A personal story: When life touches close to home

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The Ride has raised more than $8.8 million for cancer research in the past five years. Total raised will likely exceed $10 million this ear.

This blog posting is a little different. I’m going to ask you to give some money, but not to my business, but to support cancer research at the Ottawa Hospital. And the relationship with construction marketing is somewhat indirect. Please bear with me. 

The story touches close to home. 

About five years ago, Robert Merkley approached me to publicize the first “Ride the Rideau” (now dotheride.ca) event in Ottawa Construction News. I agreed, while I couldn’t join the ride in the first year because of a conflict, in the second year, I stepped onto a 20-year-old bike and pedalled, painfully slowly, the 100 km route. 

I’ve participated every year since, now on a relatively new bike, and have enjoyed a significant improvement in my own health, though not from cancer.  I had been diagnosed with prediabetes a few years ago. The regular cycling in training has resulted in the restoration of normal blood sugar levels.

Robert Merkley at a pre-event fund-raising BBQ
Robert Merkley at a pre-event fund-raising BBQ

The ride has had its share of challenges, including a cancellation mid-event because of a massive thunderstorm and, much more seriously, the death of one of the riders when a garbage truck collided with her bicycle. But this didn’t deter the event from continuing — in part because it has raised so far more than $8 million for the hospital’s leading-edge cancer research.

Today, I completed another 30 km commute to the gym and home, feeling good, and sweaty, and modestly proud of my as yet incomplete fundraising, when I discovered an email from Robert Merkley in my mail box.

It touched my heart. 

Although the story is Robert’s personal story, I’ll share it here — because it explains why this cause is so important, because you never know when the story will reach your own family.

My wife Susan has stage II ovarian cancer. It started last December when Susan noticed some back pain. Susan is no slouch when it comes to heavy work and chalked it up to lifting something very heavy. Nine weeks ago, Susan saw her Family Physician, at which time Susan was sent for an ultrasound. Over the next eight weeks it continued with an MRI scan, a consult with gynecologic oncologist Dr. Wylam Faught, then a CT scan, a pre-admission meeting with surgeon Dr. Johanne Weberpals last Tuesday and surgery last Thursday at The New Critical Care Wing of The Ottawa Hospital. The surgery went longer than scheduled because of a larger than expected mass in Susan’s pelvis. After surgery, three of my daughters, Alex, Rebecca, Victoria and I met with Dr. Weberpals. Through the tears and questions, we learned that Susan had at the very least stage II ovarian cancer and quite possible stage III. We then learned that once Susan has recuperated from the surgery, she will begin five months of chemotherapy.

What I’ve learned about ovarian cancer in the last few days:

  • Only one in 71 women in Canada will be afflicted with ovarian cancer which compares with one in nine women are expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Ovarian cancer is considered a “Silent Killer” because of the difficulty to detect ovarian cancer in early stages.
  • Not a lot of research dollars has been allocated to ovarian cancer research.

Susan is a strong but a very private woman (never wanting to be the centre of attention) and so not only has she shown courage in her battle with her cancer, Susan has shown even more courage in allowing me to go public with her cancer with the hopes of raising awareness for Ovarian Cancer and with your support, badly needed funds for ovarian cancer research right here in Ottawa.

Many of you know me as President and C.E.O. of Merkley Supply Ltd. and many more of you know me as an ardent fundraiser for many medical and educational causes as well as co-founder of RIDE THE RIDEAU which is now called THE RIDE. So it should not come as much of a surprise when a ask for your support for me in this year’s THE RIDE with the hope of designating some funds for Dr. Johanne Weberpals to assist in her research in causes and treatment for Ovarian Cancer.

I have never apologised for my persistence in fundraising for cancer research, and I have usually started my request with “Either you or I will get cancer; I prefer to hedge my bet by funding cancer research”. Never did I think that the “you” would be my wife and life partner Susan. 

So I make this very personal plea to support me. 

Robert then provides a link to support him in the fund-raising. It is here. This is my own link, which you can also use (the funds go to exactly the same place).

If you’ve already responded, you don’t need to do any more. If you haven’t. CLICK HERE to support me in THE RIDE.

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