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Dispelling the shadows, one survivor at a time

 There is a short period of time after a cancer diagnosis in your child where life stops, if only in your mind. For you there is nothing, only a vain struggle to somehow dispel the accumulating darkness. But, outside, in the real world, there is still a job to go to, bills to be paid, groceries to be purchased and now medication ordered as well as numerous hospital visits.

Edwina Eddy"You kind of feel like somebody's hit you with a baseball bat," Edwina Eddy, founder of the Childhood Cancer Foundation Canada, said. "You try to get up and figure out what to do next and how do you manage it?"

Bryan, Edwina's son, was diagnosed with AML Leukemia, which is a form of blood cancer, at the age of 13. In May of 1976, Bryan and other members of Canadians for Health Research, marched to Ottawa to protest the federal government's bill, which would reduce the medical research budget. They were successful. The only discussion in parliament at the time was on capital punishment, and so Bryan made his own picket sign and led the group. Unhappily, he died that August, but he felt good about the work he had done in May. He continued to encourage Edwina with the work she was doing.

Aside from starting support groups across the country with some assistance from the federal government and members of the Canadian Cancer Society, Edwina made sure that the families and professionals could receive any information that they required. Communication between families and their children got started, along with some funding for research, and the scholarship program for survivors who wanted to further their education after they finished secondary school. This year over 150 applications for survivor scholarships have been received and all of them will be accepted.

Another program recently amended was the EI compassionate leave bill. Families with seriously ill children will now receive longer benefit periods to care for their child. “My only regret,” Edwina said, “is that of all the money raised for Cancer Research, only three per cent of the total is given to childhood cancer research.”

Though long retired, Edwina is still quite involved in the organization. For her hard work and dedication, she was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross, which is given to civilians who have performed a deed in an "outstandingly professional manner, or with uncommonly high standards. The activity is often innovative, sets an example for others to follow, improves the quality of life of a community, and brings considerable benefit or honour to Canada," according to the GG website.

Edwina, a resident at Red Oak Retirement Residence in Kanata, was astonished that she was being given this award, but on reflection felt that if she had done something worthwhile, she was pleased that Canadians honoured her work. The motto that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness resonated through the country and now many "candles" have been lit and there is a bright light bringing assistance to families who up to now had to suffer in silence.

For more information about the Foundation, visit http://www.childhoodcancer.ca/
 

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