TORONTO, April 27, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today Sharon Ruth will be proudly wearing a daffodil pin to support her daughter Colleen, a cancer survivor. In 2003, six-year-old Colleen was diagnosed with leukemia, but now she is an active, healthy 15-year-old who says, "cancer motivated me to make the best of my life."
Sharon is thankful that her daughter is doing well, and she is taking special time on the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Day to reflect on her daughter's cancer journey, celebrate her survival and think of others who are living with cancer.
In May 2003, when Sharon and her husband, Daniel, took Colleen to the hospital because she had a rash, the last thing on their mind was cancer. After receiving their daughter's diagnosis, Sharon and Daniel did their best to maintain their hope throughout Colleen's three-year cancer journey. For Sharon, Colleen's diagnosis was especially difficult because both her mom and dad had died of cancer, and her sister had died of the disease only six months earlier. "I was devastated when I heard Colleen had cancer," says Sharon.
Thinking back on it now, Colleen says that her parents' positive attitude helped her during her illness. At the time, it was hard for Colleen to understand what was happening to her and why she had to spend more than 200 days in hospital for treatment that included numerous blood transfusions and needles. From her perspective she was being taken away from her friends, family and school.
When Colleen turned nine, she went into remission and today she is attending high school and helping raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. In September last year she and her mother participated in the Society's Relay For Life in Kemptville, Ontario.
Sharon recalls the ups and downs during Colleen's cancer treatment and remembers all too well the financial difficulties her family faced during this time.
Colleen's treatment would take two years, but the federal government's compassionate care program provided benefits for only six weeks. Sharon's workplace allowed her to take a year of compassionate leave, but without pay. Sharon eventually took a short stress leave from work, but when she returned to work, her husband left his job to care for Colleen.
"Daniel eventually got a part-time job driving a school bus to helps make ends meet," recalls Sharon. "He didn't go back to full-time work until Colleen was in remission and back in school. It was a very difficult time."
"This family's experience underscores why the Society is working hard to improve financial support for family caregivers," says Dan Demers, Director, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society. "In Canada, some support exists, but much more needs to be done so people don't have to face the difficulties that Sharon and her family experienced."
Improving family caregiver support
The Society's advocacy leadership led to the announcement of a new family caregiver tax credit in the June 2011 federal government budget. While the organization says this is a good first step, it will continue to advocate for better financial support for family caregivers through improvements to the Compassionate Care Benefits, which are administered by the federal employment insurance program. These improvements include:
...Timeframe for financial benefits: Increase the benefit period from the current six weeks to 26 weeks, accessible during a 52-week period.
...More flexibility: Allow people to claim benefits for partial weeks taken over a longer period, rather than blocks of weeks at a time.
...Revise eligibility criteria: Change the terminology for people eligible for benefits from "significant risk of death" to "significant need of caregiving due to a life threatening illness."
Ignited by her first-hand experience, Sharon is now a passionate advocate for more support for caregivers, especially in increasing benefits for parents with sick children. She presented her views to a parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care, tells her story to media when she can, and wrote a book about her daughter's journey called The Guinea Kid.
On Daffodil Day, Sharon's message to caregivers is that they are not alone. "I know what they are going through, and I will be thinking of them as I continue my work to ensure caregivers get the support they need and deserve."
Daffodil Day helps wrap up the Society's campaign by designating a special day where Canadians can take a moment to reflect upon the thousands of people who are on a cancer journey and also to remember those who have died.
Peter Goodhand, CEO and President of the Canadian Cancer Society, says that wearing a daffodil pin on this special day provides a visible symbol of support for all cancer survivors. "United by the daffodil, we are showing people with cancer that no one has to face cancer alone and we won't give up until all forms of the disease are defeated."
To find out where you can get a daffodil pin go to fightback.ca or contact your local Society office. The pins are also available at participating locations of Curves, First Choice Haircutters, Laura Canada, JACOB, LifeLabs, MAC's, Pacrim Hospitality Services hotels, Pharmasave and WirelessWave/Tbooth. Although the pin is not being sold for a set price, the Society encourages Canadians to make a donation to help support its mission work across Canada.
By supporting the Canadian Cancer Society during Daffodil Month and on Daffodil Day, Canadians will be joining a team that works hard to fight cancer in Canada. Your donation will help the Society:
...fund research to outsmart cancer
...empower, inform and support Canadians living with cancer
...advocate for public policies to improve the health of Canadians
The Canadian Cancer Society fights cancer by doing everything we can to prevent cancer, save lives and support people living with cancer. Join the fight! Go to fightback.ca to find out how you can help. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.