Calgary mom works to fulfill daughter’s final wish

CALGARY- Shonalie Stadnyk is a mother in mourning. It has been 11 months since she lost her 19-year-old daughter to cancer.

Jacey Uphill was just 16 when she was diagnosed with advanced stage Ewing’s Sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer that targets mainly children.

“She battled that for two and a half years and went to heaven in October,” Stadnyk recalls, fighting back tears. “We’re coming up to the one year anniversary.”

Two months into her cancer battle,  Jacey adopted the word ‘believe’, hoping she would beat the disease and go on to make a difference for other children with cancer.  After her illness returned, the Calgary teen realized she wouldn’t be able to make those changes alone.

“We were coming home from a service for another child who had passed away,” Stadnyk explains, “[Jacey] said ‘I’m too sick to do this’ and she looked at me and said, ‘You need to do this.’”
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This weekend, Jacey will get her wish. The first annual, ‘Believe Run for the Gold’ will be held Sunday in Calgary.

Part of the proceeds will go to the Helping Families Handle Cancer Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance to families struggling with the costs that come with a cancer diagnosis.  The rest of the money will go towards the local pediatric sarcoma research of Dr. Douglas Mahoney.

“There has been very little advancements for the treatment of high risk metastatic sarcomas,” says Dr. Mahoney, a researcher with the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.  “The high risk disease for the most part has been largely untreatable, with very few advancements in the last 40 years.”

For the last 13 months, Mahoney’s lab has been using engineered forms of harmless virus to try and target Sarcoma cancer cells.  Although the research is in early stages, results are promising.

“It’s a slow process,” Mahoney admits. “These diseases are incredibly complex.”

Still, it’s hope and for a girl who urged everyone to ‘believe’, that’s all her mother can now ask for.

“I feel very blessed to have been given the gift to be her mother for her 19 years, because she was clear,” Stadnyk says. “She said ‘this is what I want.’ I want people to know that children get cancer. I want to see gold.”

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Gold ribbons symbolize childhood cancer and September is childhood cancer awareness month.  For more information about Sunday’s run visit