John Heron

Flower power

Saanich man backs Cancer Society campaign after saving his twin’s life

Gerald Heron left cancer treatment feeling alive again, and a little guilty, says his twin John Heron.

Gerald was diagnosed in Toronto with terminal non-Hodgkin’s Mantle cell lymphoma which had no conventional cure. He underwent seven months of chemotherapy, full body radiation, a stem cell transplant and 18 months of isolation.

“You get to meet a lot of other cancer patients waiting for their stem cell transplant that may never happen because they don’t have a donor,” John says. “It would mean the world to so many people.”

John, who lives in Saanich and drives for BC Transit, was integral in saving his identical sibling’s life.

“He was fortunate enough to have most, if not all, of his cancer cells eradicated which would allow him to get my stem cells … a rebirth so to speak,” says John. “There (are) so many people not getting matches or donors and they remain in jeopardy.”

For John, donating meant three hours connected intravenously to a machine that separated the stem cells.

“The experience educated me on how easy it is to register and donate stem cells and how beneficial it is to the recipient,” he says. “He’s become cancer free. It goes to show for those who are inclined, getting on a bone marrow registry, and being able to donate stem cells is a very easy process.”

The B.C. Transit bus driver became a face of the campaign as the company and its employees, with the Canadian Cancer Society, launched the 2014 Daffodil Month campaign in Greater Victoria last week.

Nearly 300 B.C. Transit buses in the Victoria Regional System will have “Join the Fight. Wear a Daffodil.” signs in the windows and BC Transit staff are encouraged to wear daffodil pins to further draw awareness to the campaign.

“In honour of B.C. Transit employees and their family members who are currently battling cancer and for those who have bravely faced a diagnosis, we hope our awareness campaign brings greater awareness to the vital efforts of the Canadian Cancer Society,” said Brian Anderson, B.C. Transit vice-president and chief operating officer.

Over the last 76 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has funded more than $1.2 billion dollars to life-saving cancer research programs across the country.

John says it’s money well spent, crediting the “tremendous professionals” they encountered across Canada at four different hospitals along the way.

“We realized that the money that you might put towards a cancer donation is well used, because every six months the science is new and it’s being shared globally. We realized this cancer can be beaten,” John says. “It takes a huge amount of investment … as well as the willingness of volunteers to be available for stem cell transplant.”

Money raised during Daffodil Month supports the society’s continued efforts in preventing cancer through raising awareness, advocating for healthy public policies, funding research and offering support and services to cancer patients and their loved ones.

For more information on the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month campaign visit fightback.ca online.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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