Edward (Ted) Riley, serial entrepreneur and long-time managing director of Alliance Atlantis, started a surreal cancer journey in 2019. He and wife of 24 years, Margaret, were travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia when he felt a lump in his lymph nodes. After further examination by an ear nose and throat specialist, Ted was referred to The Princess Margaret where he received an unexpected diagnosis: tonsillar cancer, stage three. “It really stopped us in our tracks,” he said.
Neither Ted nor Margaret had ever seen the inside of a hospital for anything beyond a broken bone. “To go from good health to a tumour was quite offsetting… to put it mildly. Those three weeks between diagnosis and treatment were the most stressful of our lives,” he recalls.
Ted was immediately referred to Dr. Scott Bratman within The Princess Margaret’s Wharton Head & Neck Centre. As one of the largest and most comprehensive head and neck cancer programs in North America, he was in good hands.
Dr. Bratman went through the treatment plan with full transparency. It included 35 rounds of radiation, 5x a week, along with six sessions of chemotherapy. This was followed by three months of recovery before undergoing his first post-treatment CT scan. “Going through it really makes you rethink the rhythms of cure. Recovery is a long process,” Ted said. “From day one, we interacted with a group of dedicated, empathetic, thoroughly professional people at The Princess Margaret. From the nurses to the radiation technicians, to the surgical oncologists. Every step along the way we felt taken care of.”
As Ted thought more about the role of research, and the collaboration required for successful treatment he was overwhelmed with gratitude. “That gratitude needed to manifest. I wanted other people to be the beneficiary of world-class care just as we were.”
Earlier this year, Ted and Margaret, through their Foundation, generously donated $1 Million to The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. The proceeds will directly support the work of Dr. Scott Bratman, who leads The Princess Margaret’s translational oncology lab in developing innovative tools that improve diagnosis and treatment of rare and advanced head and neck cancers.
A large portion of their donation will help advance the pioneering work of Dr. Bratman and his team, who recently identified an effective model for the evaluation of molecular residual disease (MRD), which has the potential to detect and treat certain high-risk head and neck cancers at a very early stage, and through less-invasive treatments. This important clinical research will greatly advance treatment options for head and neck cancer patients by providing precise and personalized cancer care, tailored to the individual patient.
“The ability to help progress the advancements happening here is extremely important to Margaret and I. Dr. Bratman is clearly passionate about his work, and we are grateful that we are able to support his efforts,” said Ted.
The remainder of the charitable gift will help to launch a Peer Navigation program in which volunteers will be trained to help new patients navigate the many complexities that come with head and neck cancer. This was important to Ted and Margaret, as they recall the difficulties of having to go through most of the treatment alone, without any peer support or opportunity for visitation due to tight COVID-19 restrictions.
Taking recovery one day at a time has been important to Ted. “As a dear friend said to me: focus on today. Do not borrow problems from the future.”
Published June 14, 2021