Thanks to you, Carole has more tomorrows with her loved ones

In the fall of 2020, Carole was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her initial reaction was a complete shock. She had recently retired after a successful 30-year career, and now a year later she was facing a life-altering cancer diagnosis.

It wasn’t long after her treatment began that Carole understood the importance of donors like you. With any cancer diagnosis comes uncertainty about what the future holds. Donor-funded research is creating new treatment opportunities and access to clinical trials for Manitobans like Carole.

Carole’s initial treatment plan entailed twelve weeks of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. It was successful in shrinking the tumour on her lung but her cancer journey was far from over. She received the disappointing and frightening news the cancer in her lymph nodes was growing and further treatment was required.

Because of your generous support, Carole was given another treatment option.

After undergoing a series of genomic tests developed in part through donor contributions, it was confirmed that Carole’s cancer carried a rare gene mutation that made her eligible to participate in an international clinical trial led locally by CancerCare Manitoba medical oncologist and Director of Precision Medicine and Advanced Therapeutics, Dr Shantanu Banerji.

Carole was the first person in Canada to join the trial, meaning she would receive customized targeted therapy to specifically treat her type of cancer with very minor side effects. “We have learned through research that there are many rare mutations in lung cancer for which targeted therapies can be helpful,” said Dr Banerji.

Clinical trials are a way for Manitobans like Carole, to receive tomorrow’s treatments today.

Dr Banerji and other scientists at the CancerCare Manitoba Research Institute are engaged in research that is key to delivering targeted therapies to patients with cancer. “By developing a therapeutic plan based on the individual biology of a person’s cancer, it allows us to treat it in a very precise way, resulting in better outcomes and improved quality of life for the patient.”

A few months after starting the trial Carole went for a scan and received the wonderful news that the cancer in her body was shrinking. Today, while she continues with regular visits to CancerCare Manitoba and remains on a targeted treatment plan, she is living her life to the fullest. An advocate for cancer research, Carole is sharing her story and using her voice to create awareness of the importance of investing in science, right here at home, so more Manitobans like her can have more tomorrows with their loved ones.

“I’m living proof that donor investment in science and clinical trials has positive results.” -Carole

Routine Test Leads to Unexpected Cancer Diagnosis

Carrie is a vibrant young woman in her early 30s who never imagined a routine test would result in a cancer diagnosis.

In January of 2020, Carrie had her first appointment with a new physician. Carrie’s new doctor wanted to get a good understanding of her patient and completed a full physical including a PAP test (Carrie’s first in about 3-4 years).

What happened next was unexpected.

Two weeks later, Carrie received an evening phone call from her doctor scheduling her in for the following morning. Carrie grew a little concerned as she noticed that her appointment was outside of the clinic’s operating hours. What could be so important as to warrant a next day, before-hours appointment?

After a somewhat sleepless night, Carrie arrived at her doctor’s office and promptly parked the car. As Carrie took a moment to gather her thoughts, she noticed her doctor was waiting for her at the office’s door. This was the moment Carrie realized something serious was going on. After a brief discussion about her pelvic health, Carrie received the very unexpected news that her PAP test had shown she had cancer. How could this happen? Carrie was young, healthy and had no symptoms. How could a simple test change her world so dramatically?

Weeks of tests and biopsies working with CancerCare Manitoba Gynecological Oncologists followed. It was a hard reality for Carrie because her appointments were in the same building she had been in five years earlier while her father battled kidney cancer. Carrie couldn’t believe that she was back but this time it was her facing the uncertainty of cancer.

It was determined that Carrie had Adenocarcinoma, a form of cervical cancer. Tests showed signs that Carrie’s cancer was likely Stage 1. A hysterectomy surgery was scheduled and Carrie was told that the hysterectomy should cure her cancer.

Surgery was a daunting prospect for Carrie, the pandemic meant she would have to go in and recover without the physical aid of family and friends. However, Carrie was determined to make it work. Unfortunately, the surgery revealed more concerns and Carrie’s cancer was now considered to be Stage 2B and she would begin radiation and chemotherapy treatments in four to six weeks.

Carrie started radiation and chemotherapy in the middle of June. Her last chemo treatment was completed a day after her 34th birthday and radiation a few days later. Throughout her treatment, Carrie appreciated the help of a mentor from the Breast and Gyne Centre of Hope.

On October 29, 2021, Carrie received the news that her treatment was successful, and that she was cancer-free. Today, Carrie shares her story as an opportunity to let others know how important it is to get checked regularly. She knows she might not be alive if it wasn’t for a routine test.

Help us answer Hargun’s question: ‘Why?’

Hargun is a bright-eyed, joyful, funny, and determined little girl. She loves to read, draw pictures and play with her cousins.

Last fall, her family’s life was turned upside down after they received a shocking diagnosis no parent is ever prepared to hear. Only six years old at the time, Hargun was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In one statement the unthinkable became their world: ‘your daughter has cancer’. Hargun began treatment immediately. Within the first day of her diagnosis, her doctor at CancerCare Manitoba explained there was an opportunity for her to participate in a clinical trial, right here in Manitoba, giving her access to the newest possible treatment. Her parents are grateful to generous donors to the Foundation that fund research and access to clinical trials for Hargun and other children like her.

After ten days, Hargun was about to leave the hospital and continue her long treatment journey from home when her parents noticed she had a fever. Things escalated quickly from there and within 24 hours Hargun had become severely ill with sepsis.

