My name is Helena Kirk and I’m a childhood cancer survivor. In 2009, at 3 and a-half years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and had to go through 841 days of chemotherapy at Sickkids Hospital in Toronto. I’m 13 now and doing well, but my friends are still fighting and I’m determined to fight alongside them until they’re healthy.
Some of my strongest and bravest friends have lost their battle, like my best friend Jadyn who was, and still is, my biggest role model and idol. The world lost this beautiful soul in the spring of 2018. It was heartbreaking for myself and her loved ones to watch her suffer, although you would never have known it if you met her. She was a bright light that continues to shine.
This is an example of why me, my family, and all the cancer families and organizations have come together to find more pathways to kids surviving cancer.
I started my mission on a conference trip in Ottawa when I leveraged the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, MP Anita Vandenbeld, and (at the time) Health Minister Jane Philpott in March 2017. They supported me and really helped to get this thing off the ground.
On April 26th, 2018 I returned to meet with the Minister of Health and the Chair of the Health Committee. I was honoured to speak to the All Party Women’s Caucus; you can see a video of my statement here.
During my 2018 meeting with the Minister of Health, we reviewed a proposal to the Federal Minister of Health, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, focused on improving outcomes for Canadian children, adolescents and young adults (CAYA) with cancer.
Over 30 leading pediatric oncologists and researchers, and 31 cancer organizations have endorsed the proposal. A leading National law firm wrote an opinion that what is in the proposal is squarely in the jurisdiction of the federal government.
I also really wanted to get the smartest Canadians in the same room to work on some of the issues with the Health System. In December 2018 and November 2019 we had a round-table with childhood cancer families, clinicians, researchers, Health Canada and the Canadian Institute of Health Research. I was delighted that these tables were created and that I was able to make a statement at both meetings. In July 2019, the Minister of Health released a new streamlined approval process for treatments for kids and also the opening of the Office of Pediatrics – both were results of the work started at the first round-table.
FINALLY – the most exciting news! The Liberals Election Platform included $30 million for childhood cancer (page 15) and, since they were elected, we are eagerly awaiting the Minister of Health’s mandate letter. I hope to have a meeting with Minister Hajdu soon so we can talk about pathways for more Canadian kids to survive cancer.
…. these are the steps we are taking to find more pathways for kids to survive cancer.