Speeding up progress: Admiraal Racing for a Cure

Sadly, cancer has affected nearly everyone in one way or another, and I am no exception. I lost my grandfather to cancer before I had the opportunity to meet him. Two of my aunts have recently fought breast cancer. More recently however, a very close friend of mine, role model in my life and valued member of our race team, lost her battle with cancer. Brenda McKinlay was like a mother to me when I was young at the race track. As I grew up and started Admiraal Racing with my father and made racing a full-time commitment, Brenda quickly became incredibly valuable to our team as a support member and organizer. She was also the mother of driver Samantha McKinlay who is our primary driver in the IHRA Drag Racing circuit and is also a cancer survivor herself. Towards the end of Brenda’s fight with lung cancer, I spent every day and night at the Cross Cancer Institute with Brenda and her daughter Sam. I was able to witness first-hand all of the amazing programs for patients and their families at the Cross Cancer Institute supported by the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

I can recall one day specifically, June 19th, 2014 — a day I will always remember as it was the day that Brenda passed away. That afternoon, Sam and I got to visit with  TSN’s Bryan Mudryk and Team Jacobs, Olympic gold medal curling winners. We got to hold the gold medals and shake hands with these Canadian legends. It was the only thing I can recall smiling about that day and I am ever thankful for that opportunity and special visit. The Alberta Cancer Foundation did more for us in those few weeks than I will ever fully realize, but when I got home that night - for the first night in weeks - I knew that I wanted to do something to help.

We wanted to find a way to honor Brenda and do as she would have wanted us to, so I knew there was only one thing we could do, and fortunately it was one of the few things I know… racing! Sam and I quickly began discussing with the Alberta Cancer Foundation how we could honor all cancer patients and their families. We had races coming up in just a few weeks and knew that it would require approval and cooperation from many parties including our corporate partners, NASCAR, media outlets and other race teams. DJ Kennington Racing was immediately on board and offered to help us add an additional race to the schedule closer to those people that we wanted to honor. This led us to racing the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event at Edmonton International Raceway on July 11. Leading up to the event, we were blessed with the opportunity to bring the actual race car that I drove at the Edmonton race (designed with the Alberta Cancer Foundation colors and logos) to the Cross Cancer Institute and let patients, families and staff have a look at the car and get their picture taken with the car and the team. We were also able to have them all sign the hood and back of the race car just one day before the event so that regardless of whether they could attend, they were a part of the event. I have never experienced anything like that before —we met such amazing people with great stories and allowed them to have their signatures on the car for the race. We also set up a website, www.albertacancer.ca/28car where race fans could donate to support patient needs at the Cross Cancer Institute, as Brenda had always said she wanted to raise money for the Cross Cancer Institute once she recovered.

I have participated in four races since that visit, two of them being tributes to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, and every time I strap into the race car I think of those people that I met at the Cross Cancer Institute. I think of all of those people who have been affected by cancer and they are in our prayers. I smile now to think of those people because if it wasn’t for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, we would likely have never met and I am surely better because of it. We were so blessed with an opportunity to show our support for those battling cancer and those who have fought it in the past. As we continue to compete in multiple divisions of NASCAR, I am sure not one race will go by where I do not think of this special event and all of those who are still fighting.

By Guest Blogger Ian Admiraal, Co-Owner and Driver, Admiraal Racing

Staff Shorts: Huda Mohamed

It’s been a while since our last staff profile piece, so today we meet University of Alberta student Huda Mohamed who started a few weeks ago as a Clerk in our Information Management & Donor Services Department.

Ashton Paulitsch: Good morning Huda! Welcome to the team and thank you for agreeing to this interview so we could introduce you to our Alberta Cancer Foundation supporters. How about we start with you telling us how you first heard about the Alberta Cancer Foundation?

Huda Mohamed: I was a volunteer at the Cross Cancer Institute (CCI), so I knew that the Alberta Cancer Foundation received donations on behalf of the cancer centres. I saw the job opportunity and applied because of my experience at the CCI.

AP: What were some of your duties or roles as a CCI Volunteer?

