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Patient Story: Don McQuaig

The day will be etched in my memory forever. On February 28, 2006 after a routine colonoscopy my beloved husband Don was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer at the young age of 53. A very fit and active father of 4 daughters he was extra vigilant about his health…exercising 5 days a week, watching his diet, meditating and practicing moderation. He also had colonoscopies at age 45 and 50 to address ongoing bleeding that was diagnosed as local irritation. We were all devastated.

We immediately went into high gear, numb and frightened. He was not a candidate for surgery so was started on Avastin to reduce the size of the tumours. During that time he continued to work. As a successful entrepreneur with a thriving consulting firm he loved his work and found comfort in routine. As expected initially his tumours shrunk and we were optimistic. By June surgery was on the horizon for early fall and as a family we were starting to feel optimistic. Our second daughter was married in August and her thin and pale Daddy beamed as he walked her up the aisle. There was not a dry eye to be found.

In September Don had surgery to remove metastases on his liver, but sadly it was unsuccessful. They opened and closed him up, saying that the cancer was too extensive. That was the hardest moment for me…having to tell this man who I had loved for 27 years that his cancer was inoperable. The following 4 weeks were unbearably sad as he grew sicker and weaker. On October 29, 2006 Don passed away, leaving behind a wife and daughters who adored him, and a devoted family and large group of colleagues and friends.

Within a few weeks I created The Don McQuaig Foundation to support awareness and screening for colon cancer. For the next 5 years we hosted fundraisers to raise awareness of the need for screening, sharing Don’s story and working with Colon Cancer Canada, Sunnybrook Hospital and the Kensington Screening Clinic. Our sincere wish has always been that no family experience losing a loved one to this insidious disease.

Recently our third daughter was diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene and we are forever grateful for the medical advancements that allow us to have this pertinent information to make informed decisions about her health, and to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life.

We are pleased to be working with Colorectal Cancer Canada now with The Don McQuaig Get Personal Program. This program aims to educate patients and inform health policy about molecular profiling/biomarker testing for use with companion diagnostics to increase access to personalized healthcare and precision medicine based on a patients specific genetic profile. Our visions are aligned…. to reduce the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer in Canada while improving the quality of life of patients, their families and caregivers. Don would have been proud to be partnering with such an impactful organization, and we feel blessed to be sharing this journey with them.

Diane McQuaig

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