Candace Weimer
  • Featured Content
  • April8th

    April 4, 2012

    Social
    media fuels desperate search for life-saving stem cell donors

    Through creative uses of social media, the number of
    Canadians who have signed up with the stem-cell and bone-marrow registry
    OneMatch

    By ANDRÉ PICARD,
    Public Health Reporter
    The Globe and Mail

    David Geneen suffers
    from a rare blood disorder that, without treatment, will result in deadly
    leukemia.

    So he decided to
    throw a party. “It was a festive and warm affair, a great success,” said Mr.
    Geneen, a retired luxury-car dealer.

    But it was no
    ordinary party.

    More than 700
    friends and strangers recently showed up at Holy Blossom Temple in downtown
    Toronto on a Sunday afternoon, and almost everyone aged 17 to 50 – a total of
    428 people – underwent a CSI-like swab.

    That’s because Mr.
    Geneen, 64, has exhausted drug treatments and now needs a transplant of stem
    cells – which are be harvested from blood or bone marrow, and have to be a
    perfect match. The partygoers who underwent a cheek swab were, in fact, joining
    OneMatch, a registry for unrelated stem-cell and bone-marrow
    donors.

    Social-media
    explosion

    There are now almost
    320,000 Canadians who have signed up with OneMatch. The number has exploded in
    recent years, thanks to community-based activities and the ability to order swab
    kits online, both driven by creative use of social media. While the stem-cell
    and marrow registry has been around since 1988, it was rebranded OneMatch in
    2007 and only started actively soliciting donations in the last couple of years,
    after pressure from families.

    The Facebook page
    David Geneen Bone Marrow Drive, caught the eye of Daniel Zuckerman so the
    17-year-old offered up his band to provide entertainment at the party. Then, he
    and the other members of Truthful Lies got swabbed, a quick and painless swipe
    with a Q-Tip along the inside of the cheek.

    “I never heard about
    this kind of donation before but it’s a cool concept,” he said. His data will
    now go into a OneMatch registry and be part of a network of databanks that
    include 18 million people in 44 countries
    worldwide.

    Massive numbers like
    that are required because stem-cell matches are determined according to DNA
    markers on white blood cells called human leucocyte antigens. There are 10 HLAs
    and, ideally, all 10 should match for the donor and recipient to minimize the
    risk of a transplant being rejected.

    “It’s like trying to
    find someone with the same fingerprint as you,” said John Bromley, national
    public-affairs manager at OneMatch. “It’s the proverbial search for a needle in
    a haystack.”

    At any given time,
    about 900 Canadians are awaiting a stem-cell transplant. Only about one-third of
    them will manage to find a match.

    Baby
    Reese

    One child who defied
    the odds is 22-month-old Reese Hawkins, who suffers from a form of leukemia. The
    family of the Pictou, N.S., girl learned just last month that OneMatch had
    located a donor. In fact, they found three potential donors – two live donors
    abroad, and one donor to a cord blood bank.

    Reese is now at the
    Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where chemotherapy began yesterday, and a
    stem-cell transplant is scheduled for April 12. She then must remain as an
    outpatient for 100 days – likely in Halifax – to deal with complications and
    ensure the stem cells are engrafted.

    Kora Hanrahan,
    Reese’s mother, said they are overwhelmed but overjoyed at the prospect of a
    life-saving transplant.

    “All I know is that
    a mom made a decision to donate her baby girl’s umbilical cord and that’s going
    to save my girl’s life,” Ms. Hanrahan said.

    “Reese’s donor will
    never ever get to know what they’ve done for us but we owe that person
    everything.”

    Multicultural
    drive

    If the odds weren’t
    astronomical enough already, matches rarely occur outside racial groups because
    each ethnicity has inherited haplotypes, a combination of DNA and location on
    chromosomes. In the United States, the odds are 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 for
    a match from a stranger and significantly higher for ethnic minorities.
    Practically, in a multicultural country like Canada, that means the need to
    build a stem-cell bank collected from members of numerous ethnic
    groups.

