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'A journey of hope': Alta. leukemia patient highlights importance of support systems


Alberta cancer patients are highlighting the importance of having a strong support system and aiming to raise critical funds to support world leading research during this April’s cancer awareness month.

The annual Daffodil Month is the Canadian Cancer Society's (CCS) signature fundraising initiative which inspires people to rally together to improve the cancer experience and help those diagnosed with the disease to live longer, fuller lives.

Margaret Bews is a 75-year-old resident of Longview, Alta., who was diagnosed in February 2021 with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – a type of cancer found in her blood and bone marrow.

Common symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath or the paleness and loss of normal skin colour.

“I had to learn to walk again, but they only gave me three months to live,” said Bews with tears streaming down her face.

“My bone marrow had 87 per cent leukemia cells in it. Thankfully my blood cleared up after a three-month hospital stay, but then almost a year to the day it came back and my blood bone marrow was about 96 per cent cancerous.”

Despite recognizing the symptoms, disease awareness is low and diagnosis is often too late in Canada. The CCS found that on average about 23 per cent of people diagnosed with AML will live for at least five years.

Thankfully, Bews was placed on a new drug called Venetoclax which helped clear her bone and blood cells of all cancer and place her in a remission cycle as of last year.

She says she wouldn’t have made it through without the love and support of her family, friends and faith communities.

“This is a journey of hope and I want people to realize that there is hope, and not to be discouraged.”

“Don’t be fearful, prayer works and we had a group of from our church, two ladies got together and there was 98 people playing praying for me. I had so many people even across the world praying for me, I felt such a support as well from my husband who is y caregiver and did such a good job.”

Bews’ husband Joe made daily trips to the hospital to visit his wife and stood by her through her entire treatment cycle that continues to this day.

He says the act of being together with those closest to a cancer patient is a true form of medicine in and of itself.

“I went in and her blood cleared up, her lungs cleared up from a pneumonia and her bone marrow partially cleaned up, it got down to about three per cent left with cancer,” Joe said.

“Life is beautiful and it really should be cherished so just never give up hope, God loves you so much no matter where you’re at or what’s happening to you.”

Support from health care professionals

Nearly half of people in Canada are expected to hear the words "you have cancer" in their lifetime.

For people living with cancer, the daffodil is a symbol of hope and for more than 65 years, the annual awareness month had had a rich legacy of changing the future of cancer.

According to the CCS, the survival rate in Canada for all cancers combined is now around 63 per cent, compared to the 1940s when the survival rate was barely 25 per cent.

For some types of cancer, the survival rate is now 90 per cent or higher.

While that is good news, the ongoing chemotherapy treatments and struggles of living with the disease are never easy.

Nadine Prevost, business unit director of research and community support with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, says patient support is critical.

"It's important to contact an organization like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada to be in contact with peers or to be matched with a person that has been through the same experience,” Prevost said.

"When you receive a diagnosis like that you have a lot of info complicated information to digest and we’re there for you when you have to start to make decisions related to your health, or when you don't really have the time to come to terms with a diagnosis to integrate that new notion in your life.”

Prevost adds that building a support system is important for those living with any kind of cancer and this month hopes to provide a greater sense of togetherness and awareness.

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada is investing $5 million in research grants every year and there are new treatments for AML including oral options that we’re progressing with,” she said.

“We can help you get prepared for your next appointment, give you a list of questions for your hematologist or oncologist so you too can play an active role in your care and in your decisions related to your health." Top Stories

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