‘I owe my life to the team at The Princess Margaret’

Vasily Zadorojnyi initially thought the lesion on his tongue was from a crooked tooth. It turned out to be an aggressive form of oral cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

“I thought my life was pretty much over,” says the 29-year-old about his initial reaction to the diagnosis.

He received a partial tongue and neck resection in 2014 at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, followed by a full course of radiation. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning for Vasily.

One year later, he discovered a hard lump on his neck where the lymph nodes had been removed. The cancer had returned.

“The doctors weren’t hopeful. They said further treatments wouldn’t likely result in a positive outcome and chances of survival were low.”

Vasily was referred to Dr. Douglas Chepeha, head and neck surgeon at The Princess Margaret, where he received a leading-edge treatment, which resected the large tumour and transplanted new tissue.

“This type of surgery isn’t very common and I was told that 9 out of 10 surgeons probably wouldn’t go this far.”

The 16-hour surgery was a success and over three years later, Vasily is living cancer-free.

“I owe my life to the team at The Princess Margaret,” says Vasily. “It attracts the top talent that use the latest research. So I want to say thank you to all supporters who make it possible.”

‘The Princess Margaret saved my life and it saves a lot of people’s lives every single day’

Dana Warren’s cancer journey began with the flu. She was at home and felt so ill that she keeled over and clutched her chest.

That’s when she discovered something that didn’t feel right. After a referral from her doctor, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at The Princess Margaret.

“When you get that diagnosis, you stop to re-evaluate and you realize what’s important,” says Dana.

Treatment started with a lumpectomy, followed by eight weeks of chemotherapy and 21 sessions of radiation. During that time, Dana also received simultaneous infusions of a cancer-fighting drug called Herceptin every three weeks for a year.

Despite the circumstances, Dana has fond memories of her time in chemo thanks to the nursing staff who she calls “the heart and soul” of the Cancer Centre.

“The Princess Margaret became my home. They became my family,” says Dana.

On her last day of treatment, Dana rang the Bravery Bell, a tradition to mark the end of a patient’s chemotherapy.

Dana felt like she “won the lottery” when she was referred to The Princess Margaret for breast cancer treatment. She praises the Cancer Centre as being “the best of the best.”

“The Princess Margaret saved my life and it saves a lot of people’s lives every single day,” says Dana. “Thank you is not a big enough word.”

Watch Dana's Story

‘If it wasn’t for past research and funding at The Princess Margaret, I wouldn’t be here’

Sue Bell has been supporting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Home Lottery for decades. But she never thought she’d one day be receiving the lifesaving treatment it funds.

The Burlington, Ontario, woman was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer in June 2016 after finding a large mass in her abdomen.

She was referred to The Princess Margaret and believes it is the reason she is here today.

“I remember specifically walking through those doors and immediately feeling, ‘I’m going to be OK.’ I had that sense of warmth, that sense of, ‘I’m going to be taken care of’ and I was,” recalls Sue.

“And right from the beginning I was told ‘treatable and curable,’ which is amazing.”

Sue had her tumour, which had grown to 18cm, removed and underwent nine weeks of chemo. Throughout her treatment she maintained her energy, never felt sick and was able to continue working as a software programmer.

She is now doing extremely well and wants to encourage everyone to support The Princess Margaret to make sure other patients like her can access future care now.

“If it wasn’t for past research and funding at The Princess Margaret, I wouldn’t be here because there wouldn’t have been a cure for my cancer. That’s what we want for everyone.”

Watch Sue's Story

‘It’s been a pleasure to be a part of something that might change the future of treatments’

What was initially thought to be just a cold, turned into months of persistent coughing. That’s when Maurice Abbey decided to see a doctor.

He underwent six months of tests, including blood work, a bone marrow sample, a needle biopsy, a bronchoscopy procedure and a biopsy, before he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013.

Maurice was referred to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre where he received a stem cell transplant and radiation, before eventually enrolling in an immunotherapy clinical trial that he is still participating in.

“I’m excited about the new treatment philosophy regarding the immune system,” says Maurice. “It’s been a pleasure to be a part of something that might change the future of treatments.”

He says the nurses and doctors at The Princess Margaret are always open to discussing his treatment plan and they afford him time to ask questions or voice his concerns.

After his first round of treatment, Maurice thought he could put cancer behind him and move on. Now, he’s realized he can be a champion for change by sharing his story.

“It’s not about just closing the chapter, it’s a big part of your life,” says Maurice. “Open the blinds and share your story. It may touch someone else and hopefully it will help push things forward through the generosity of donors.”

Watch Maurice's Story