    “Our main thrust is
    diversity,” Mr. Bromley said, noting that currently, 76 per cent of the
    registrants in the database are Caucasian.

    But other
    initiatives like South Asians for Life and the Other Half Chinese Stem Cell
    Initiative have sprung up and recruited potential donors on a large
    scale.

    The latter conducted
    drives last Saturday in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal and netted
    4,616 new potential donors. Susan Go, co-founder of the Other Half, noted that
    of the 966 Canadians waiting for stem-cell transplants, 32 are of Chinese
    background.

    When someone needs
    stem cells, their first best hope for a match is immediate family members.
    Still, fewer than 25 per cent find a match.

    A
    success story

    Candace Weimer, 38,
    of Green Lake, B.C., was a lucky one – if you dare describe her ordeal as lucky.
    In the spring of 2005, the super-fit personal trainer was feeling increasingly
    rundown and frustrated by the changes in her body. “I looked like a chicken
    hawk: I had skinny legs and a big abdomen,” she said with a
    laugh.

    Tests revealed that
    she had myelofibrosis, a disorder where the body slowly destroys its bone
    marrow.

    Her brother was a
    match so he became the donor. The process was easy: He underwent apheresis, a
    process that is similar to giving blood, except that blood is drawn, the
    stem-cell-rich platelets are extracted and the red and white cells are returned
    to the body. “It wasn’t a big deal. He sat in a chair for two hours, they drew
    some blood and he saved my life,” Ms. Weimer said.

    Receiving a
    stem-cell transplant, however, is a much more taxing ordeal. First, it is
    necessary to shut down the body’s immune system so the body will not reject the
    foreign substance, stem cells. That is done with chemotherapy, which Ms. Weimer
    described thus: “They chemo you to the brink of death.” Then the patient’s
    immune system is suppressed with drugs for 100 days until the stem cells take
    and the immune system is rebuilt, cancer-free.

    Like most stem-cell
    recipients, she experienced a host of complications. Infection twice brought her
    to the brink of death. Bacteria lurking in her knee caused a blood infection
    that was almost fatal; another infection brought her to the brink of death a
    second time. The medications she required, such as steroids, also destroyed the
    bone in her hip (necessitating a hip replacement), and has caused permanent
    damage to an eye.

    “Was it all worth
    it? Oh God, yes,” Ms. Weimer said. “That was the best-case scenario. Without the
    transplant, I was dead.”

    To donate stem
    cells, visit www.blood.ca or phone 1-888-2-DONATE

     

    April 4, 2012

    Public
    umbilical cord blood bank in Canada’s future

    The Globe and Mail

    Ottawa and the
    provinces have just decided to invest $48-million over eight years to create a
    cord blood banking system, one that should be up and running within a year.

    Canada
    is one of the few G20 countries without a public umbilical cord blood bank.
    That’s about to change.

    Ottawa and the
    provinces have decided to invest $48-million over eight years to create a cord
    blood banking system, one that should be up and running within a
    year.

    The umbilical cord,
    which connects a baby in the womb to its mother, contains blood that is a rich
    source of stem cells. The cord is usually discarded along with the
    placenta.

    In the coming years,
    however, there will be an effort to systematically collect umbilical-cord blood,
    particularly from babies who are aboriginal or of mixed race – groups for whom
    it is nearly impossible to find stem-cell matches.

    “Canada has unique
    mixed-race ethnicities and aboriginal populations. That’s why we’re going to be
    targeting those folks in particular,” said Sue Smith, executive director of
    OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network at Canadian Blood Services, which will be
    managing the cord blood bank.

    The program will
    begin in Ottawa in the spring of 2013, then expand to Vancouver, Edmonton and
    Toronto in 2014. (Quebec already has its own cord bank.) Collection kits will
    also be distributed to hospitals and birthing centres where there are high
    number of aboriginal births.

