For close to 25 years, the CURE Foundation has empowered Canadians to make a real difference in the fight against breast cancer by investing in programs for prevention and early detection, improving treatment, and supporting patients and their families.
Its flagship fundraising event, National Denim Day, mobilizes Canadians in their workplace or school to wear jeans and the pink ribbon and to donate to the Foundation on the Tuesday after Mother’s Day. This year’s event takes place on May 12, with plans to include over 400,000 participants across the country. Organizations can still sign up by contacting CURE and ordering their participation kit.
CURE’s work is targeted in three main areas: prevention, treatment, and support.
CURE was founded by breast cancer survivor Diane Proulx-Guerrera, who found a lump in her breast while in the shower. She was 38 years old, with two children. After going through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, she was declared in remission and she and her family decided to create something concrete that would enable them to give back and bring hope to those impacted by breast cancer. In 2018, she and her husband, Salvatore Guerrera, were appointed members of the Order of Canada.
CURE’s work is targeted in three main areas: prevention, treatment, and support. It encourages women to take their breast health into their own hands by checking themselves regularly and invests in breast cancer detection equipment in hospital centres across Canada. The Foundation funds innovative research aimed at improving treatment, and supports community programs and services for patients and families living with the impacts of a breast cancer diagnosis.
3 CURE-Funded Initiatives
An Innovation for Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Radiotherapy: The Rad.Onc.Bra
Suzanne Rossel (Radiation Oncology Technologist, MUHC)
Mediaplanet: What is the Rad.Onc.Bra and how does it benefit patients?
Suzanne Rossel: The Rad.Onc.Bra is a breast immobilization garment designed for large-breasted women undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer. By positioning the breasts higher on the chest wall, it eliminates folds in the skin that would otherwise cause burning, inflammation, and dermatitis. It also provides a better dose distribution of the radiation, decreasing the amount of irradiation to healthy organs like the lungs and heart.
How did the idea for it come about?
The Rad.Onc.Bra is the brainchild of two radio-oncology technologists at the Cedars Cancer Centre of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Nancie Raffis and Suzanne Rossel, who witnessed firsthand the harmful effects of radiotherapy on large-breasted women. They teamed up with a medical garment specialist, Diane Rousseau, and created the first prototype in 2010. After a series of clinical trials, much of their own personal investment, along with funding from “The Bell” Fund, the Cedars Cancer Foundation, and seed funding of $75,000 from the CURE Foundation, the fifth and final prototype is now accessible to patients of the MUHC.
Why is Rad.Onc.Bra passionate about innovating and advancing cancer care and why is it so important?
When the CURE Foundation first learned of the project, thanks to Judy Martin, founder of “The Bell” Fund, there was no question that it would be a good fit for the organization. As Robyn Dalton, Executive Director of the CURE Foundation, explains, “Here are three women, bearing witness to the suffering of others, and driven to do something about it to help them. It was this exact conviction that led our founder, Diane Proulx-Guerrera, to create the Foundation: to pay it forward for other patients undergoing breast cancer treatment. We knew we had to do what we could to help more women have access to this treatment-improving innovation.”
Helping Breast Cancer Patients Access Care with Free Travel Through Hope Air
Shirley Moore (Director of Marketing and Communications, Hope Air; Margaret is pictured on the left)
Living through life-changing news
Margaret’s life changed dramatically when she took a serious fall in 2017. The BC woman in her 70s had two broken vertebrae and was in so much pain she couldn’t walk. She then received even more shocking news.
Tests revealed that Margaret had breast cancer, and doctors also discovered a large mass in her pelvis.
Margaret, who raised four children and now has grandchildren, needed a very specialized operation to remove the tumour. That type of care was not available in her small village in the Kootenay Region, so she needed to travel to Vancouver — and she couldn’t delay. Margaret and her family considered driving the seven-and-a-half hours through winding mountain roads to get there.
“Maybe I could have tackled it,” she says.
But in her weakened state and still barely walking, a long drive along with the threat of snow and icy roads was daunting. Her local doctor told her about Hope Air, a national charity that provides Canadians in financial need with free travel and accommodations for medical care far from home. In 2019, Hope Air arranged 237 flights for patients with breast cancer, half of which were supported through a grant from the CURE Foundation.
“The communications with Hope Air were so smooth, friendly, and helpful,” Margaret recalls. “My daughter accompanied me.”
After her operation, the news was positive. The operation was a success. The tumour was benign.
“It was like a blessing that came to me,” Margaret says. “I call it the law of kindness. When you really need it, it comes around. Knowing that Hope Air is there to help gives you faith.”
Hope Air is Canada’s only national charity providing Canadians in financial need with free travel and Airbnb accommodations for medical care far from home, regardless of age or medical need. Since its inception in 1986, Hope Air has provided approximately 150,000 travel arrangements for patients.
For people living on a low income in small and rural communities, distance and cost are very real barriers to accessing vital medical care. Hope Air is a unique and essential part of our Canadian health care system. Without the access Hope Air provides, our national system of universal health care coverage would fall short of its promise. Hope Air has been chosen as one of Canada’s best 100 charities by Maclean’s magazine, MoneySense magazine, and Charity Intelligence based on efficiency, transparency, and need.
Improving Breast Reconstruction Surgery and Care at UBC
Elizabeth Moffat (Acting Associate Director of Marketing, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation)
Mediaplanet: How have the Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital accelerated advancements in breast reconstruction surgery for breast cancer patients?
With the appointment of Dr. Kathryn Isaac as Chair in Breast Reconstruction Surgery, the program aims to provide timely and equitable access to high-quality personalized care for all British Columbian women diagnosed with breast cancer. To achieve this goal, efforts will focus on improving the patient’s journey through breast cancer treatment and enhancing the delivery of personalized care. Specifically, the program will implement novel health care navigation strategies to improve the clinical experience, advance personalized care with the integration of bioinformatics, and develop an efficient system to ensure the delivery of high-quality care across the entire province. This is also an opportunity to develop and strengthen partnerships, advocate for policy changes, coordinate training and education, and build an efficient research team in cancer care delivery.
Why is the Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital passionate about innovating and advancing cancer care and why is it so important?
The Chair is named in memory of Dr. Patricia Clugston, a talented surgeon who passed away at the height of her career. She was a champion for all women facing breast cancer who believed that every mother, wife, sister, grandmother, and friend deserved efficient, consistent, and coordinated care during their cancer treatment journey. Currently, this journey to physical and emotional recovery for women with breast cancer can be difficult, as not only do they have to deal with the disease, they must also navigate a complex treatment system. “I’m incredibly proud to champion the betterment of breast cancer care and breast reconstruction in this province,” says Dr. Isaac. “Despite the exceptional comprehensive care available in BC, women diagnosed with breast cancer can be faced with delays to accessing care and struggle to navigate the medical system on their own. By optimizing the system for delivery of care, we aim to improve patient experiences, outcomes, and the value of health care provided.”
Robyn Dalton is Executive Director of the CURE Foundation.