Cancer research support inspires
Contributed - Dec 20, 2022 - Columnists

Photo: BC Cancer Foundation
BC Cancer Agency Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins Centre for the Southern Interior

By Jill White

I was born and raised in Vernon. I’ve grown my family and business in Kelowna. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents lived in the Okanagan beginning in the late 1800s. My roots run deep here, as they say.

And I’ve seen what this community can do when it thinks big.

We have a wine industry worth billions thanks to our local entrepreneurs. The Coquihalla came to fruition through years of lobbying, connecting us to the Pacific Gateway like never before. Prospera Place revitalized our entertainment industry and now brings some of the biggest acts to Kelowna.

Jill White

All these initiatives, led by Okanagan residents, have made the valley the vibrant place it is today. These projects grew our communities, created jobs and improved our quality of life.

I recently joined the BC Cancer Foundation as a cabinet member for their Beyond Belief fundraising campaign. The goal is historic: raising $500 million to advance cancer research and enhance access to care across the province, including here in the Interior.

We’ve seen the recent headlines on the capacity pressures our provincial health system is facing. Looking at cancer, we have nearly 6,000 new cases diagnosed in the Interior each year, and this number is only expected to grow.

Yes, this is a difficult, complex issue. But if our community steps up to meet this challenge, we can build a better future for ourselves, right now.

Growing up, I remember seeing loved ones make the long, difficult journey to Vancouver for cancer treatment. That we now have access to world-class care right here at home is incredible, and we have the opportunity to take it even further.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Ross Halperin, who leads the dedicated team of researchers, clinicians, nurses and allied health workers at BC Cancer in Kelowna. The strides made in cancer treatments over the past decade are astounding. In fact, it’s anticipated if this pace of innovation continues many cancers will be considered manageable diseases within the next 10 years.

Donor support helps fund the critical research needed to improve treatment options, bring the latest technology to BC Cancer’s centres and attract top talent to the Okanagan.

One example is Dr. Juanita Crook. She was named chairperson of brachytherapy at BC Cancer-Kelowna in 2020—a position funded by donors. Dr. Crook is an internationally recognized pioneer in precision radiotherapy and together with her team has advanced a type treatment called of high-dose-rate bracyhtherapy. This treatment has cured hundreds of men in our region of prostate cancer.

Looking to the future, the foundation is fundraising for a new world-class systemic therapy suite that will significantly increase Kelowna’s treatment and research capacity. Supporting the BC Cancer Foundation in enhancing care and research in the Okanagan doesn’t just benefit us now, but for generations to come.

We can all play a part—by donating, by volunteering or simply by spreading the message that we can, as a community, make a difference in our cancer care system.

We’ve made the seemingly impossible possible in the Okanagan before. By focusing that same determination and spirit of community, we can do the same for our family members, our friends and our neighbours who may need the cancer care system, right here at home.

Jill White is the president of Kelowna-based MAKR Play Group

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