Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the motion to recognize the month of June as leukemia awareness month as this would increase our awareness of the disease.
One of the things we need to be aware of is that 2,000 people will die from this disease. We also need to know what causes the disease and why it affects some people but not others. What are the implications concerning our environment? What are the environmental factors that may or may not play a part in this disease? What are the genetic factors?
There is so much to know but so little that people in general do know about this disease because of their busy lives. They only find out about it if someone they know and love is suffering from the disease, but they do not know enough to be of any help.
We have to be aware of what we can do as a community and what we can provide in terms of medicare and home care. We need good hospitals and good research.
The whole cycle of research that was just described may take a long time. If we want to decrease the number of deaths from this disease we must always be proactive and one step ahead. We want to prevent those 2,000 deaths as a country, but more importantly, the deaths that each family may have to face.
The idea of cancer alone induces fear in people. The more awareness we can bring to them, the more we can help our communities. Most people think of cancer as a deadly disease. Hopefully, as we move further along in our research, there will be far fewer deaths and far fewer children being taken away from their families and out of our lives.
The fact that this disease affects so many children and is the leading cause of death in children is enough for us to single it out as being a disease for which people need to develop an awareness. As a mother of four children and having seen families lose their children, it is our deepest fear that our children will die ahead us. I do not know how a family would cope with that. The loss of a child to a family and to a community makes us want to take the extra effort to become more aware of this disease and to bring the issue forward.
Last year a man in our community died. A lot of treatment cannot be done in the north so people have to fly out, which is quite a difficult endeavour in itself. It means the waiting period can be far longer for people in the north than for people who are in a community where treatment can be easily accessed. The man who died had left the Yukon to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, it was too late for Ben Sheardown.
I will say a few words about Ben because he was an integral part of our community. He was a a coach, an athlete, a teacher, a counsellor, a husband and a father. To every person he came into contact with, he was far more than that. Anyone who met him could not help but be inspired by his kindness, his passion and his ferocious nature.
Anyone who had the chance to meet him in the last month of his life knew immediately how privileged they were. He went through incredible suffering with tremendous grace and almost transcended the daily world that we live in. I think he attained a different spiritual level, one which we all would like to bring to our lives.
The worst part is that he left us too soon. He still had so much of himself to give to his children, his wife and his community. He was someone I had known throughout my whole life as a teacher, a neighbour and a friend. He is still deeply missed. If we could have prevented his death or given him even a few more years of life we would have all benefited.
Just last month I had to say goodbye to a friend who died of leukemia. She did not even have a chance for a bone marrow transplant. Her name was Effie Croft and she had started a small community newspaper in Faro. She found out quite late that she had the disease because she would never have imagined herself sick no matter how tired she was. She was a counsellor, but more than anything she brought an incredible joy to the people around her. Even through the time of her whole town's decamping and moving away when the mine closed she was a real source of energy and great love to her town.
When people found out how sick Ben was with leukemia and that they could possibly donate bone marrow, there was a huge outpouring of people wanting to do that. As was described by the member of parliament who is also a doctor, it is a long process and it is not easy to find a match. People were not aware that if they had made themselves available to a donor bank beforehand they could have helped. It could have been easily accessible to Ben and anyone else who might need a bone marrow transplant.
There is another thing about organ donations, bone marrow donations or donations of whatever piece of our bodies we are able to donate. People need to know that in the case of donating bone marrow we do not have to die to do it. There is a lot of fear for people trying to come to grips with what it means to be a donor, with what it means to be able to help each other. Canada does not have a good record for doing that, but I know people would do it if they were only aware of how to do it. Then they would be more than generous in any way they could to help their fellow citizens.
Sometimes when we talk about diseases we talk about them in terms of numbers and names instead of in terms of individuals, children, friends, parents, sisters and the other people they affect. If we appeal to the better instincts of our friends and neighbours in our communities I know they would respond.
This idea deserves action. We can do no wrong by tightening the awareness of this terrible disease. If we help just one family it would be worth it, but I think this awareness will help our whole country.