    Cord blood can be
    collected in-utero, just after the baby is born but before the placenta is
    delivered, or ex-utero, extracted before the umbilical cord and placenta are
    discarded. The blood will then be sent to a laboratory in Ottawa or Edmonton
    where stem cells will be extracted, tested and cryopreserved in a special
    freezer.

    Canada’s cord blood
    bank will be linked in a database to 44 others around the world, where there are
    already more than half a million samples.

    Currently, there are
    a handful of private cord blood banks that allow parents to store their child’s
    cord blood for personal use, should the need ever arise. This service costs
    upwards of $1,000.

    There are no fees
    for the public cord bank and the stem cells will be freely available to any
    patients who are a match, domestically or
    internationally.


    –ANDRÉ
    PICARD

  • March31st

    Link here (Page 5) of the Cariboo Advisor –>

    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fissuu.com%2Fcariboo_advisor%2Fdocs%2Fcadn120328_a%3Fmode%3Dwindow%26viewMode%3DdoublePage&h=8AQHG0vhDAQFkP4sctWwQdPXS1dJ47S3r_dpR1y_O_CKWRQ

  • March28th

    Candace will be facilitating a Healing with Hearts and Hands session in partnership with the Dare To Care cancer support group in the Rosetown, SK area on May 29, 2012 from 11 am to 2:30 pm.
    If you know a cancer patient or caregiver in Rosetown or one of the surrounding communities who might benefit from a two hour session with others who are feeling isolated as a result of their diagnosis or treatment of cancer, please have them register with Armella Rollheiser for the free session:  Ph: 882-2278 or e-mail:  a.l.rollheiser@sasktel.net.
    For more information on the session, please contact Candace at cweimer@sasktel.net.
  • February23rd

    Cancer Bridges (cancerbridges.ca) connects Alberta cancer survivors with the resources they need to make the rest of their life the best of their life.

    The Cancer Bridges website is meant for Albertan cancer patients and their caregivers, but has great information for cancer patients outside of the province as well.  This new website offers a connection to a network of people who are also going through unbelievable times, cancer research, survivorship resources, and myth busters to surviving cancer.

    Cancer Bridges Website —–>   http://www.cancerbridges.ca/

  • February16th

    Candace was one of four Canadian authors that were chosen to write a children’s book for the Northern Alberta Ronald McDonald House located in Edmonton, Alberta to help children and their families cope with unexpected family illness.

    The children’s book will be launched at The Storybook Ball on Sunday, March 4, 2012, in Edmonton.  For tickets to the event, or to purchase a book, please contact Jen at: 780-439-5437.

    For more information on The Story Book Ball, link here – > http://www.rmhnorthernalberta.org/users/folder.asp?FolderID=7448

    The Ronald McDonald House® Northern Alberta provides a home away from home and
    support for sick children and their families. Since opening in 1985, the purpose
    of the House has remained the same: keeping families together while the child is
    being treated for illness in a compassionate and comfortable, home-like
    atmosphere

     

  • February15th

    Candace,

    My name is Kyla McMullin.
    I felt compelled to write to you
    after finishing your book last night.
    Like you, the world dropped in on me
    this year.  I gave birth to my first baby, the most beautiful baby girl you
    could imagine,  on February 21st of this year.  3 days later, I was diagnosed
    with Hodgkins Lymphoma.  With a few ups and downs, 1 cesarean, 3 surgeries, a
    melanoma scare, serious infection (including 1 week in isolation away from my
    newborn), I have been successfully done treatment as of Sept 19th, and I am
    completely inspired to live a new life.

    Like you, I documented my
    journey in the form of a journal/blog, and im in the process of hopefully having
    it published, for the same reasons you published your book.  To give back, and
    to give HOPE.  I did not start reading your book, until my journey was complete
    (so far so good).  I am so glad I waited, because I read your story with such
    honor for how you handled your situation, and I feel that although our journeys
    were very different, we handled each situation in a positive light.  And within
    your inspiring words, I could still hear the silent fear and ache in your
    deepest thoughts (or perhaps I was just feeling this for myselft).  Regardless,
    your book was very valuable to me, and I want you to know that you are paying it
    forward, so thank you.

