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Cancer doesn’t go on holiday

Cancer doesn’t go on holiday---Cover

At the beginning of April, in the run-up to the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Ball, a charity that aims to unite and inspire Canadians to take action against cancer, I spoke to Liette Guertin, Director of Leadership and Corporate Giving and Daffodil Ball Management, to talk more about the various efforts being made to raise the profile of the Society all year-round, showing that cancer doesn’t go on holiday.

2023, a record year for the Daffodil Ball


Philippe Jetté, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cogeco; Liette Guertin, Director, Leadership & Corporate Giving and Head of the Daffodil Ball for the Canadian Cancer Society; Susan McPeak, Board member, CCS, Andrea Seale, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society; Isabelle Brais; Francois Legault, Premier of Québec; Mélina Poirier, an architectural technician in remission from breast cancer; and the Co-Chairs of the Ball: Sylvie Demers, Chair, Québec Market, TD Bank Group; Julie Godin, Co-Chair of the CGI Board of Directors and Executive Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Corporate Development; and Benoit Lacoste Bienvenue, Regional Managing Partner, Quebec Region, KPMG.
Photo: Joe Dresner

While 2022 was an almost normal year for the Daffodil Ball, 2023 was one of great success. Bringing together personalities such as Mr. Nicolas Duvernois, Quebec Premier Mr. François Legault, Mr. Robert Charlebois, Mr. Christian Dubé and Mr. Claude Meunier, the event raised a record amount of $1,709,750 for its 30th edition, which will be invested in research projects and in our cancer support and prevention programmes in the province of Quebec.

I have to admit that cancer research and prevention are a cause that touches me enormously, my father having died of the disease in the early 2000s, not to mention other people I know who left us recently (Mr. Michel Beauchamp and Mr. Guy Lafleur, we miss you). 


But we mustn’t forget that while these departures are sad, it’s the hope of a cure and of finding solutions to eradicate the various types of cancer that keeps us going. The 30th edition of the Daffodil Ball was held on 20 April at Windsor Station in Montreal under the theme of light, with the name Lumissima, where every sparkle inspires life, renewal and hope. And despite the record amount raised, it’s not a huge sum for a disease that affects the vast majority of the population in one way or another. Imagine if it were ten times the amount raised, all the things the charity could do!


Benoit Lacoste Bienvenue, Regional Managing Partner, Quebec Region, KPMG, Julie Godin, Co-Chair of the CGI Board of Directors and Executive Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Corporate Development, Liette Guertin, Director, Leadership & Corporate Giving and Head of the Daffodil Ball for the Canadian Cancer Society, Philippe Jetté, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cogeco, Sylvie Demers, Chair, Québec Market, TD Bank Group and Andrea Seale, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society
Photo: Joe Dresner

But one thing that reassures me is Ms. Guertin’s tireless optimism, telling me that now cancer doesn’t necessarily mean death, thanks to all the research, prevention and support programmes. What’s more, in March this year, new research grants were announced by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Brain Canada, the Cancer Research Society and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation, aimed at high-level interdisciplinary teams and designed to accelerate progress against six cancers for which the survival rate is low. 

This brand new $55 million programme, called CCS Discovery Team Grants, has one goal in mind: to transform cancers with poor survival rates. It represents the largest collective effort ever undertaken in Canada to change the outcome of pancreatic, oesophageal, brain, lungs, liver and stomach cancers. 

Given that my father sadly passed away from one of the cancers named in this group, imagine how this affects me, and perhaps you too.  

Helping more men since 2020!

You may not have known it, but since 2020, the Canadian Cancer Society and Prostate Cancer Canada have merged their activities. So yes, gentlemen, this does affect you. And cancer is very evenly distributed,” confirms Ms. Guertin, “with 44% of cases are men and 43% are women. Bear in mind that cancer has no gender, no age, etc. Cancer doesn’t take holidays.

Cancer doesn’t go on holiday: The Society is there for you at all times


It’s not because it’s summer that the Canadian Cancer Society is taking a holiday; it’s there all the time, whether it’s with its information line or its various services, which were in great demand during the pandemic, my interviewee told me. “In meeting a lot of people over the last few years, I’ve realized that many of them still know very little about our many support programmes and prevention initiatives, so we’re putting a lot of emphasis on these various subjects in our communications campaigns. In Quebec more specifically, we have prevention campaigns that target the province exclusively. The Society is well known, but many of its services are less well known,” says the Director of Leadership and Corporate Giving.  

Helping people, many of whom are experiencing the disease for the first time, is what makes the Canadian Cancer Society such a vital link between people and the healthcare community. “When I arrive at the Society at the start of the day, I know that my team and I are going to make a difference, and that’s rewarding work,” continues Ms. Guertin. 

Going after the big donors . . . but also the small ones 


The atmosphere at the Daffodil Ball 2023
Photo: Joe Dresner

While Quebec may be less philanthropic than our English-speaking neighbours, where the average donation ratio is higher (according to Ms. Guertin’s sources), Quebec donors are still very generous. My interviewee explained that donors seem to have become less scattered in recent years, giving to one or two specific causes instead of several, with the aim of having a greater impact in the end, and very often in their community.

As proof of the involvement of Quebec companies in the cause, as part of the Daffodil Month campaign last April, Cogeco and Cogeco Media, in addition to the involvement of its president and CEO, Philippe Jetté, as co-chair of the Daffodil Ball, donated media time for a campaign that took place in Quebec’s Familiprix stores, two new partners for the Company.  

In fact, in 2023, four Quebec business leaders acted as co-chairs of the Ball: Philippe Jetté, President and CEO of Cogeco (mentioned above), Sylvie Demers, President and CEO, Quebec Region, TD Bank Group (their TD Aeroplan card is really advantageous for small businesses like Gentologie), Benoit Lacoste Bienvenue, Managing Partner of KPMG in Quebec, and Julie Godin, Co-Chair of the Board and Executive Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Development of CGI. It’s an incredible network that led to record donations last year. 

In 2023, the funds raised will be invested in cancer research, support and prevention programs in Quebec. These donations have an undeniable impact on people living with cancer. And if you see several institutions from the same field at a charity evening, it’s because in philanthropy, there is no competition. 

Canadian Cancer Society: active all year-round, proof that cancer doesn’t go on holiday

As you can imagine, the Society’s activities don’t stop at the Daffodil Ball (and its monthly campaign). There’s also the Daffodil Dinner in Quebec City, the Relays for Life, the CIBC Run for the Cure, the Planned Giving campaign, the search for major donors, not to mention the research, support and prevention services that never take a holiday.  

Talking about your condition

The discussion continued in a slightly more personal tone, which again concerns what many men go through. Many of them, and I include myself in this, still have difficulty expressing themselves when they feel pain somewhere. 

I have to say that my father, an ex-serviceman, was a bit like that, proud, and not wanting to sit on his laurels, he was perhaps a bit slow to consult. This is my message to you, gentlemen, to consult. Whether it’s for physical or mental ailments, because the two influences each other!  

Don’t hesitate to make your annual appointments with your doctor, and if there’s something wrong with your health, put in a good word for him—he’ll certainly be able to point you in the right direction!

Visit the Canadian Cancer Society

Visit Cancer Connection

Founder & Editor In Chief of Gentologie

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