Spirit of Giving

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We will beat cancer. We will be strong like you.

Jenn Allaert, rider in the Sears National Kids Cancer RideThe Sears National Kids Cancer Ride is one of the biggest and most ambitious charity cycling events on behalf of childhood cancer in the world. Jenn Allaert from Moncton, New Brunswick, shares why she’s riding across Canada to improve the quality of life for children, and their families, living with and beyond cancer.

20 years ago I watched my mom getting sick. No one knew why and answers were hard to come by. A year later her brain tumor was remove a month to the day after my 16th birthday. The relief was brief, 3 months later my Nona was diagnosed with brain cancer. The out come not in our favour this time, her presence left us 4 months later. Life was definitely not fun that year…it was far from a sweet 16.

Now that I’m a mom I know what the meaning of giving everything for you kids is. A fighting chance to be a kid. I will fight for them and fight for all the kids. I now have the reason I’m riding with me forever…it will never be forgotten.

My life changed when I was asked to be the massage therapist of the 2008 & 2009 SNKCR riders. I really had no idea how much that experience would have on my life or even the big realization of why I was doing it. I strongly believe that this is bigger than me; it’s something I have to do. I do it because I can, because I have 3 beautiful children and I can’t image my life without them. I can’t image waking up one day and someone telling me that my kids have caner. These are the words no parent should ever have to hear.

Many of my adult family members have lost their battle with cancer. It was so hard to watch their changes in health from all the countless treatments. And within my massage practice I see the emotional and physical impact cancer has on it’s survivors and think that no child should ever have to experience that. All children need to have positive touch experiences in their life and none should come from countless needle pokes and invasive treatments.

Everyday I carry the words I heard form a little girl with cancer “Mommy don’t be sad, it’s not that bad I only have cancer.” It was so heartbreaking to hear these words because the children with cancer are living adult lives…not the life of a child

So here is to all the kids out there. We will beat cancer. We will be strong like you. And you’re never alone; we’re with you until the end. You’re forever in my heart!!!


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Your support REALLY makes a difference.

National Philanthropy Day, on November 15th , is an especially meaningful day to the IWK Foundation.  It allows us to recognize and celebrate our donors for their year-round philanthropy in support of the IWK. The following is written by Brenda Murchison, mom to IWK patient, Parker.

Parker at the IWK Health Centre

Parker at the IWK Health Centre

People often ask me how I felt when I learned my then 8-year-old son, Parker, had cancer. I was in the emergency room; it was a rainy afternoon.  An amazingly kind doctor arrived to speak with me.  He did what all doctors do, opened with small talk, asked a few questions and did a physical exam on Parker.    As he spoke, I looked at his identification tag and one word stood out: “Oncology”.

Instantly, I felt numb and panicked…as if the ceiling was going to cave in.

“No!” I thought to myself. “Parker is such a cool kid. He loves to read, curl, ski and play volleyball & lacrosse.  He’s kind and polite.  How can this happen to him?”

As reality set in, I felt an aching pain all over, as I realized what my little boy would have to endure to heal his body.  Tests. Needles. Medication. Physical weakness. Loss of his soft, curly hair. Nausea.

Somehow, my husband Bruce and I knew we needed to pull ourselves together and make the best of an awful situation.  That helped us set the tone for the next three-and-a-half years of Parker’s treatment.

Bruce, Parker, Carter and Brenda Murchison

Bruce, Parker, Carter and Brenda Murchison

This journey has been as much about healing our whole family as it was about healing Parker.  It has helped us focus on what’s really important in life.  Our priorities shifted because we became intimately aware of a whole new world…the world of sick kids, cancer and amazing people, including donors like you.

Recently, Parker began his 12th and final round of chemotherapy.  He spent the day in the newly renovated oncology outpatient clinic on the sixth floor, hooked up to two smart pumps and wrapped in warm blankets from the blanket warmer.  He was entertained by his good friend Buddington, our Therapeutic Clown before drifting off to sleep attached to a new anesthesia machine.  For the first time, I had a real appreciation of donor impact – that’s because the renovation of our oncology unit, the purchase of smart pumps and anesthesia machine and funding for Buddington were all donor funded.  Parker was surrounded by the generosity of complete strangers from all around the Maritimes.  In essence, my son was surrounded by the generosity of complete strangers who simply wanted him to be well.

Parker Murchison.

Parker Murchison.

As Parker’s treatment was nearing its end, I realized my IWK journey was just beginning.  I felt compelled to give back. Like many other families who experience the IWK, I wished I had a million dollars to give. Instead, I was fortunate to begin working for the IWK Foundation, with donors like you, who are helping families like mine.  I began witnessing the outpouring of generosity of donors from around the Maritimes – all to help women and children who need the IWK.  I realized the IWK environment I had come to know over the past three years would not be what it is today without donors like you.