    I specifically enjoyed your section about using
    humour (not everyone can understand this).  I specifically remember standing in
    line at Costco on a Saturday, as patiently as any person can be at Costco.  I
    was rocking a pink scarf on my head, and amongst the stares, I kept thinking to
    myself “can’t these people tell that my days are numbered!!”  A bad joke indeed,
    but humour brought much light to my situation.  I find it easiest to laugh at
    things that hurt the most…it truly helps.

    Candace, I really wanted to
    email you just to say thank you.  As I am beginning what I feel to be the most
    difficult part of the cancer journey so far, treatment is done, and I am
    sporting the new hair of a twelve year old boy…I am so thankful for all of the
    blessings I have recieved in the last year, but I am trying to piece life back
    together, in a different way it seems.  The hard part, having changed so much
    and perhaps not feeling the same change from those closest to me (not sure if
    you went through this).  I know I am only able to control my life, but I
    struggle to re-enter an unchanged world after having all of what is truly
    important exposed to me on the deepest levels (and I am still suprised at just
    how simple it is).
    So again, that is why I just wanted to tell you
    thanks.

    And hopefully one day you can read my book
    (I believe it is meant to be), and you will allow me the honour to pay it
    forward as well.

    Sincerely,
    Kyla McMullin

  • February3rd

    Hello Candace,
    I am a daughter of your friends.
    They gave me your book for Christmas. It was inspirational and insightful,
    thank you for sharing. I am always intrigued about people’s cancer journeys as
    every single one is so different.  As tough and sometimes horrible a cancer
    journey is, I think a lot of people get to find out and realize how strong they
    really are.

    I have been doing well.  My brain tumour is still stable and
    low-grade [diagnosed in 2006 with an inoperable brain stem tumour], it’s just a
    silent passenger I have to live with.  My husband and are [now] living in Nova
    Scotia.  Life is good.  I recently got hired for one of my dream jobs, since the
    tumour prevents me from being a firefighter.

    But I just wanted to say hi,
    and thanks.

    Cheers, Christina

    Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada:   —->    http://www.braintumour.ca/

  • January13th

     I loved your honesty.  I loved how your heart shone through as you were describing so many things.   I can’t believe the time
    and quality of your responses to so many of your friends and how totally unselfish you were throughout the journey. I don’t
    know what kept you going some days, and believe that your positive attitude and
    willingness to always look forward contributed to your success.

    You are  truly an inspiration.  I am so glad that you wrote this book. You talked about all the things that as a caregiver people are afraid to ask. I lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer in 1997, and his stoicism will always be remembered.” Laurie Murray, Brandon, Manitoba, CANADA

  • December13th

    A Tale in the Telling (page 23, Leap magazine) highlights Candace’s cancer journey as part of way cancer patients deal with their experiences, great and small.

    Leap Magazine, Winter 2011 link – >  http://myleapmagazine.ca/2011/12/winter-2011/

    Alberta Cancer Foundation link -> http://albertacancer.ca/Page.aspx?pid=641

    The Alberta Cancer Foundation is more than a charity—

    it’s a movement for cancer-free lives,today, tomorrow and forever.
    It’s a movement of those who know a cancer-freefuture is possible and who won’t settle for “some day.”
    It’s a movementof Albertans who stand with those who have no choice but to stand up to cancer.
    It’s a movement of those who know somethingcan be done and are willing to do it.
    For those facing cancer today, in honour of those lost to cancer, and for generations to come,we promise progress.
  • December8th

    The book signing at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops on Thursday, December 15 had many amazing people drop in to share their stories about cancer.  Thank you to everyone who made the time to say “hi”.

    Royal Inland Hospital link:

    http://www.interiorhealth.ca/health-services.aspx?id=284