HM:  I started volunteering there in 2011 after having volunteered for student groups at the University of Alberta. My Google search for new volunteer opportunities connected me with the CCI where I found myself working with chemotherapy patients. I would help the nurses get the patients comfortable in the treatment rooms, bringing them  water, food, blankets, and organizing their paperwork.

AP: The CCI volunteers are certainly amazing people—thank you so much for your hours of service! We couldn’t do the work we do without volunteers like you. What has your volunteer experience taught you?   

HM: It taught me to appreciate life. When I volunteered, I would see patients still joyful despite all of the pain they’re in. That really amazed me.

AP: Were you born and raised in Edmonton?  

HM: I was born in Somalia, raised in Syria and came to Canada in 2005. I speak fluent French!

AP: You have such an interesting background! I hear you are still at student at the University of Alberta. What are you studying and what are your future career plans?   

HM: This September, I will enter the 5th year of my science degree, with a major in biology and minor in math. I will continue to work at the Foundation part-time while I am studying. My career goal is to apply for graduate studies. I’m actually interested in studying oncology!  

AP: After all of your volunteer and work experience with the CCI and Alberta Cancer Foundation, I think oncology would be the perfect fit for you! Tell us about your first impression of the Foundation when you started work here a couple of weeks ago.  

HM: I was impressed with the “family” atmosphere. I immediately felt like I belonged.  

AP: What are your responsibilities as an Information Management &Donor Services Clerk?

HM: From what I have experienced so far, it is to be very detailed when it comes to organizing data that the organization will depend on later for stewardship activities. I’m still training, but I’m learning step by step how to do processes like the memorial program by myself. It definitely takes practice!  

AP: What was your work history before joining the Alberta Cancer Foundation?  

HM: I worked with Islamic Family Social Services in an internship role where I was a program advisor. Attracting more volunteers to the association is mainly what I worked on and built pieces to support that program like a volunteer manual.

AP: That sounds like another great experience to apply to your work at the Foundation! Now we’re getting into the fun part…the quick “get to know you” round. Are you ready? And we’re off!

Favourite Food: Lasagna

 Favourite Festival: Heritage Festival

Favourite Book: Kite Runner

Favourite University Subject: Biology

Favourite Place to Travel to: Syria

Favourite Item of Clothing: Dresses

Favourite Music: Islamic Music

AP: And we’re done. Thanks again Huda for the interview. We are so lucky to have you on our team and hopefully you get some time to relax this summer before you’re back to juggling work and school!

HM: Thanks Ashton!

 

Lawn bowling tournament goes Wilde!

2014 was the inaugural year for Wilde Bocce.  This event was inspired by Lucille Wilde, my Grandma (aka “Granny”) who was lost to cancer in February 2014.  Lucille was the ultimate caregiver― up until she passed at the age of 75, she was still babysitting her great grandchildren on a weekly basis.  She was extremely active and consistently hosted family get-togethers for our sizeable group!    

With Lucille having been a great bowler and bowling coach for many years, the idea of a lawn bowling fundraiser ignited.  This event was planned for the first day of summer as a way for family and friends to get together, remember Lucille, and have fun! 

Wilde Bocce welcomed 25 tournament participants, plus a handful of kids under the age of six to act as bocce cheerleaders.  Members of the immediate and extended Wilde family were in attendance.  In addition, a number of employees from Wilde & Company Chartered Accountants in Vegreville participated; a business that was started by Lucille’s husband Jerry 52 years ago.   All of these individuals knew Lucille for many years, and came out to remember Granny and support the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Registration kicked off at 2:00pm, with the round robin games following close behind.  After playing four round robin games each, the top three seeded teams advanced to battle it out in the playoff rounds.  The champions – Kyle, Luke, and his substitute Adam were crown victors that night, entitling them to the “pick of the litter” from the prize table.

The participants were encouraged to bring on some “Wilde and wacky” hairdos for the tournament.  We saw everything from “Elvis hair” to the classic “mullet” wigs on display that day.  This generated a lot of laughs, and a bit of confusion for the toddlers!

After enjoying an afternoon of food, drinks, and some healthy competition, the event wound up raising a total of $5,575.00 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of provincial cancer research initiatives.  This was a huge success for the group and we couldn’t have been happier for year one of the fundraiser!

