Camp west of Edmonton offers retreat for families touched by childhood cancer

EDMONTON — A four-day camp was held west of the city this weekend for children going through different stages of cancer and their families.

Now in its 27th year, Camp Beat It offers a place for families to come together and gain support from others going through similar journeys.

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“There are some in treatment, there are some who are in survivorship and others who have lost their children,” said Val Figliuzzi, executive director of the Kids With Cancer Society.

The retreat is held each September long weekend at Camp He Ho Ha, and offers everything from swimming and mini-golf to a climbing wall and family dances. About 80 families took part in the camp this year.

“It’s something we can do as a family. When you’re separated from each other — when one child’s in the hospital, two are at home; I’m in the hospital with the child that needs me — it’s nice to be able to come together and do something and have it planned out for you,” said Lindsay Lord.

Lord has three children. Her middle son Declan, 6, was diagnosed with spinal cord astrocytomas when he was just 10 months old. He’s been through two major spinal cord surgeries and 28 rounds of radiation therapy. Declan is in remission, but the tumours damaged his spinal cord and he is now considered a mild paraplegic. He uses a walker to help him walk.

“We deal with a lot of other things because of the cancer that we wouldn’t have dealt with,” said Lord.

“I often describe it as being hit by an imaginary train.”

But through the tough times, the Lord family remains extremely positive. This is the first time they’ve attended Camp Beat It and said it won’t be the last.

“It’s a place that we can go where Declan doesn’t have to feel different,” said Lord. “I know that there are lots of kids that have been through similar things.

“He fits right in. He doesn’t feel different, he just comes right in and there’s other kids who have different things going on and nobody judges or takes a second look, which is really important, especially for little people.”

Figliuzzi said that’s the whole point of the camp – to let the families know they are not alone.

“They know that they can pick up the phone and phone someone. They know that they can cry with someone and that they can express their fears. It really brings this community together.”

Declan Lord appeared on the Global Edmonton Morning News earlier this month with the Kids With Cancer Society. You can watch his interview below.

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Time to Remember

Tue, Sep 29 : Leslie Horton got to talk to Tara Brown and Jenna Shwanke about “A Time to Remember” lantern ceremony held in honour of childhood cancer.

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Cross-country bike ride to raise money for childhood cancer programs reaches Halifax

HALIFAX – It was a hero’s welcome for more than 30 cyclists who pedaled their way from Vancouver to Halifax on behalf of childhood cancer.

The Sears National Kids Cancer Ride left the west coast 17 days ago and reached the finish line at Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park on Saturday afternoon.

The annual event brings together cancer survivors and supporters in a bid to raise money for childhood oncology programs.

Taylor Wheatley, a childhood cancer survivor from Calgary who took part in the ride, says her inspiration came from the children she was raising money for.

“There’s always hills, there’s always bad weather, but it never compares to a kid going through cancer treatment,” she said.

“So I think when that’s in the forefront of your mind, it is easy to keep going and no, you never really want to quit at all.”

Fellow rider, Hannah MacKenzie, echoed that sentiment. The Halifax native was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia eight years ago at the age of 14.

“I feel very fortunate, very lucky, to be one of those … that have made it but there’s still 12 per cent of kids who won’t beat it,” MacKenzie said.

“That’s not fair. No kid should have to leave us at such a young age. So that’s why I do it.”

This past spring, MacKenzie marked five years of being cancer-free and to celebrate, she embarked on this national ride with her oncologist by her side.

“She’s the reason I got into the ride,” said Dr. Bruce Crooks, as the two embraced. “I wanted to do the ride anyway because I wanted to show we can give back as well.”

The riders rode en masse to the IWK Health Centre on Saturday afternoon where Dr. Crooks is a pediatric oncologist.

Young patients and their family greeted the riders with flowers, hugs and high fives — while thanking them for going the extra mile.

“It means life,” said Khrystyna Drebot, whose daughter Melaniya was diagnosed with cancer a year ago.

“[Melaniya] recovered and now she’s clear of cancer and this is the celebration of life.”

The fundraiser’s goal was $1.5 million this year.

Organizers say administration and promotional expenses are minimal thanks to sponsors and volunteers, so 100 per cent of the money raised can go directly to research and support programs at pediatric oncology centres across Canada.

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Manitoba family pushing for increased awareness of rare cancer

WINNIPEG — “Death has nothing to do with going away. The sun sets, the moon sets but they are not gone.”

That quote was penned by Rumi, but Dana Wood feels the meaning in it every day after losing her daughter Darah to cancer.

The quote appears in the book “Mama I”m Not Gone” that Wood herself wrote as a means for therapy after Darah passed at the young age of 14.

“My daughter was an elite athlete, she played AAA hockey in Manitoba. She was playing club volleyball, she was a provincial qualifier for track and field,” said Dana.

