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My Road to Philanthropy

By Doug Gray, BC Cancer Foundation donor

My wife, Diana, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April 2008. She was about to leave for a weeklong kayaking trip off Vancouver Island when she received the news. She was fit and full of life.

For us, the word “cancer” came as a numbing shock and evoked many scary and uncertain thoughts about the future. It took us into a whole new world of medical terminology and treatment options, which was daunting, stressful and confusing.

I immediately began reading everything I could find about her type of ovarian cancer. I kept seeing Dr. David Huntsman’s name, so I looked up all the articles written by BC Cancer Agency researchers.

It was a revelation. I soon realized that the Agency was a leading cancer facility, with highly sophisticated labs and all the top people working together and creating this great synergy, right here in B.C. Until you come face to face with cancer, you don’t realize this. People have no idea what’s in their own backyard.

I was especially impressed by their passion and commitment. It was humbling and highly motivating. So I was taken down the road of epiphany, from interest to commitment in their research vision.

After surgery and six months of chemotherapy, Diana was considered cancer-free in December 2008. It is now four years later and she is still in remission, fit and healthy.

My personal goal became to do what I could to financially assist Agency researchers and accelerate their studies and discoveries, so that new and effective targeted therapies for ovarian cancer can be offered to women like Diana in the near future.

I saw that research did not receive a lot of private funding, compared with traditional grant funding, and that the BC Cancer Foundation was the fundraising arm of the Agency.

And when I heard that Dr. Huntsman’s group was looking at the genetic level of my wife’s cancer—ovarian clear cell carcinoma—I decided to get involved. I am a realist. If Diana has a recurrence, I know that the best people are here in B.C., so she will have the best chance to get back into remission. At that point I became convinced that my dollars could not be better placed and spent.

So I decided to be the philanthropic “angel,” to help at that first research stage when seed funding is critical, where donors can make the difference between a potential cancer discovery and one that never materializes. I morphed from being a business entrepreneur to a philanthropic entrepreneur.

I consider my donation to be a positive investment in leading-edge cancer research. At a certain point in life, the value of money placed wisely in charitable good works, is worth more than holding assets greater than one’s needs.

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