© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Volunteer Marie Jensen poses with the four cancer survivors whose stories she told at the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual gala and fundraiser on Wednesday. From left to right: Lisa Rascher, Jensen, Bruce Vance, Cindy Gaetz and Lorraine Penner.
Designed as a fun ladies’ night out, one segment of the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual women’s gala and fundraiser in Prince Albert highlights the event’s deeper meaning.
Following dinner at this year’s event at the P.A. Exhibition Centre -- dubbed “The Great Masquerade” -- volunteer Marie Jensen shared the stories of four area cancer survivors.
Among them was Prince Albert Raiders business manager Bruce Vance, the first male cancer survivor to be featured at the event in 19 years.
“I was sitting at home watching the news and I heard his story and I said, ‘OK, he’s coming with me to the women’s cancer night this year,’” Jensen recalled.
“It was something that felt right,” she added.
The other three survivors at Wednesday’s gala included Lorraine Penner, Cindy Gaetz and Lisa Rascher.
Currently living in Duck Lake, where she co-owns Penner’s Café, Penner’s first encounter with cancer came 20 years ago at the age of 48 when doctors found a tumour in her abdomen.
Though that cancer went into remission, eight years later cancer was found in her breast, prompting her to undergo a double mastectomy.
Taking the decision not to undergo more chemotherapy, today she uses pain medication and draws strength from her family and her faith.
“For me it was very uplifting, a renewal, to know that I’m not alone, and I’m very happy to have been here and shared my story,” Penner said.
Gaetz was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called ocular melanoma not long after her own father was diagnosed with cancer that eventually proved fatal.
Undergoing radiation therapy, she will continue to have an ultrasound every six months for the next five years.
“I was very honoured to be asked (here) and it was a very humbling experience,” Gaetz said.
“I wanted to participate to help educate people about a very rare cancer, ocular melanoma … This organization is just doing a bang-up job gathering everyone together in fellowship, and it’s a comfort.”
“For me it was very uplifting, a renewal, to know that I’m not alone, and I’m very happy to have been here and shared my story. Lorraine Penner
Rascher was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and later had a successful lumpectomy.
Returning to work in July 2006, she has been cancer-free ever since.
“It’s just unreal how many people go through this experience … Nobody knows what it’s like ‘til you’ve been through it,” Rascher said.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to share with these other recipients.”
Vance was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013 mere hours after a Grey Cup house party.
Initially undergoing surgery, he later began chemotherapy and will have his eighth of 12 scheduled treatments this Friday.
“Certainly it was an honour to be the first-ever male to take part in this amazing night, and to be onstage with these three amazing women was an honour for me as well,” Vance said.
“We’ve all been through quite the journey and it is continuing for some of us … (It was) very, very uplifting and … (I’m) very honoured just to be part of it.”