She needed immediate, life-saving care.

She was moved into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and put on a ventilator the next day. Hargun spent the next five weeks in the ICU. Her parents describe this as ‘the scariest days of our lives’. At the time the doctors didn’t how long Hargun would be on the ventilator. A week, two months, six months? No one knew what lay ahead. Through all of it, her mom and dad never left her side.

Hargun finally started to slowly improve and by the end of January she was strong enough to leave the hospital and continue her treatment from home. Still, her journey with cancer was far from over.

Today, Hargun takes daily chemotherapy medication and has monthly visits to the hospital for intravenous medication. She also has regular visits for spinal taps which allows doctors to analyze and monitor her progress. She has good days and hard days as she continues on her path to becoming free of cancer and completing her treatment in February 2023.

Despite the tremendous challenges associated with battling cancer, Hargun has remained tough through it all, inspiring her family and others to be strong with her.

You can help doctors and scientists find answers by donating today. When you donate to CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, you make an incredible difference for cancer patients like Hargun and their families. Your support provides critical funding to operate a leading-edge cancer research centre that helps recruit the best and brightest cancer specialists to Manitoba.

You Helped Matt and Madison’s Love Story Grow

Three years ago, we introduced you, our generous community of donors, to Matt and Madison Bell and their inspiring love story. And you responded by providing them with hope for a future together.

Now 33, Matt has been battling skin cancer since he was 25. Together with his wife Madison, they have been through periods where no treatment options were available. Matt lived with an incurable cancer diagnosis and together they lived as happily as they could, in three-month increments between tests.

Eventually, thanks to the generosity of people like you, new drugs became available because of a successful clinical trial run right here in Manitoba.

When we first introduced you to Matt and Madison, they had recently celebrated a major milestone, their wedding. They were cautiously dreaming about adventures they would have the following summer, not really knowing what the future would bring in their journey with cancer.

Fortunately, you were by their side along with CancerCare Manitoba’s dedicated oncology team.Your generous support funds research and clinical trials that have now given Matt and Madison more hope for the future than ever before.

Today, Matt is part of a targeted therapy treatment program that is working very well. It is shrinking the active cancer in his body and preventing it from growing and spreading. And, there are no side effects, allowing Matt to live as he likes to say ‘like a normal person in their 30s, which is pretty exciting’.

Most exciting of all is the newest addition to their family. After being told they would likely never have children due to the trauma Matt’s body has been put through, the couple was amazed to find out Madison was pregnant! Benjamin, now eight months old, is a miracle and has defied every odd to be here today.

“Having been self-employed for so long this is the first time in 10 years, I now have a boss”, laughs Matt. “Ben is in charge of both of us.” Benjamin is a strong, healthy, and joyful baby. It’s easy to see the happiness he brings to his parents’ lives. They are so grateful.

For as long as they can remember, Matt and Madison dreamed of living a normal life. Today, they are one step closer, thanks to you. Cancer has given them perspective on what’s important and they have always tried to live in the moment. Now, thanks to Matt’s newest treatment and the addition of Benjamin to their lives, they are hopeful and excited to be planning for the future.

“Ben has given us so much hope, so many reasons to live,” says Madison. “We imagine him on his first day of kindergarten or chasing him down the ski hill. We dance together in the kitchen and think about dancing at his wedding.”

“It has consistently been about newer treatments and the next options for us. 

Thanks to our committed care team, a collective vision for research, and the generosity of donors, we found a treatment that has renewed our hope for the future.

You Have Been There for Carl, Time and Again

“As aggressive as cancer is, you’ve got to hit it back just as aggressively,” says Carl Bittner whose melanoma came back again, again – and again – over the past twenty-one years.

Thanks to donors’ investment in cancer research, Carl is still with us today – and he is thriving.

In 2000 Carl was diagnosed with Melanoma, an aggressive form of cancer responsible for 80% of skin cancer-related deaths. Despite being told he had a 10% chance of survival, Carl never lost hope.

Carl’s 21-year journey with melanoma has had many highs and lows. Since his initial poor prognosis and with limited treatment options back in 2000, Carl has endured multiple operations, radiation, and radical treatments. At one point Carl’s T cells were removed from his body, genetically enhanced, and then reintroduced to boost his immune system, a process Carl admits was “brutal” though his body cooperated and responded very well

Treatments didn’t always keep working, however; at one point Carl’s heart monitor registered an arrhythmia and treatment had to be stopped immediately.

Just when there seemed to be no more options, donor-funded clinical research and clinical trials blew open the world of immunotherapy and gave renewed hope to stage IV cancer patients like Carl.

A priceless, blissful wedding-day hug.

Carl’s wife and three children mean everything to him and he’s now getting to experience all the precious moments life offers.

Like walking his daughter Sara down the aisle and seeing his daughter Lisa graduate from nursing school.

Thanks to continued donor investment into cancer research, Carl was eventually switched to a newer advancement: targeted therapy. 

Carl responded tremendously. Not only did this new therapy target only cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone, but Carl was also finally able to stop intravenous treatment and take pills instead.

Through it all Carl’s wife Ruth has been by his side and together with their family they are creating more memories together. Carl’s life has been full and rich and with you in his corner, the future looks incredibly bright. You are the ‘Hope Givers’ and for that Carl is eternally grateful to you.

Ruth shares Carl’s gratitude for your support.