April 14, 2023

‘I want there to be more people like me — and fewer’

Cancer survivor Jil Macdonald shares her story and how she’s owning cancer this Giving Day
Jil MacDonald, OWN.CANCER Campaign Cabinet member
Jil Macdonald, OWN.CANCER Campaign Cabinet member. Adrian Shellard

Jil Macdonald, BSc’09, is a community advocate, cancer survivor and member of the OWN.CANCER Campaign Cabinet. At just 33 years old, she was diagnosed with cancer, changing her world. Today, she shares her experience as a young cancer patient and how it inspired her to get behind the new Calgary Cancer Centre.

Like new parenthood, cancer comes with a lot of surprises.

I had the distinction of experiencing both simultaneously when I was diagnosed with gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. It’s a rare pregnancy-related cancer that was discovered following my 12-week ultrasound. I had a son who was just two years old at the time and we were on our way to expanding our family.

Within a matter of weeks, my world was turned upside down. I went from learning my pregnancy wasn’t viable — a devastating blow in itself — to being diagnosed with cancer and starting treatment.

But while I had a network of peers for support as I first navigated parenthood — friends and family who were at the same stage in life, or had been when they were my age — the same couldn’t be said for my cancer journey.

No matter your age or circumstances, cancer is scary, isolating and overwhelming. Having been diagnosed with a rare cancer at a young age, these feelings were compounded as I found the cancer care system and supports were primarily geared towards an older population.

That’s one of the reasons I volunteer with the OWN.CANCER campaign supporting the new Calgary Cancer Centre — and why I’m sharing my story, in hopes that more people will join me by making a gift this Giving Day that will improve cancer care for everyone.

The Calgary Cancer Centre, located at the Foothills Medical Centre, will open in 2024

The Calgary Cancer Centre, located at the Foothills Medical Centre, will open in 2024.

Courtesy PCL Construction

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m here today, able to write this story, because my cancer treatment was successful and I had the support of family and friends along the way.

I want there to be more people like me — and fewer. I want more cancer survivors and fewer people who have to experience cancer in the first place. I want to raise awareness of cancer risks among young adults. I want there to be better supports in place — for all ages — to help them through their cancer journeys. I want more investment in research to better detect, treat and prevent cancer.

Our community is poised to be at the forefront — to own cancer, once and for all. And each and every one of us is an important part of it.

With one in two Albertans facing a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, we’ll all experience cancer, whether personally or through a loved one. By supporting the Calgary Cancer Centre with a gift to OWN.CANCER today, we’re making a difference to ourselves, our families and our community tomorrow.

Why support OWN.CANCER? We have the experts — world-renowned scientists at the University of Calgary who are reaching across disciplines to collaborate and advance critical research. We have one of the largest comprehensive cancer centres in North America opening soon in Calgary — a once-in-a-generation opportunity that will bring the right people with the right tools under one roof to transform cancer care and treatment.

And we have you. You are part of an extraordinary community whose support makes the impossible possible.

While my cancer journey was full of some of the worst kinds of surprises, one of the best was seeing just how much my community rallied around me. Taking care of me through treatment, helping with my young son when I couldn’t be present for him, and offering emotional support during one of the most difficult times of my life.

And, just as my friends and family rallied around me, I know this community can do the same for the Calgary Cancer Centre.

UCalgary Giving Day is April 27. Whether you support student awards, critical research or any one of UCalgary’s innovative funds, your gift will help change lives and shape the future. All eligible gifts made from April 1-27 will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 per gift — but only while matching funds last. Make your gift today at ucalgary.ca/givingday.

The University of Calgary, Alberta Cancer Foundation and Alberta Health Services are partnering together with one mission — to raise $250 million in support of improved cancer research, treatment and care at the new world-class Calgary Cancer Centre when it opens its doors in 2024. OWN.CANCER with us by making your gift today.