Parker completed his treatment on September 15th and is living a great life.  It is an honour for me to write this message on National Philanthropy DayYour support REALLY makes a difference.  Donors like you have made the IWK Health Centre exceptional.  Thank you for caring and for giving.

I hope you enjoy this video of Parker thanking donors like you.  Needless to say I am extremely proud!

~ Brenda

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All children have a right to live their lives free of sickness and strife

The Dalhousie Commerce Society (DCS) is proud to host the annual Halifax event for the National Inside Ride Tour. It is a fantastic initiative and it is our pleasure to do all that we can to give back to the community.

The Dalhousie Commerce Society

The Dalhousie Commerce Society

The Inside Ride is a unique initiative not only because the funds raised go specifically to children who are bravely fighting cancer, but it’s a cross-Canada tour as well. Beginning in Newfoundland on a bus that holds over 40 stationary bikes, it travels across the country to Vancouver, stopping at multiple Inside Ride fundraising events in cities and towns along the way.

The DCS supports the IWK Health Centre because we believe all children have a right to live their lives free of sickness and strife. The services provided by the IWK give children the opportunity to receive care as close to home as possible. The Inside Ride raises funds for children who are living with cancer and particular to the Halifax initiative, half the funds raised are donated to the IWK oncology unit and the other to Camp Goodtime – a one-week camp for children fighting cancer where kids experience awesome camp activities canoeing, swimming, arts and crafts and outdoor education!

The Halifax event on October 3rd is the second stop after St. John’s (yes, the bus hops on the Newfoundland ferry!). After two months of fundraising, participants come together and celebrate by taking turns riding the stationary bikes. It is an amazing event filled with contagious enthusiasm and the DCS is happy to host it year after year!

The DCS has raised over $20,000 from the Inside Ride over the past two years and we are excited to add to it this year! We hope to see you there!

To learn more or participate in Halifax’s National Inside Ride, click here.


That’s why I’m riding.

Dr. Crooks is a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at the IWK Health Centre. This year he will be riding across Canada for the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride – one of the biggest and most ambitious charity cycling events on behalf of childhood cancer in the world.

There are so many reasons for challenging myself for doing this. But I think the impetus has to come from a wonderful young patient.

Dr. Bruce Crooks

Dr. Bruce Crooks

Years ago, I admitted and looked after her when she was diagnosed with, and started treatment for, Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia – the commonest childhood cancer. Even then she didn’t complain, but met the challenge head on and did what she had to do. Years later, and after a somewhat rocky road, she’s finishing her studies at university and is one of the strongest, most positive and assertive role models I’ve ever met. She took the cloud that’s leukemia, ripped it apart and kept the silver lining. That taught her so many life lessons at such an early age. Last year, she stood beside me as we welcomed the 2012 National Kids Cancer Ride to Halifax and said, “So how about doing this with me next year, Crooksy?” At that point how could I say no? And here I am.

I’m originally from the UK. When I first arrived in Canada I was immediately struck by just how BIG this country is compared with Europe. Distances are measured in hours and days, not miles or kilometres. There’s a huge amount of wilderness here – lakes and rocks and trees. Oh, and bears (one of my soft spots). So it’s hardly surprising that one of my dreams was to cross the continent – on foot!!! But here’s an opportunity to do it a different way and to do something amazing with that opportunity – something that’s very dear to my heart.

Professionally, I knew I wanted to work with kids during medical school and during my first part of postgraduate training, became fascinated with cancer and cancer therapy.   In my opinion, fun, humour and clowning around is a part of the healing process – childhood is a time of laughter, exploration and discovery. Why take away a child’s innocence and childhood just because they are dealing with some crummy disease and rotten treatments. If they love coming to see me, that makes everything so much better. And I’m not afraid to put my money where my mouth is and do something like a charity head shave, or event! Why not? It’s part of the rich tapestry of life.

Dr. Crooks will be cycling across Canada to raise money for childhood oncology programs.

Dr. Crooks will be cycling across Canada to raise money for childhood oncology programs.

I see both sides of the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation: We all participate in the fundraising, and the events and the struggle to raise the money that is so desperately needed. And as a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, I see where that money is widely spent – to improve the quality of life and care for our kids and families, to plough into medical research to devise better treatments, but also to learn where cancers come from – after all, prevention is better than a cure.

As I said to a mother not too long ago as she had just been told her child had leukemia, “This must seem to be the worst day of your life, but I’m here to try and make it better for you.”

I wish I never have to say those words again. That’s why I’m riding.

Learn more about the Sears National Kids Cancer ride.
Support Dr. Cooks on his ride across Canada.

