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Hope springs eternal

There are many telltale signs of spring, not least of which is the appearance of early-blooming flowers such as daffodils. Given the long winter, fresh flowers are in short supply, but the Canadian Cancer Society is providing the next best thing with the lapel pins that are part of its annual daffodil campaign. The fundraiser also highlights something else that comes with the spring weather: hope and optimism about the future.

Elmira’s Sarah Bradshaw, a cancer survivor, is taking part in this month’s daffodil campaign launched by the Canadian Cancer Society.[Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Elmira’s Sarah Bradshaw, a cancer survivor, is taking part in this month’s daffodil campaign launched by the Canadian Cancer Society. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
“It’s been a nice kind of marriage of timing for the Cancer Society. April is the month where typically we start to see more growth and there are signs of hope – and hope is very much something that we try to bring to people who are either battling the disease or know people who are. It’s a very potent symbol, actually, and it’s great that April has become kind of our month here at the Cancer Society,” said Elmira resident and volunteer Sarah Bradshaw, herself a survivor of breast cancer.

The daffodil campaign kicks off the group’s spring and summer fundraising and awareness projects. The organization helps in the fight against some 200 types of cancer through public-support programs and funding new research.

In past years, Bradshaw represented the campaign at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. The crowds are a chance to meet people from many walks of life, and to reinforce just why it is volunteer efforts are so worthwhile.

“I remember two years ago when I was selling [daffodils]. A mom and dad came by with their little boy and he had a tube in his nose. I sort of looked at him and said, ‘How are you doing? Eating everything you want to eat?’ And his mom said he was actually in the middle of treatment but he’s so excited. ‘He’s hungry and he wants to eat all of this stuff – we’re so excited that it’s going so well.’ And I just thought this is why I am doing this, why I am standing here in the cold selling daffodils: it’s for him.”

For Bradshaw, the end of winter marks five years of being cancer-free. She began her work with the Waterloo-Wellington branch of the society several years before her diagnosis, after a friend from Elmira fell sick with the disease and passed away.

“Five years is sort of a magic number. It means that if you survive that long, your chances of recurrence drop down quite significantly so it’s been a very exciting February-March for me because that’s when I was diagnosed and started my treatment,” she said.

“Breast cancer is unfortunately something that is very prevalent. I had my own battle with it, but it certainly helps to make meaning of what you’ve gone through if you can then pay it forward in a way and support others.”

The organization’s research grants change every year. Canadian Cancer Society-funded researcher Dr. David Hammond at the University of Waterloo has researched cancer’s connection to the food we eat, thanks to the funds.

“The fact is that our eating habits are leading us to more obesity, which is leading to higher incidents of cancer. That was an interesting kind of new research that we are funding and that’s the kind of thing that changes every year,” Bradshaw explained.

More work needs to be done for cancers where progress is frustratingly slow. Rare forms of cancer require more funds, she added.

The society will not be selling fresh daffodils this month, unlike previous years, but focusing on the distribution of daffodil pins instead. A total of $9,881.39 in daffodil sales was raised in Woolwich last year.

The organization holds several large fundraisers throughout the year including daffodil pin distribution and the upcoming Ride and Stride through Woolwich at the end of the month. The township’s second Relay for Life event takes place in June. This month is more about raising awareness, said Bradshaw.

“There are lots of ways that people can show their support for people who are close to them, who are fighting cancer or if they want to honour people who have lost people to cancer. They can proudly wear a pin; they can participate in a variety of events; they can give if there is a canvasser who comes to their door.”

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