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Quebec friends walk together for a common cause

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Quebec friends walk together for a cause Cancer killed nearly 58,000 Quebecers in 2020. On Sunday, a pair of friends and colleagues will be walking in the Segal Center cancer fundraiser and hope to raise $20,000 to donate to the cause. Global's Phil Carpenter explains what is motivating these women. – Aug 20, 2021

Emilia Fernandes and Judy Suissa walk about 15 kilometres a day on streets of Montreal and through the hallways of the Jewish General Hospital where they work.

They started walking in to stay in shape.

“We started walking during the pandemic because all the gyms were closed and we needed to get some form of exercise,” explained Fernandes, a technical services project manager at the hospital.

According to Suissa, an administrative specialist, when they walk in the building, they sometimes encounter patients or visitors needing directions.

“So instead of just pointing where they were going, we accompanied them,” explained Suissa.

So they came to be called the Mitzvah girls — “mitzvah” is Hebrew for “good deed.”

Read more: Kingstonian commits to riding 500 kms for childhood cancer research

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In April, though, their walking turned into more than just staying in shape

Suissa and Fernandes are fundraising for the Segal Cancer Centre located at the hospital. Their aim was to raise $20,000 by August 22 in time for the annual Weekend to Conquer Cancer event put on by the Jewish General Hospital Foundation.

It’s happening in Venise-en-Québec this year, about 70 kilometres south of Montreal.

“So our objective is to raise $5 million dollars,” foundation president and CEO Bram Freedman.

Their reason for taking part in the fundraiser though is more than professional — it’s personal too.

“My mother was treated for lymphoma,” said Suissa. “She had Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 12 years ago.”

She said her husband has melanoma and her non-smoking brother-in-law died four years ago from lung cancer.

Fernandes, too has been touched by disease. Her mother had acute myeloid leukemia.

“She was gone within a year,” Fernandes stated, fighting back tears. “My dad had prostate cancer. He lived with it for 15 years.”

Her husband also has the disease now.

Freedman stressed that cancer research is vital.

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“Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Quebec,” Freedman noted. “A Quebecer is diagnosed with cancer every nine minutes.”

According to the Quebec Cancer Foundation, just under 57,000 people were diagnosed in the province in 2020.

Fernades and Suissa met their target Friday morning, just ahead of schedule. Now they’re pushing to see how much more they can get.

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