Women’s Wellbeing EXPO

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The IWK Health Centre Foundation is committed to supporting excellence in specialized care in all areas of the IWK Health Centre – including women’s services. Thanks to the talented health care professionals, the IWK is able to provide specialized health care to Maritime women throughout their lifespan, including urogynecology and gynecology services, and breast health care. That’s why the IWK Foundation and IWK Health Centre are proud presenting sponsors of the inaugural Women’s Wellbeing EXPO taking place May 24, 25, & 26 at Cole Harbour Place.

The Women’s Wellbeing Expo is a great opportunity to gather up your girlfriends, sisters, mothers and daughters and have some fun this weekend.  The Expo will feature a wide variety of exciting informational topics highlighting wellness, personal health issues and financial management. Make sure to catch the incredible line-up of speakers and seminar topics, including several top physicians and experts from the IWK Health Centre team. Here is a list of topics and times for the IWK presenters:

 Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen, MD FRCSC
3 Things You Should Know That Could Save Your Life Saturday, May 25, 2013, 10:30 am – 11:30 am
 gillian Dr. Gillian Graves, MD FRCSC
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm
 susan Dr. Susan Lappin, MD
Barriers to Breastfeeding
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm
 natalie  isabelle Dr. Natalie Rosen, BA PhD & Dr. Isabelle Delisle, MD FRCSC
Vaginal Pain and Women’s Sexuality
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm
 renda Dr. Renda Bouzayen, MD FECSC
Assisted Reproduction Treatment
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:45 am – 11:45 am
 margaret Margaret Devries, Breast Health Educator
Demystifying Breast Health
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 10:45 am – 11:45 am

Catherine Walsh, Dietician
Women’s Nutritional Health: Navigating the Journey
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm

When it comes to your health, knowledge is power. We are very proud to be a part of this unique event, which will bring together education, conversation, and the power of the female spirit. Come and join us for a weekend of fun, wellness, and girl power!

Women’s Wellbeing Expo
May 24, 25 and 26, 2013
Cole Harbour Place
51 Forest Hills Parkway
Dartmouth, NS  B2W 6C6
(902) 464 – 5100

To get full details on all presenters and weekend events, and to purchase tickets, please visit  www.womenswellbeingexpo.com


Colours for Cancer

Natasha McCarthy, from Mount Albion, Prince Edward Island, is the organizer of Colours for Cancer – fundraising initiative  in Montague, PEI, to raise money for pediatric cancer.

I’ll never forget the date because it was the day before my birthday. The day I heard four-year-old Autumn Newell was diagnosed with Leukemia. Autumn and my four-year-old, Samantha, were in the same dance class together. I went to school with Autumn’s Mom, Stacey, but grew closer to her the previous year through our children’s association. I remember reading her Facebook post that day.

“Worst day of our lives, please pray for our little Autumn”.

Children's Artwork available for auction.

Children’s Artwork available for auction.

I didn’t know what that meant at first but being from a small community word spread quickly that Autumn was at the IWK and was a couple days later diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and about to start the battle of her life. As a mother of two girls myself, as did many I’m sure, tears streamed down my face. I prayed for them. I sobbed uncontrollably alone in silence for the heartache, fear and helplessness her parents Stacey & Donnie must have been feeling. I could not help but think how in heaven’s name do you explain that to your child? Where would you even begin?

Since that helpless day I have watched a miracle be born. I have watched through Facebook a four-year-old little girl turn into a warrior of strength, courage, determination and positivity. A video was posted three days later of her at the IWK saying “Kick Cancer in the Butt” and that slogan has now been adopted by a community of people. We wear bracelets with her name and slogan on them in support of her fight. In every photo whether it be in a hospital bed or at home she carries a huge smile on her face. She shows bravery far beyond what any four-year-old should ever have to possess. I have told her mother Stacey on numerous occasions that she is destined to do great things WHEN she wins this fight. This battle was meant for her, because she is so strong and will show others the way!

IMGP3480I knew I wanted to do something big to help Autumn’s journey to recovery and help with such a financial burden. So I decided I would do something huge! I would shave my head in an effort to raise money, but I would tell no one and wait for a while. Help often pours out quickly at the beginning of diagnosis but I knew this family at a 2.5 year battle ahead of them and money would run out. So I waited, and it is now obvious to me there was a reason I chose to wait. Because five months later when I decided the time was right after watching how amazing she has been I knew I couldn’t only help Autumn, I needed to help other children battling cancer too. She has inspired me to be a better person – to help as many as I could and make this much bigger. So I have included the IWK’s Hematology & Oncology Department in my fundraising efforts as I know she needs them to win her fight as do & will other Children.

Colours For Cancer was an idea to involve my children in raising money and helping others. A small idea that got big very fast. On Saturday, March 9th I had 54 amazing children come to paint a canvas and donate it to be auctioned off. This Friday, March 15th from 5:30-7pm there is an Art Exhibit and Final Auction (online bidding takes place all week).

One of the many young artists.

