The Foundations work as catalysts to transform our hospitals. From the creation of new medical and research facilities, the recruitment and retention of the best health care professionals in the world to the establishment of Chairs, Fellowships and Professorships — the Foundations facilitate progress and development through various fundraising mechanisms to ultimately benefit patients.

The following stories demonstrate how patients support our Foundations:

Leanne walks for a cure 
Leanne imageI was diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer in March 2008 when I was 36-yearsold. It took several weeks for me to receive my diagnosis — a dreadful time. With no history of breast cancer in my family, I was shocked — I was a healthy young woman in the midst of building my marriage, family, career, life… cancer was not part of my world. Then, in June 2009, after more than a year of surgery, chemo/Herceptin and radiation, we found out that my cancer had metastasized.

No matter what stage in life you're diagnosed, the word 'cancer' can be so loaded with terror that it's hard to see beyond the word itself and all the monstrous weight it wields. The truth is that it's just a bunch of cells behaving very badly, and I believe the fear of it can become greater than the reality of it.

But there's a world where cancer exists as a daily reality and an everyday word; where people live their lives facing it, fighting it, treating it, researching ways to defeat it, standing up to it, willing it to become less terrifying and overwhelming, every day. Princess Margaret Hospital is part of this world and has provided me with a haven from the fear and helplessness. I'm very grateful and very proud of the nurses and doctors and technicians who care for me and others like me, and especially of the advances and discoveries that bring us all closer to beating cancer.

In September 2009, I walked 60K as part of The Weekend To End Breast Cancer (now The Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women's Cancers) while my family and friends and the best doctors in the world cheered me on. My approach is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get through this. I know that there are more ways to fight than there are to fear, and I've never stopped believing that cancer can be conquered in my lifetime. To find out more about The Weekend visit www.endcancer.ca

Dancing for research 
Tiziana Tolfo imageSeventeen years ago, Tiziana Tolfo was diagnosed with lupus. She was writing exam finals when she developed a rash on her face, experienced extreme fatigue, a fever and aching and swollen joints. Lupus is a difficult disease to diagnose because, like many autoimmune diseases, it has no single set of symptoms. Fortunately for Tiziana, a rheumatologist quickly confirmed she had lupus. She was admitted into hospital for three weeks of treatment.

Over the years Tiziana has experienced many challenges with her disease because of the many drugs she is required to take. Since her diagnosis, Tiziana has had five hip surgeries — a fibular graft, two hip replacements and two hip revisions (when one artificial joint is replaced by a second).

While scientists have developed better ways of treating lupus, they are still striving to find a cure. In 1992, Tiziana decided she wanted to do something to help. She decided to host Dance for the Cure. What makes Tiziana's efforts so special to the AARC Foundation is that a few years ago she decided that part of the proceeds from the annual gala dinner would be given to the AARC Foundation which raises funds for arthritis and autoimmune disease research. Her funds were specifically designated to lupus research under the direction of Dr. Murray Urowitz at Toronto Western. Since its inception, Dance for the Cure has raised over $225,000 for the AARC Foundation.

"Women in my family have had a history of heart disease and I know that because of my lupus, the odds for me are quite high. After a lot of research, I found that the Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) and its Registry for Atherosclerosis in SLE at the Toronto Western Hospital was clearly a research initiative I wanted to support."

A transformational gift 
Alberto Bacardi imageLast year, Alberto Bacardi underwent a kidney transplant at Toronto General Hospital. His wife, Maria, was his kidney donor. In their own words, they were touched by the patient experience: before, during and post transplant. To express their gratitude for the care they received, Alberto contacted the doctors who cared for them, Dr. Carl Cardella, senior staff nephrologist, and Dr. Michael Robinette, surgeon in UHN's Division of Urology, to find out how the family could support their work.

When Alberto learned more about the research going on at the Multi Organ Transplant Program, the Bacardi family decided to make a gift of $5 million to the program at TGH. In recognition of the family's exceptional gesture, the Ambulatory Transplant Unit was named the Maria H. Bacardi Ambulatory Transplant Centre.

"My family is honoured to support the transplant specialists and staff at Toronto General Hospital," says Alberto Bacardi. "We are grateful to Dr. Robinette, Dr. Cardella and the transplant staff for their humanity and heart-felt concern for their patients. We also congratulate Dr. Gary Levy for his leadership of the program."

The Bacardi gift will fund the creation of an endowed Chair. Its focus, at the family's request, will be on research relating to improved medications that will prevent organ rejection. The Maria H. Bacardi Ambulatory Transplant Centre, located on the 12th floor of TGH, is designed to meet the healthcare needs of approximately 3,000 organ transplant recipients. All patients have a designated Transplant Coordinator within the Ambulatory program who assists in managing their care along with the multidisciplinary health team.

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