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‘Patients are really counting on us’: Cancer fundraiser continues

Sarah Baeumler takes Jennifer Valentyne through the Princess Margaret Lotto showhome

Debra Ann Ragbar was almost 64 years old when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Her diagnosis was made even more complicated by a blood disorder.

But she says the treatment she received at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto was not only comprehensive, it was the emotionally healing experience she needed to get through.

“When you walk into Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, it’s like a different world,” she says. “I was treated with such respect and dignity, and it’s not only me, I see everybody — the way that the staff treats everybody with care and compassion.”

Ragbar’s experience is just one of the reasons she says she hopes people will still consider buying a ticket for this year’s Princess Margaret Home Lottery, so that  research and care can continue.

“Everybody knows somebody who has cancer, and buying a ticket is perhaps one of the most important purchases you can make,” she says. In partnership with The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, we take a look at why.

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Debra Ann Ragbar / Princess Margaret Home Lottery
Debra Ann Ragbar / Princess Margaret Home Lottery. Debra Ann Ragbar / Princess Margaret Home Lottery

Fighting cancer amid a pandemic

Canadians are anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic. As people practise social distancing and self-isolation after travel to try to slow its spread, Ramona Oss, the vice president of lotteries at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, suggests imagining finding yourself in the middle of the pandemic while undergoing a cancer diagnosis or cancer treatment.

“Patients now have the added stress, with their immune-compromised system, of staying safe through COVID-19,” she says.

“Patients are really counting on us to continue to raise funds from programs like the lottery that will fuel research and will work to create positive outcomes for all cancer patients, both now and in the future.”

READ MORE: Navigating a new cancer diagnosis during a pandemic: ‘Everything is upended’

The Princess Margaret is one of the largest cancer centres in the world. It is also the largest radiation treatment centre in Canada and, according to Oss, one of the top five cancer research centres in the world.

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Ragbar completed her own radiation therapy, rang the centre’s “bravery bell” and has moved on to immunotherapy every three weeks.

She continues to craft handmade leather totes, which she says became a therapeutic way to work out her feelings after being diagnosed. For each tote that she sells, she donates $50 back to the cancer centre.

“When you get that type of treatment, you see, I have to say thank you,” she says.

READ MORE: Ontario man shares his personal story on surviving testicular cancer

Funding the future

Proceeds from the Princess Margaret Home Lottery fund many of the cancer centre’s programs and research efforts, Oss says. This year marks the lottery’s 25th anniversary, and the top prize is a package worth $6.8 million. That includes a showhome in King City, Ont., designed by HGTV personality and Island of Bryan star Sarah Baeumler; a Kawartha, Ont., lakefront cottage; and $500,000 cash. A $1.6-million home in Toronto’s Upper Beaches neighbourhood and a $1.1-million country home in Prince Edward County are among the other grand prizes.

“I certainly would encourage people — if they are able — to consider buying a lottery ticket. It’s a win-win,” Oss says. “You have an opportunity to win one of these fabulous prizes and at the same time  you’re helping fund world-leading research at the cancer centre.”

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The work doesn’t stop for our researchers. Our mission is to  conquer cancer in our lifetime. And when you buy that lottery ticket, you can also dream for a minute. Now’s a good time to dream.”

For more information or to purchase a ticket, visit the Princess Margaret Home Lottery website.