For women battling cancer, Cameco Touchdown for Dreams is a chance for a happy memory and something to look forward to while they fight for their lives.
Thanks to a partnership between Cameco, the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and the Roughriders, 10 women who are facing a life-threatening diagnosis of cancer are seeing their dreams come true.
Christina Bieber from Wolseley was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in August 2014.
“At the time, I was 18 weeks pregnant and was scared out of my mind,” she explained.
Going through chemotherapy while she was pregnant is an experience she can only describe as awful. She says God was by her side and protected both her and her baby.
Now she is cancer free and her son Noah is nine months old.
“He was born very healthy and had no signs of chemo in his blood when he was born and he is a little go getter and into everything,” she said.
She had heard about Touchdown for Dreams from family members but she can barely remember filling out the application because she was so sick undergoing chemotherapy at the time.
Now she cherishes the memories of a family trip to Disneyland with her husband and three daughters in July.
“I wanted to go specifically to Disneyland because it’s where dreams come true and my kids, I just wanted to see smiles on their faces,” Bieber said. “We went through a really, really tough year. It was difficult being pregnant and I just wanted to see a smile on their faces and to be able to give them something happy to look forward to.”
She remembers crying on the first ride because her daughters were having such a wonderful time and so was she. Her favourite memory is seeing her daughters – ages 10, seven and five – treated like princesses. Noah stayed home with his grandparents.
Bieber says Cameco Touchdown for Dreams is an amazing program and she is especially thankful for the people involved who always treated her with such kindness and respect.
“I just hope that I can give hope and faith to other women going through this that there is something to look forward to,” she said.
Bieber adds that she has gained special friendships with the other women who were granted dreams because they each understand what the others are going through.
Marla Cole from Saskatoon is still looking forward to fulfilling her dream of doing a professional violin recording. She plays in the Amadi Quartet and she has dreamed of doing a recording for many years.
“It hasn’t been done yet because my left hand is still numb from the chemotherapy drugs and I’m just waiting for them to come back to life,” she said.
Cole has been through this battle before. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. In 2014, the cancer came back metastasizing in her bones, liver and adrenal glands. She says she was shocked by the diagnosis because she felt fine with no symptoms other than a tiny bump on her head. An MRI scan came back showing a tumour the size of her fist growing inside her skull and pushing on her brain. The surgeon said it was the part of her brain that controls motor skills.
“When he greeted me he said ‘how are you doing?’ And I said ‘fine,’ and he said ‘you shouldn’t even be walking.’ I said, ‘well I just played a concert last night, I’m fine’,” she explained.
When she saw the scans she was horrified because the tumor had actually pushed her brain to the side. After going through surgery, radiation and five months of chemotherapy, she has now had the summer to recover and feels like she is back on her feet and even playing music again.
“It’s the most-bizarre thing, I’m actually learning to play without feeling the ends of my fingers. I have been playing for myself. I certainly am not performing concerts right now,” Cole explained. “A violinist relies on the touch and the feeling in their hands, so it’s kind of bizarre to go at it from a different direction. But you know, things are possible.”
It was a friend who told her to go for her dream of doing a professional music recording and now she can’t wait to do it.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel. This is something to look forward to, something to be happy about,” she said.
Cole has a stage four diagnosis and she says facing a terminal illness really makes her look at every day differently. She says her two children and her husband are the most important part of her life, but music has also always been a part of her.
Eight other women were chosen for the Touchdown for Dreams program this year including: Kim MacLeod of Pilot Butte, Kristin Fiolleau of Martensville, Val Todd from Qu’Appelle, Sylvia Dycer from Saskatoon, Sally Spoelder from Canora, Shauna Blackmer from North Battleford and Lindsay Enns from Warman.
Sadly, three of the women have died in the past month and a half. Two had the chance to fulfill their dreams earlier this summer but one will not get that chance. The Touchdown for Dreams program is working with the family of Lindsay Enns to grant a dream in her memory.
On Saturday, Roughrider fans can buy special Cameco Touchdown for Dreams souvenirs with all profits going toward the program.