I know that I’m backing winners

Ian Telfer and his wife Nancy thought the bad news was never going to end.  After a regular physical in March 2013 indicated a potential problem at the base of his tongue, Ian went for an ultrasound, followed by a biopsy which confirmed that he had tongue cancer. 

Surgery performed in the United States could not completely eradicate the cancer, and biopsies of the surrounding lymph nodes indicated that the cancer might have spread.  Radiation and chemotherapy were going to be required, so Ian and Nancy began a search to find out where to get the best treatment. 

While their main residence is in Vancouver, they have a summer home in Ontario, so they chose Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for the remaining treatment.  They learned that The Princess Margaret has one of the largest and most advanced head & neck cancer programs in the world, and that gave them a lot of confidence given the aggressive nature of Ian’s cancer.

Treatment for tongue cancer has potential side effects that include speech and swallowing difficulties as well as damage to dental structures.  This was all carefully explained to Ian and Nancy along with information on how the physicians and therapists would work with them to minimize these side effects and assist Ian in his recovery.  “We were very impressed with the education that the staff provided to us, and their patience in addressing our many questions and concerns,” said Nancy.

Looking back, what surprised Ian the most was the emotional impact of the treatment—impact that continued long after treatment was completed.  It has been a challenging journey, but Ian has made a good recovery from his cancer and from the treatment. 

After experiencing the effects of treatment for a head & neck cancer, Ian and Nancy were motivated to make a gift that would things easier and less toxic for future patients.  Their generous gift of $500,000 will support the research of two physicians who were involved in his care—Dr. Shaf Keshavjee and Dr. Andrew Hope. 

Dr. Hope is a radiation oncologist.  He is developing new methods to predict, avoid or mitigate complications of cancer therapy.  In the clinic, he works to evaluate the relationship between a patient’s method of treatment (including radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery), the patient’s sensitivity to those treatments and types of complications that occur during and after therapy.  Using this information, future cancer treatments may have fewer complications and it will allow more cancers to be cured.

Mr. Telfer has had a very successful career in the mining industry, and when asked how he feels about his investment in The Princess Margaret, he replied, “I know that by supporting the work of these two doctors, I’m backing winners. The care I received at The Princess Margaret was first class, and I’m so grateful that Canada has this world-leading cancer centre.” Reviewed: October 2014