March 2, 2019 12:51 pm
Updated: March 3, 2019 12:55 pm

Montreal Special Olympian conquers cancer to reach world stage

WATCH: West Island-raised Special Olympian Lisa McDermott will be competing on the international stage in Abu Dhabi, but as Global's Dan Spector reports, she's already defeated her toughest opponent.


A West Island-raised Special Olympian is about to head to the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Even though the lights will be bright and the pressure will be high, competing in the Games will be nothing compared to the challenges Lisa McDermott has already conquered.

“She’s had a rough past few years,” McDermott’s mother, Claire Lalande, told Global News.

McDermott has learning disabilities and exhibits compulsive behaviour. For a time, that meant she ate compulsively.

Story continues below

“She got up to almost 300 pounds; it was interfering with everything in her life,” said Lalande.

One morning, McDermott decided something had to change.

“I changed my diet, I changed all my eating habits,” she explained to Global News.

“She lost 90 pounds since 2015,” said McDermott’s mom. “That was a lot of hard work. She gave up junk food, she trained, stuck to the program and she kept the weight off.”

READ MORE: Three Peterborough Special Olympic athletes will head to World Games in Abu Dhabi

In the midst of all that came some terrible news.

“(McDermott) was diagnosed in 2017 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Lalande. “It was four months of chemo and then two months of radiation.”

“I lost some of my hair but then it grew back after,” said McDermott.

In the end, the athlete conquered her cancer treatment with the help of her family. McDermott is now completely cancer-free.

“I think it was harder on me to watch her go through it. She battled it and moved on,” said Lalande.

Now, McDermott is fully focused on bowling. She’s already a decorated champion in Canada.

“She earned a gold, a silver and two bronze in the Canada Summer Games in Summerside, P.E.I., last summer, and here she is going to Abu Dhabi now,” said Lalande.

READ MORE: State-of-the-art Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton declared officially open

McDermott’s devoted coaches are doing everything they can to prepare her for the world stage.

“We’re a family here. The Special Olympics is a family. We all supported her and we’re giving her cheers,” said Gary Levine, a West Island Special Olympics bowling coach.

“It’s going to be a remarkable journey for her, and nobody deserves it more than Lisa,” added Nancy Demick, head coach of the West Island Special Olympics bowling program.

McDermott calls being part of Team Canada a “huge step,” and though she would love to add to her medal collection, it’s not all about that.

Levine agrees, saying: “The most important thing is to have fun.”

The Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be held from March 14 to 21.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.