Without cancer research, Melanie Mathieson believes she would not be alive today.
Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma more than a decade ago, Mathieson was the first in North America to undergo different treatments that she credits for saving her life.
“A lot of people don’t realize cancer research is occurring and is making great strides in successful treatments and all the complementary parts of treatment,” she said at the Canadian Cancer Society’s survivors luncheon at the Airlane Hotel on Saturday.
“People often just see that a person has passed away from cancer and don’t realize how many survivors are out there. There are advancements in Thunder Bay, especially with the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute, going on around us every day. Until you’re touched by cancer in your own life you don’t realize how much is there.”
Mathieson received her treatment in Winnipeg and became the first patient on the continent to undergo an extensive chemotherapy regimen and a stem cell transplant that has kept her cancer-free for 10 years.
That doesn’t mean everything went smoothly at the time.
Knowing that there was no precedent for success made it a stressful process for Mathieson. She said all she could do was trust her oncology team and hope for the best.
“It’s scary because you want to come out on the positive end and at that time you don’t know if that’s going to be your course or not,” she said.
The Canadian Cancer Society recognizes April as Daffodil Month, encouraging people to recognize the battle that so many have fought against cancer.
The luncheon allowed survivors such as Mathieson to gather and share a sense of community and serve as an advanced reminder for the upcoming Relay for Life.
This year is the 13th annual event in Thunder Bay and is one of the most significant events of the year for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“It just amazes me to go out there and see all the people in our community who have been touched by cancer,” said Relay for Life chairwoman Jacqui Wheatley.
“Unfortunately cancer doesn’t discriminate and it touches people of all ages and all walks of life so to go out there and see the community coming together to see somebody who might be a neighour or anybody in your life is huge.”
The fundraising goal for this year’s Relay for Life is set at $183,000. The event will take place on June 13 at Fort William Historical Park and more information is available on their website.
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