Every Christmas, Michael Geiger-Wolf sets up an elaborate display of Christmas lights in front of his Winnipeg home, raising money for cancer.
The display of lights, music and projectors has been a neighbourhood attraction for years.
“(We have) 11 control boxes networked together, computer in the garage that runs it all, extension cords — we’re down to only about a mile worth of extension cords now because we’re using some different types of lights — but all that has got to get hooked up and away you go,” Geiger-Wolf explained.
In 2010, Geiger-Wolf started using the display as a way to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“We’ve now raised $86,000 since 2010 for cancer research,” he said, adding that people can either donate in the donation box in his yard or online.
Geiger-Wolf himself has battled cancer four times. But this year is an extra special year for Geiger-Wolf, as he marks a major milestone after undergoing a new treatment through the Mayo Clinic.
“It’s a bit of a last-ditch kind of treatment, with my cancer having come back four times. I already had two stem cell transplants; we thought, ‘OK, we’ll try this one,'” he said.
“The great thing about this particular treatment is it can actually be a full cure and not just remission.”
Geiger-Wolf received CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cell therapy, a type of treatment that changes a patient’s T cells so they attack the cancer cells.
“It’s pretty significant,” he added. “They actually harvest your T cells and genetically modify them so that your own immune system can see the cancer. So without any drugs, your immune system can fight the cancer. So it’s really exciting and it’s all because of research and donations.”
And on Christmas Eve, doctors gave Geiger-Wolf the greatest Christmas gift of all: His scans came back clear and his immune system is almost back to normal. He is now considered no longer in remission, but cured of cancer.
“It’s unbelievable. Once you’ve had cancer once, even if you’re in remission, there’s always a chance that it could come back,” he said.
“And the first time I had cancer the only symptom I had was back pain because one of the tumours had grown into my spine. So any time I get back pain or there’s a little lump or bump here or there, I think, ‘Uh oh, is it back.’
“And to not have that kind of hanging over you, it’s just … I can’t even put it into words. It’s just absolutely amazing.”