I’m living proof that one can lead a normal life after cancer.
Lisa Hamel was just 11 months old when she was diagnosed with cancer. The year was 1984. While giving her toddler a bath, Lisa’s mother felt a lump on her side. After a series of tests, her parents’ worst fears were confirmed when doctors told them a large tumour had taken over Lisa’s left kidney and that the cancer had spread to the baby’s lungs.
Lisa received chemotherapy treatments and had 2 operations, one to remove her left kidney and another to remove spots on her lungs. At the age of 4, Lisa was declared cancer-free.
When Lisa was 10, her parents decided she was old enough to understand what she had gone through as a baby. Despite having no memory of her cancer, Lisa says it affected her life in a positive way. “Cancer made me the person I am today,” she says. “I am living proof that one can lead a normal life after cancer.”
Today, Lisa works as an ultrasound technologist at St Catharines General Hospital, and she is still cancer-free. The only reminder of the disease is that she only has one functioning kidney, which isn’t working at full capacity.
As a survivor of childhood cancer, Lisa recognizes the importance of funding innovative cancer research. “I wouldn’t be here today if organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society did not fund cancer research,” she says. “Hopefully, donations collected today, spent on research, programs and services, will ensure that future generations won’t have to go through what I did.”
The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest funder of childhood cancer research in the country. Thanks in part to research funded by the Society, the rate of childhood cancer deaths has declined by about 50% since 1985. The Society also advocates for better support for parents and guardians who need to care for children with cancer.
Lisa also says being a childhood cancer survivor influenced her choice of career. It was all those visits to the doctor’s office over the years that inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare. She hopes that by sharing her story of survival and raising awareness, she can inspire other Canadians who have cancer.
”If I could give one piece of advice to kids who are fighting cancer and their families, I would say to have faith and never give up. You may want to give up, but then you find strength that you didn’t even know you had.”