One year after being married, Steve and Cathy Merker faced the biggest challenge of their lives. Cathy, a teacher, had just begun the school year and she was exhausted. First passing it off as stress until some unusual bruising prompted a checkup.
That checkup led them straight to the oncology ward where Cathy was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. “As kinesiology grads and lifelong athletes, we never imagined hearing the c-word. It was a real wakeup call.” Steve said.
More testing revealed that she had (the only) one of seven subtypes that deemed her eligible for a new drug. Discoveries made by Dr. John Dick, Senior Scientist at The Princess Margaret, helped lead to a “wonder drug” and had proven to get patients like Cathy into the first stage of remission.
They spent six months in hospital, including two weeks in the ICU where Cathy relied on a C-PAP machine to breathe. “There was a 20% chance of side effects and I got them all.” Cathy said. “It felt like the drugs were saving her and killing her at the same time,” Steve added, “but our oncologist made bold, smart decisions that saved her life.” On April 1, 1997, Cathy reached a state of complete remission.
Steve, an avid cyclist, received a call one day that led to a conversation about a bike ride benefitting The Princess Margaret. That call served as the catalyst for ‘The Ride to Conquer Cancer’. An event fueled by his passion for the cause that has since become the largest cycling event in Canada.
Now, Vice President of Corporate & Community Partnerships, Steve says the job never gets old, “the money raised is something to celebrate but these events also serve as community support. It’s an incredible outlet for healing and I wake up each day with a profound sense of purpose.