"I looked around and thought this is amazing," Vinesha Ramasamy says of the first time she experienced the Doves of Hope campaign at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. (Photo: Courtesy Ramasamy Family)

With two in five Canadians expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, it can be challenging to find a family that hasn't been touched by the disease.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and its compassionate team are very special to the Ramasamy family as their daughter was diagnosed with cancer not once but twice.

At the age of 15, Vinesha was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her leg. After overcoming the disease, Vinesha thought cancer was behind her. Unfortunately, a few years later, when she was 19, she learned the cancer had returned, this time to her lungs.

"I was sitting in a class near the start of second year and just started coughing up blood and having seizures," says Vinesha. That's when she and her family knew something was terribly wrong.

Vinesha and her mom met with her oncologist at the Princess Margaret.

"He said 'the cancer is back and it's very aggressive.' He also prepared us that there is not much available, I had taken all the treatments that I could when I was younger."

He did, however, note that she might be eligible for a clinical trial.

"That was the first wink of hope we had that there might be something possible," Vinesha says.

Vinesha was told the trial may give her six more months, but it gave her more. Ten years later, she is still here with us.

Research advancements fueled by donations give hope to cancer patients

The Princess Margaret is one of the top five cancer research centres in the world, and Canada's largest and most comprehensive cancer centre. With 850 active clinical trials underway at any given time, the Princess Margaret is also Canada's largest and one of the world's top-rated cancer clinical trials programs.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation's (PMCF) Doves of Hope campaign raises funds that enable the cancer centre's world-renowned team to continue conducting cancer discovery research, develop new treatments and further enhance patient care.

Every advancement fueled by donations made through the campaign gives hope to cancer patients, like Vinesha, in Canada and around the world.

Vinesha says the Princess Margaret is a special place to her.

"For everyone entering through those doors, we're going there because we don't have anywhere else to go in that moment," she says. "I'm so lucky and thankful for that, and thankful for having a warm, comfortable place full of love where people like me who were just struggling, worried and feeling uncertain about the future can be around a lot of smiling faces."

Every gift made in honour of a loved one who is either facing cancer or has faced cancer is recognized by a beautiful dove displayed in the cancer centre. Thanks to The PMCF's community of supporters, thousands of doves symbolizing hope and strength continue to be dedicated.

"The first time that I encountered Doves of Hope was when I went to the Princess Margaret in the fall, and I saw so many paper doves all around the hospital," Vinesha says. "I looked around and thought this is amazing."

Vinesha emphasizes that people should support the Princess Margaret because they get to be part of shaping stories like hers.

"I'm so thankful for people who have donated and contributed, and for all those thinking of it," she says. "The Princess Margaret is truly a special place and a lot of it is because of donors, so thank you."

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