty cool, because you’re actually
personalizing the treatment to the cancer that patient has.”
Spratlin’s second Alberta Cancer Foundation-funded research study looks at patients
with advanced pancreas cancer. Again, they’re testing the tumours and trying new drug
combinations for those patients whose tumours don’t contain the “hent 1” protein. “If
we can test the tumour itself, and fgure out the biology of the tumour, maybe we can
choose a better treatment for that patient, to give them the potential to live longer than
they would otherwise,” Spratlin says.
As with the frst study, the goal is to craft treatment strategies to better ft the
patient, rather than simply relying on standard chemotherapy. “We’re trying to see if
we can better personalize the treatment that a patient gets to improve how long they
will live and make them feel as good as they can – for whatever length of time that is.”
Even when her patients’ cancers aren’t curable, Spratlin wants to provide them with
the best quality of life she possibly can. “We’re trying to extend people’s lives with our
chemotherapies and our new treatments, but at the same time, if we’re not giving them
a quality of life that they can actually enjoy during the time they have left, then we’re
defnitely doing the wrong thing.”
In addition to her pancreas cancer research, Spratlin is in the midst of an ongoing
project (also partly funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation and Sanof Canada) to
monitor and improve followup care for colorectal cancer patients.
Typically, once colorectal cancer patients have
undergone successful surgery and treatment, they are
expected to closely monitor their health to be sure that
their cancer doesn’t return. “They get blood tests every
three months for three years, a CT scan at one and two
years from their surgery, and ongoing colonoscopies,”
explains Spratlin.
Back when she was a resident, Spratlin worked on
a study that discovered only about seven per cent of
patients were following through with the blood tests
after being discharged into the community. In response,
the Cross began to keep those patients in the system. “We
developed a nurse-run virtual clinic, where everybody
who’s had stage two or three colorectal cancer, after
their treatment, will go into this program,” she says.
We automatically send them requisitions to go get their
blood work. A nurse checks in every three month – and if
they haven’t had it, then they’re called.”
The extra level of vigilance sparked a drastic
improvement. “When we reanalyzed our data, the
adherence to our guidelines for followup went from
about seven per cent to over 50 per cent,” says Spratlin.
That early success has made the team hungry for more.
“We didn’t think that was good enough. We’d like to see
it closer to 90 per cent.”
Over the next two to three years, Spratlin and her
colleagues will continue to revamp the program and
measure the results. They have introduced an education
session for the patients, to emphasize the importance of
followup care and to encourage patients to eat properly
and exercise. The goal is not to pester patients, says
Spratlin, but rather to give them the information and
motivation they need. “We want to empower patients to
take control over their own health,” she says.
Spratlin would also love to see greater awareness and
understanding from the public at large when it comes
to gastrointestinal cancers. “It’s so diferent than, for
example, breast cancer,” she observes. “People talk about
breast cancer, but nobody talks about anal canal cancer.
People don’t talk about rectal cancer. And, most people
don’t even know where their pancreas is.”
Despite the challenges she faces every day, however,
Spratlin loves her job. “The Cross Cancer Institute
is a wonderful place to work,” she says. “The people
who work here are all pretty special – everyone from
our administration assistants, to the pharmacists and
research staf and nurses, to the doctors and volunteers.
It’s a little like the show Cheers – everybody knows your
name. I think that goes a long way for our patients.”
Having two young children waiting for her at home also
helps Spratlin maintain balance and perspective. “My job
is sometimes difcult, but one of the nice things about it
is that it really does highlight your mortality,” she says.
“So, it’s pretty easy to go home and have fun – because
you don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Best of all, Spratlin never has to look in the mirror and
wonder if she chose the right career path. “Despite the obvi-
ous sad parts to my job, I have the ability to treat my patients
to the best of my ability, and pursue my research interests in
hopes of trying to fnd better treatment options for present
and future cancer patients.”
Leap_Winter13_p46-49.indd 49 11/18/13 9:27:10 AM
myl eapmagazi ne. ca 50 winter 2013
Serving Up Generosity
In December 2009, Faisel Shariff’s world was turned upside down when he was
diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a childhood cancer that showed up in his right ankle.
“I had a below-the-knee right leg amputation and went through a full year of aggres-
sive chemo,” the 33-year-old Edmontonian says. “I was cancer-free for a year and then
had a recurrence in February of 2012, when a soft-tissue tumour was detected close
to the sternum near the chest wall,” he explains. “This time around I had 20 rounds
of high-dosage radiation and nine months of aggressive chemo. In November 2012,
I underwent eight-and-a-half hours of thoracic surgery to remove the tumour.”
November marks a year of being cancer-free for Shariff.
Shariff’s experience has moved him to support the Alberta Cancer Foundation how-
ever he can. First, he and his family personally supported the Cross Cancer Institute Golf
Classic, the funds of which have helped revolutionize cancer research and treatment
in Alberta.
“We are so blessed to have a world-class facility with state-of-the-art equipment and
technology here in Edmonton,” he says. “This is possible thanks to the generosity of
Albertans, who give with such open hearts to this cause.”
Shariff didn’t stop there. His family owns four Boston Pizza franchises in Edmonton,
and over the last nine years, they have raised more than $425,000 for pediatric cancer.
Together, with the larger Boston Pizza family in North-
ern Alberta, they have fundraised approximately $1
million in 11 years for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Shariff, along with his parents, his brother and fam-
ily, are all involved in fundraising and supporting the
Alberta Cancer Foundation.
“Faisel is a tireless supporter for us – his generosity
goes well beyond the funds he raises,” says the Alberta
Cancer Foundation’s Sean Capri.
This year, Shariff was one of the faces in commer-
cials for the Cash and Cars Lottery. “I believe sharing
my story with people shows that we will make a differ-
ence,” he says. “I’d do this again – any time they need a
hand, I’ll be there for them.”
The Foundation has taken him up on his offer and
Shariff will be on a committee to recruit participants
in the 2014 Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer game
in Calgary. –Jessica Patterson
This cancer survivor’s perpetual giving spirit is one-in-a-million
Support The Alberta Cancer Foundation
and help redhne the future of cancer in Alberta
Coming to Calgary September 2014
Register Now!
Register now at or 1 877 541 I’M IN (4646)
000Leap-RoadHockey-FP.indd 1 11/14/13 9:23:39 AM
myleap /
inspiring individual
Leap_Winter13_p50-51.indd 50 11/18/13 9:28:12 AM
Support The Alberta Cancer Foundation
and help redhne the future of cancer in Alberta
Coming to Calgary September 2014
Register Now!
Register now at or 1 877 541 I’M IN (4646)
000Leap-RoadHockey-FP.indd 1 11/14/13 9:23:39 AM Leap_Winter13_p50-51.indd 51 11/18/13 9:28:32 AM
We’re back this March to leap, lunge & laugh our
way towards raising $1 million for breast health
at the Cross Cancer Institute.
000Leap-BustMove-FP.indd 1 11/14/13 9:21:30 AM Leap_Winter13_p52-01.indd 52 11/18/13 9:29:24 AM