Their cancer journey started in July of 2011 when Darah broke her femur in what seemed to be completely random incident after crossing the finish line at a track meet. With no warning the largest bone in her body, seemingly just “broke”.

Three months later she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Ewings Sarcoma. This form of cancer can develop in either the bone or the soft tissue. In Darah’s case it formed in her thigh, causing the break.

“If not diagnosed early, the chances of metastases – or spread is really high and the most likely place is to the lungs.” says Gail Hodge, with the Ewings Cancer Foundation. “Once that happens the chance of survival drops to 30%.”

Darah went through 22 rounds of grueling chemotherapy, and underwent 26 blood transfusions.

Her mom sums her daughter up as a “tough competitor” and not just in the sports and activities she participated in but in every aspect of her life.

The teen loved to be out on the water fishing, and she spent many hours doing so. Participating in “Fishing For The Cure”, she received a special Master Angler award when she reeled in a huge catfish. She just didn’t know how to quit despite her battle with the disease.

“That didn’t change when she got cancer.” said Dana. “She continued to fight and be a competitor and say I”m going to win this, I’m going to beat this and she never once complained.”

Her fighting spirit came into play again when she was faced with the amputation of her leg.

After a long rehabilitation that wasn’t without it’s challenges she began training in the hopes of making it on Team Canada’s Sitting Volleyball Paralympic Team.

She never gave up.

In August of 2013, Darah passed away peacefully at the age of 14.

Since her death, Dana is actively involved in the Ewings Cancer Foundation and continues to do what she can to get the word out to educate those about this form of cancer that is not hereditary and is prone to striking adolescents.

If you would like more information on Ewings Sarcoma you can visit their website

For more information on childhood cancer or to donate you can also visit

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© Shaw Media, 2015, 2015

Program helps childhood cancer survivors overcome learning deficits

CALGARY – Eighteen-year-old David Scott is in his final year of high school and he’s thinking about his future.

“I’ve always wanted to work in the medical field, especially because of my past. I’ve been thinking about (becoming) a nurse or paramedic.”

Scott is a childhood cancer survivor and the past that has inspired him to pursue a career in medicine also threatens to hold him back. Like up to 70 per cent of childhood cancer survivors, Scott suffers from long-term health issues related to the more than 30 rounds of treatment he experienced as a toddler. Some of those issues impact his ability to learn.

“I don’t get stuff done as fast because it takes me longer to comprehend what I’m reading and stuff like that.”

“It’s almost an invisible disability,” said Kelly Kerr, manager of Volunteer & Outreach Programs for Kids Cancer Care. “(Survivors) might go back to school and things look good but then hormones kick in and suddenly their executive functioning isn’t working properly.”

Kids Cancer Care already offers scholarships to childhood cancer survivors but after speaking with parents, organizers decided there was a need for more support. Thanks to a $35,000 gift from the Canada Post Community Foundation, Kids Cancer Care has just launched a new education support program. The program offers primary and secondary school age cancer survivors access to free tutoring, while educating their parents on how to help their children deal with the learning disabilities cancer treatments have caused.

“We’ll also help families transition their children to ‘normal’ schools,” Kerr explained. “The school systems have so much support but you really have to advocate in some cases. How do they do that? I think that’s where we can come in and help.”

Watch the vide here:

© Shaw Media, 2015

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: partnership aims to change story of childhood cancer in Canada

Calgary – Cancer organizations have come together to create The Big Book of Care and they’re hoping to make sure every child who’s ever faced cancer is able to grow up and have a healthy, vibrant life. Global’s Heather Yourex-West reports.

The current story of childhood cancer in Canada today is that 10,000 kids are currently battling the disease.

But now, in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, an initiative is trying to ensure happier endings for Canadian kids battling the disease.

Every year families, caregivers, charities and research groups across Canada observe September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Shaw and Global have teamed up in support of the Big Book of Care — a big, bold national partnership of children’s cancer groups dedicated to raising awareness and support for Canadian children, as well as their families, affected by childhood cancer. The goal to unite children’s cancer groups across Canada.

Cancer impacts children differently, research shows. While adults are most affected by breast, lung, prostate, bowel and bladder cancers. Children are most affected by acute leukemia, tumours of the brain and nervous system, the lymphatic system, kidneys, bones and muscles.

In Canada today, 82 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer become long-term survivors thanks to advances in cancer research and treatment. The majority of them are considered cured.

However, long-term effects of surviving childhood cancer can affect these children’s futures. Life-long adverse effects include impaired growth and development, learning disorders, compromised heart and lung function, and fertility issues. Research is the key to discovering more about how cancer behaves and how we can help cure it.

The organizers behind the Big Book of Care believe that the fight against childhood cancer should never be fought alone. To learn how to change the story for children affected by cancer, visit, where you’ll find a local kids cancer care charity that needs your support.