For Lynda Prystie, the idea that cancer would affect someone in her family had never been considered.
The mother of three had no history of the disease in her family and had no reason to believe she would ever have to deal with the devastating diagnosis.
That all changed in December 2009 after a mole removal for her daughter Lauryn, then 23, turned into something much more.
Results from a pathology test showed the mole was malignant, and while a skin sample for cancer came back negative, a lymph node dissection did not.
After treatment at Surrey Memorial Hospital and at BC Cancer Agency’s Fraser Valley Centre, the cancerous lymph nodes were removed and Lauryn, now 25, has been cancer-free for nearly a year-and-a-half.
Following Lauryn’s successful treatment in July 2010, the Prystie family hosted a community fundraiser using Lauryn’s nickname, Yo – calling the event the MelaYOma Fundraiser.
Charging $50 per person, the event raised more than $19,000 to give back to the BC Cancer Foundation at SMH to thank them for the care they gave her daughter, Lynda said.
“They were so upbeat and they helped so much,” she said.
They used the money to purchase new chairs and fund other patient comforts at the clinic, including an IV allowing three drugs to be administered at once, significantly cutting treatment time.
“We wanted to do something tangible, something that could create comfort and that people could see – this is where the money is going,” Lynda said.
Despite Lauryn’s clean bill of health, the two women have not forgotten about the people they met on their journey who are having a more difficult time with the illness, Lynda said.
“Just because Lauryn is better doesn’t mean we will give up the cause,” she said.
In August 2011, the Prystie family and friends once again hosted a fundraiser, this time bringing in $17,000 for the BCCF. Lynda and Lauryn presented the cheque to the foundation Oct. 21, and in late-November, they received a call from Dr. Alan Hovan at SMH informing them that the money would be going to the dental emergency fund.
“The bulk of the donated money will be going to help patients with throat, mouth and tongue cancer who may need dental reconstructive surgery,” she said. “The fund was depleted so it was such a big help to them.”
Because of treatment, some patients can lose their teeth or even parts of their mouth – a crushing blow to patients, physically and emotionally.
“If you have chemo and you lose your hair, you have a wig, a scarf – even bald is great with big earrings,” Lynda said.
“But if you don’t have your teeth and a nice smile or you can’t smile without feeling bad, you’re not going to feel better and you’re not going to get better.”
Being able to raise the funds was not something that could have happened without the support of the community, Lynda said. The outpouring of support – in the form of both money and volunteers for the event – has encouraged the family to continue with their cause.
“We received so much help from people who attended the event and even people who were not able to make it and donated,” she said. “The small businesses donated and were such a great support.”
The remaining money will be added to a fund the Prystie’s created last year to help transport patients who are financially strained to the Fraser Valley Chemo Lab at SMH and with any additional medical costs.
Funds can be donated to the MelaYOma Fundraising Society account at TD Canada Trust, 15137 16 Ave.