Giving back – grateful patient raises funds to support the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer

Laura Stephan, a 33-year-old mom of four from Red Deer was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in April 2019.

Looking back, Laura remembers having had all the tell-tale symptoms of Leukemia – bruising, joint pain, fatigue – but unfortunately, she didn’t know the signs and paid little attention to them. It wasn’t until she felt a lump in her stomach that she finally decided to see her family doctor and got some blood work done.

After returning home from a weekend trip to Nashville, Laura was surprised to find a number of voice messages from her doctor. Her blood results had come back and shown an extremely high white blood cell count and she was told that she had leukemia.

“The day I found out I had cancer, I cried all night long. I couldn’t sleep and my anxiety was through the roof. I thought I was going to die as my dad died from cancer.”

The next day, Laura met with a Hematologist and learned more about her cancer. Without treatment, she had about three to six months to live, but with effective treatment, she was told that she could live a pretty normal length of life. Laura’s hematologist made a request to start her on targeted therapy, a treatment specific to her type of cancer. As part of her treatment, she takes a pill called Dasatinib every day.

Fortunately, this medication has been very effective for her and has allowed Laura to go back to living a regular life, where she can continue to work and be a mother to her four children.

“For the most part, I am doing pretty good now and have found a new normal. I have a monthly blood test and based on the results, monitor myself to see what I can or cannot do that month. I can’t take medications like other people so I’m learning to take care of myself when I’m sick or in pain.”

This pill keeps her alive. But it comes at a cost. A monthly cost of $4,668.24 to be exact. 

“The medication is very expensive. The annual cost for my cancer medicine is about $56,000 a year.”

But Laura is grateful because not everyone gets a chance like this. Only CML Cancer patients in Alberta and Ontario are able to start on this 2nd generation cancer treatment. And fortunately, with the help of government funding, she is able to cover the cost of her daily cancer medication. The Red Deer resident feels blessed to live somewhere that has helpful programs and support for cancer patients.

To give back to the community that has helped her, Laura will be holding a bowling fundraiser on March 28th in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation. The proceeds will go towards supporting cancer patients at the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer.

“I hope to raise at least $4,668.24, which is the equivalent cost of one month of the medicine I take each day. I want these funds to benefit other cancer patients receiving treatment at the Central Alberta Cancer Centre. There are so many different types of cancer that affect so many of us in one way or another, but the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Central Alberta Cancer Centre are here to help. And I would like to support them in any way that I can.”

We are the official fundraising partner for all 17 Cancer Control Alberta cancer centres in Alberta, including the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer. You can support Laura’s fundraiser by making a donation here.