One of the many young artists.

The children are so very excited about it and the bid’s are rolling in already with some paintings as high as $88 in just two days! Over 8,000 people have viewed the Auction Album on Facebook which is incredible. I hope to raise a substantial amount of money through this event as well as some others in the coming weeks to help the IWK. We are so very blessed to have this facility available to us in the Maritimes and it takes money to offer the services it has. I have always donated through the Telethon since having children myself but now it’s time to step it up and find bigger and better ways to donate more, because we just never know when we might need the facility ourselves.

I thank Autumn for being so amazing and inspiring me, she is a blessing and her fight will end triumphantly thanks to her courage and many others including the IWK!

For other details on fundraising efforts, please visit https://www.facebook.com/#!/FundraiserForAutumnQeiiIwk

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How innovation is born.

This article was written by Ken Cashin for the inaugural issue of Izaak Magazine – an in-depth, behind the scenes, all-access publication highlighting the incredible, everyday happenings at the IWK Health Centre. Researchers like Dr. Jason Berman are using some of the world’s most unlikely sources to find the most miraculous cures.

Zebra Fish

Zebra Fish

When it comes to medical research, inspiration can be a driving force. And, when that inspiration comes from a desire to make life better for young patients, ground breaking innovation can be born. Such is the case with Dr. Jason Berman. He is a world-leading pediatric haematologist- oncologist who runs a zebrafish research laboratory at the IWK Health Centre.

His enthusiasm and energy is contagious as he discusses his first-of-a-kind research program in Halifax with the potential to provide unique cancer drug-testing services in zebrafish to pharmaceutical companies and cancer specialists across Canada and around the world. Dr. Berman looks for such answers in zebrafish — small striped fish that are remarkably similar to humans in their genetics and cell biology. Zebrafish are gaining international recognition in their ability to help researchers better understand human diseases. By studying blood-cell development in zebrafish, Dr. Berman and his team are hoping to pinpoint the genetic changes that lead to leukemia.

Dr. Berman treats children with cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma and solid tumours, as well as blood disorders like haemophilia and anemia. While many of his patients have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and can be cured with current multi-agent chemotherapy, some suffer from more aggressive subtypes of ALL, such as T-cell disease (T-ALL), while approximately 20 per cent suffer from acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Dr. Berman’s unique research approach focuses on these more difficult-to-treat forms of leukemia, using the zebrafish model to identify and test new potential treatments. “The zebrafish is a vertebrate and shares many of the same genes with humans,” explains Dr. Berman. “Because they are fertilized externally, are transparent, and reproduce in large numbers, they are a very useful tool for studying how changes in genes affect both normal development and the abnormal development that can result in diseases like cancer.”

Dr. Berman and his team are currently testing different compounds in several cancers including: T-ALL, AML and sarcomas (common bone tumours in children) to identify new drugs or combinations that stop and reverse the abnormal cancer growth and kill the cells that start the cancer. “In 2012, most children with cancer have a very good chance of cure, but often at the significant cost of toxic treatments with lots of complications,” says Dr. Berman. “By better understanding the genetic and molecular factors underlying particular diseases using rapidly evolving technologies and innovative model systems like the zebrafish, we will be able to provide better, more personalized and targeted treatment that will result in improved outcomes and fewer side effects.”

Dr. Jason Berman

Dr. Jason Berman

Reviewed by an international panel by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, Dr. Berman received Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Peggy Davison Clinician Scientist Award in May 2011, which provides $100,000 per year for three years to build cancer research programs. Previously held by only one other individual, funding through this prestigious award is helping Dr. Berman use the zebrafish to study white blood cell development, mast cell biology, leukemia and solid tumours. The award, he says, is a great tribute to both pediatric oncology and the zebrafish model and demonstrates the support, faith and encouragement that Cancer Care Nova Scotia has in the potential of his research program to impact the future for cancer patients. “This award enables us to attract the best and the brightest from across Canada and beyond to work with us and establish our laboratory as an international centre of research excellence, fostering the training of the next generation of leading cancer researchers right here in our province.”

He says it gives hope to children who have to endure the challenges of chemotherapy. One such child is Olivia Mason, daughter of Tammy and Barry Mason of Bedford, N.S., who has been a patient of Dr. Berman’s since being diagnosed with AML in February 2011. “We know first-hand the struggles that children endure going through intensive chemotherapy to treat AML. The current treatment is very difficult and it is heartbreaking to watch your child endure this illness and treatment,” the Masons commented through Cancer Care Nova Scotia. “Olivia is strong and determined. We know she will make it.

However, we anxiously await the day that Dr. Berman, and his team, announce that they have found an easier way to treat AML. With the Peggy Davison Award to Dr. Berman, we know that they are one step closer to that announcement.”

Make a gift to the IWK Health Centre Foundation.