Wilde Bocce will be an annual event, bringing together family and friends each year in memory of Lucille Wilde.  We are excited with the idea of bringing in more tournament participants, and beating our 2014 fundraising total!

~By Guest Blogger Ashley A. Bodnarchuk

Vegreville Races to Beat Cancer

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The Vegreville Drag Racing Association (VDRA) is an eclectic group of car enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies who love drag racing as a sport and are passionate about supporting and sharing their craft in a safe and legal environment.

As the club is open to all levels of experience and types of vehicles—both stock and modified cars are permitted so long as they pass the technical safety inspection—VDRA ascribes to “bracket racing” to even out the potential advantage or disadvantage over a specific vehicle. The races have seen everything from a modified snowmobile to a dragster to an SUV go down the airstrip and challenge the quarter-mile.

VDRA’s mission to “keep it off the street” is supported by citizens, local businesses and members of surrounding areas. The sense of fellowship, teamwork, and camaraderie thrives both on and off the racetrack and reinforces what it means to be a “community”.

The VDRA has picked the Alberta Cancer Foundation as their charity of choice because all members have been touched by cancer in some form or another. Cancer is a disease that is not just suffered by those who are diagnosed but also felt by friends, families and their communities—and the money raised is used to directly impact and benefit those individuals and communities right in Alberta.

On August 16, 2014 the members and families of the VDRA encourage everyone to come out and help raise money for a worthy cause. Donate by clicking here or support by either being a spectator or entering a car. Never raced before? No worries. Newbies are always welcome and encouraged.

For more information on the Vegreville Drag Racing Association please visit us at vdra.org or find Vegreville Drag Racing Association on Facebook.

 ~By Guest Blogger Amy Hayduk

Practice Changing Clinical Trials

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Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute had many reasons to celebrate during their Grand Oncology Rounds on May 27, 2014.

Dr. John Mackey, director of clinical trials at the Cross Cancer Institute, highlighted important studies conducted within the CTU (Clinical Trial Unit) that are changing the standard of practice in Alberta and around the world. As well, outstanding physician accrual within the CTU was recognized, with Dr. Quincy Chu named the highest accruing physician overall. In fact, Alberta has a higher clinical trial participation rate than the national average.

Six researchers shared their clinical trial success stories throughout the hour long presentation. First was Dr. Michael Smylie, who shared that the Cross Cancer Institute had the largest accrual in Canada and one of the largest in North America for a study on the drug ipilimumab to treat metastatic melanoma. Thanks to the trials conducted, ipilimumab has now been deemed an approved melanoma treatment.

Next, Dr. Kerry Courneya spoke about START (Supervised Trial of Aerobic vs. Resistance Training). This was the first exercise trial to closely track a patient’s chemotherapy levels so it wouldn’t interfere with the results. The findings were positive with 91% overall survival in the exercise group, leading to assumptions that exercise can effect drug distribution and metabolism, allowing chemotherapy to work better. Furthermore, researchers found that physical activity during chemotherapy may promote physical activity during survivorship.

Dr. Michael Sawyer followed with a study on epirubicin, a treatment for breast and gastric cancers. Dr. Sawyer and his team discovered that morphine and epirubicin were metabolized by the same enzyme, leading them to search for futher ways to optimize epirubicin for breast cancer patients.

An Alberta idea for a study in immunotherapy for lung cancer, led globally by Dr. Charles Butts, found a 10% improvement in three year survival. The trial was the largest ever conducted in non small cell lung cancer.

Two more researchers, Dr. Kurian Joseph and Dr. John Amandie rounded off Grand Rounds with their presentations on Anal Canal Tomotherapy & the NCICPR7 Trial on the Benefits of Continuous vs. Intermittent Hormonal Therapy on Recurrent Prostate Cancer, respectively.

The Alberta Cancer Foundation is proud to have invested more than $20 million in support of clinical trials across the province over the past five years, ensuring access to the most current and innovative treatments to Albertans. With the continued support of our donors, we can continue to accelerate translational findings that will power state-of-the-art care right here at home in Alberta.