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United against cancer
Have symptoms, get checked, survivor says

by Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 4, 2014

When Peter McIntyre's father died of prostate cancer, the Iqaluit resident decided he should get checked, too. He had no symptoms, but he's thankful he checked.

"Sure enough, there was something there, so I had my prostate removed," said McIntyre, 62, who was living in Corner Brook, N.L., at the time.

"That was six years ago and I'm doing great. Everything's clear and will hopefully stay that way."

NNSL photo/graphic

The Education For Life team raised the most at the 2014 Iqaluit Relay for Life. Team members include Sarah LeBlanc, left, Melanie Abbott, Napatsi Folger, Sarah McMahon, Lauren Nevin, Cate Macleod, Emmy Aoudla-Henrie, Maxwell Piercey, Jessica Penney, and Shawna Balanko. - Casey Lessard/NNSL photo

McIntyre was one of two cancer survivors attending the Relay for Life, a non-competitive walking fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society held July 26 at the Iqaluit Arctic Winter Games arena.

It was the second year for the event, and about 100 people including 62 participants on 11 teams attended the afternoon relay, which raised $36,155 for cancer research.

Although Nunavut has a lower rate of cancer than most Canadian jurisdictions, Nunavummiut have the lowest chances of surviving cancer of anyone in Canada. Lung cancer is the leading cancer in Nunavut, accounting for one-third of all cases, and tied to the fact that 59.8 per cent of Nunavummiut use tobacco.

"In Nunavut, we have high rates of lung cancer due to smoking," said top fundraiser Melanie Abbott, who raised $5,090. Her mother survived cancer, as have several friends. "Anything we can do to raise awareness is helpful. The money obviously matters, but it's important for people to know that people care, and that there are ways of preventing cancer, including healthy diet and healthy living."

For Abbott, the highlight of the event was the tradition of lighting luminaries candles placed in paper bags set along the relay route.

"People bought luminaries for $5 in honour of somebody who is important in their life who was touched by cancer," she said. "They turned all the lights off and we did a walk around and it was a really incredible moment."

Nunavut Health Minister Monica Ell was the event's mistress of ceremonies. She reflected on the friends she has lost to the disease.

"In the earlier days, when people first started hearing about cancer, if you were told you had it, it was very depressing," Ell said. "The immediate thought is that you're going to die. But these days, it can be fought. People need to know that we need to see the signs early, get treated early. It can be beaten."

Peter McIntyre is a testament to this. His daughter is also a survivor.

"I have a lot of people that talk to me with symptoms, and I always encourage them to get checked out, don't wait," he said.

"Cancer doesn't care if you're five years old or 100 years old."

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