‘A ray of hope to hang onto’ in memory of a child lost

Stephanie Jean Betts, who passed away in November of last year from brain cancer at age 23, will be remembered by her family at next month's annual Doves of Hope celebration at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. (Photo: Betts Family)​


Bob Betts remembers rocking his little girl to sleep when she was ill.

"I slowly rocked my baby daughter as she cried in pain from an ear infection," he says. "As the minutes passed, the tears stopped falling and her tiny head grew heavy on my chest.

"Alone together in the darkness, I listened to her every breath as she fell asleep in my arms." 

Two decades later, Bob did the same thing.

"I lay beside my little girl, her brain riddled with cancer, doing the only thing I knew how to keep her safe through the night," he recalls. "With the same awe I felt as a new dad, I held her close as I listened to her peacefully sleeping.

"But this time, the tears were mine. This time, I couldn't rock her pain away. I spent nights aching with unbearable grief, because I knew that the same precious soul entrusted to me all those years ago would soon be leaving this world."

Stephanie Jean Betts passed away at home on Nov. 16, 2014. Just 23, she succumbed to brain cancer; a whole life ahead of her when cancer took hold and wouldn't let go.

Surgery not an option

After her diagnosis, Stephanie's determination grew upon meeting Dr. Warren Mason, Medical Director of the Pencer Brain Tumour Centre at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. The family had investigated options, and each pointed to the fact Dr. Mason was a world-leading brain cancer specialist at one of the world's top-five cancer research centres.

Stephanie's cancer was very aggressive, and surgery was not an option. But the radiation and chemotherapy treatment he recommended encouraged Stephanie, and treatment began immediately.

Dr. Mason and his team investigated every opportunity to stop the cancer from taking Stephanie's life. The breakthrough treatment wasn't ready in time for Stephanie, but cancer research, like the kind being pursued diligently at Princess Margaret, is advancing ever closer to conquering cancer in our lifetime.

"Our wonderful daughter is gone, but there are thousands of others who desperately need a ray of hope to hang onto," Bob says.

Honouring Stephanie

The Betts family is honouring Stephanie by taking part in The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation's Doves of Hope celebration. Last year, nearly 10,000 doves, each one dedicated to someone special, were collected and hung in the centre's main atrium to create an inspiring display of hope for patients and their families.

To offer a personal Dove of Hope, visit dovesofhope.ca. By giving hope during this special time of year, thousands of people with cancer will receive world-leading treatment at Princess Margaret.

The annual Doves of Hope dedication ceremony will take place on Dec. 16 at 11:30 a.m. in the main atrium of Princess Margaret. Dedicate a dove today to have it displayed at the cancer centre in time for the ceremony.