By Olivia Bosma

A cancer diagnosis may be one of the scariest things one can hear in their lifetime. It can stop life in its tracks and turn the world upside down. Now imagine that diagnosis for not one, but several loved ones within the span of a few years. This is exactly what happened to Thunder Bay local Tom Boland. In an effort to fight this insidious disease, Boland is taking part in the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) Dry Feb Challenge. A challenge to go alcohol-free for the month of February while raising funds for cancer treatment, research, and patient care.

“This challenge helps bring awareness about the link between cancer and alcohol, promoting the idea that we can modify our alcohol consumption to reduce cancer risk and raise funds to support CCS’s life-saving work,” Boland says. It is a terrible fact that there are very few whose lives have not been impacted by cancer in some way. Which is what makes fundraisers such as this, so important.

“During the last few years, I lost both my Dad and my mother-in-law. In 2018, my husband had surgery to remove a six-pound, malignant tumour. Fingers are crossed that he is now cancer free, but it is never far from our minds,” he says. “Much more recently, our 21-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer that had unfortunately spread to his liver and lungs before it was found. He had immediate, emergency surgery and is now undergoing aggressive chemotherapy.”

After only a few short weeks, Boland has not only met his fundraising goal but surpassed it. “When I signed on to this challenge, I set what I felt was a lofty, but reasonable goal of raising $1000 for a good cause,” Boland says. “I would have been humbled to achieve that. I was amazed, however, to reach that within a few days. I decided then to raise my goal, hoping to raise $2,500. As of today, three weeks into the collection of sponsorships and eight days into the challenge, my total is just over $17,000.” 

The Dry Feb fundraiser, and so many others, are raising these funds to ensure that the heroic cancer care doctors and nurses are able to continue giving patients the best care possible and saving lives. All of the donations towards cancer research and patient care, make huge impacts on the lives of millions of Canadians. “I hope that the funds raised over the course of this fundraiser will have an immediate impact on those currently in treatment. More and more people are becoming survivors,” he says. “Belief in a cure is replacing hope for a cure. I also hope that those who have donated on behalf of loved ones who have lost their battles find strength and comfort through their sponsorship.” 

Despite all of the hardships Boland and his family has faced, he remains positive, hopeful, and encouraged by the compassion and generosity of others. “Sincere thanks to everyone everywhere for all of your support. You have my undying gratitude. Healing thoughts and prayers to everyone in treatment and to those who have lost loved ones. Supporting each other through tough times puts humankindness, my new favourite word, into context.”

In the words of Ana Claudia Antunes, “Life keeps throwing me stones. And I keep finding diamonds.” More apt words could not describe Mr. Boland and his fight for those with cancer.

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