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Taking steps for a good cause

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007

CAMBRIDGE BAY - Two Cambridge Bay women raised more than $13,000 in support of the third annual Weekend to End Breast Cancer in Edmonton.

NNSL Photo/Graphic
Angela Philips

Angela Philips, who recently battled the disease herself, and her friend Jan Peters travelled south to participate in the 60-kilometre walk from Aug. 10 to 12.

Funds raised will benefit the Alberta Cancer Foundation, based in the province where many Nunavummiut must travel for cancer treatment.

Both Philips, who raised $9,085, and Peters, who raised $4,250, said they were astounded by the hamlet's generosity.

"People here dug deep into their pockets when I asked for money for this event. No events, no bake sales or dances or bingos, strictly word of mouth, just people opening their wallets," Philips said.

"People hear you're walking and they drop in and say, 'We hear what you're doing and we want to give,'" Peters added.

Philips, who moved to Cambridge Bay in 1990 to run the post office, was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer, at the age of 52.

Two weeks later she had a lumpectomy done in Edmonton.

"I was lucky enough that it was caught early, so the surgery wasn't quite as invasive as it was for some," she said.

For the next few months, however, she underwent a gruelling regimen of treatment and travel. Without cancer care in Nunavut, local women must fly out of their home communities to Alberta and the Northwest Territories on a regular basis.

"You're just tired from everything, from the effects of the chemo and there's a lot of emotional stuff involved too," Philips said.

For about 25 weeks, she went to her local health centre for blood tests on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, she flew to Edmonton for radiation sessions the following day. After one day of rest, she returned to Cambridge Bay on Sundays.

She now has a clean bill of health, although she will need to take medication for the next five years.

"So far everything is great. I'm confident that it will stay that way," she said.

The fundraising was a great opportunity "to help create awareness in my own community," Philips said. "I'm hoping it will encourage women to be a little more proactive about their health. I want to let them know that it can be beat, make them a little less afraid."

On average, five women in Nunavut were diagnosed with breast cancer per year between 2000 and 2004, according to the Canadian Cancer Society's statistics for 2007.