Name: Aspasia Dassios
Home City: Toronto, Canada
A little bit about your cancer diagnosis: On July 31, 2017 I was diagnosed with stage four Diffuse Large B cell Lymphoma (DCBCL). After the standard R-CHOP chemotherapy did not work, I discovered I was part of the 20% of patients who were resistant. I took part in a clinical trial under Dr. Kuruvilla at Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto which included aggressive chemotherapy, immunotherapy and a stem-cell transplant. After 20 rounds of radiation I was declared in full remission in October of 2018.
Wellspring’s impact on your cancer journey: The lectures and cooking sessions informed me on how to cope during my illness. The exercise program strengthened my body after my illness. The brain fog program strengthened my mind after my illness. Wellspring was there during the whole journey.
Favourite pastime: Connecting with friends.
Fun Fact: I have moved 27 times in my life.
Looking forward to most in San Antonio beside the Peloton event: Seeing a town similar to Venice (canals) in Texas.
Wise words and encouragement to share with the riders: Illness is an opportunity for transformation.
Your cheerleading style: LOUD!
Anything else to note or share?: I feel very grateful that I got cancer while living in Ontario in 2017-18. The health system and organizations such as Wellspring are a blessing. So many people go through cancer and have to face financial hardship and isolation as well as the burden of disease.
Name: Andrew Hunter
Home City: Mississauga
A little bit about your cancer diagnosis: I hurt my back in May 2018. Since it was not getting better, we arranged for an MRI last August, which resulted in a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma. My body was letting me down so badly, that within 2 weeks of the MRI, I was steadily getting worse, and to the point that I would get spasms from my back down my right leg that would knock me to the floor. I was using my wife or daughters to hold onto to move, and was not leaving my bedroom. The Monday prior to Labour Day weekend, I got the call from a hematologist to see him that day, the start of the whirlwind! The next day, I was given appointments at Credit Valley Hospital for Thursday with both the oncologist and radiologist. On Wednesday, a friend who I was talking to could hear the pain as I would change positions, and arranged for a hospital bed, walker and wheelchair to be delivered to me that day, thus allowing me to move to my dining room, but also to be a part of my family for meals. I could now move by myself with the walker. That Thursday, I went into Credit Valley, and they started radiation– 5 treatments in 6 days, which alleviated the spasms, but did not take away the pain/ I was told that I would start chemo the following Friday, which continued until January of this year. At the beginning of February, I had a stem cell transplant, which has been successful, and now I am back to work full time, and riding my bike, although still only for short 20-30 km rides.
Wellspring’s impact on your cancer journey: I was initially skeptical. I went to a meeting at Credit Valley for new cancer patients, and filled out a form for assistance with exercises. I was contacted by Wellspring, and initially thought that I would go and get some ideas that I could do at home, as I have never been a gym person, and have some equipment in the house. The Cancer Exercise leaders, Monika, Jen and all the volunteers made me feel so welcome, that I was looking forward to going back all the time, and planning my days around it. When I first started going, I had progressed to requiring a cane wherever I went. Before Christmas, with their help, the cane was sitting in my car, and then finally holding up the house. I was so eager to go, that I returned shortly after the transplant, before my Hickman line was removed (I think the leader thought that I was nuts), and was truly sad when my weeks were over. I do not think that I would have progressed as fast without the program. Meeting other survivors was also inspiring, and have made new friends to share the journey with. Early in the Wellspring adventure, my family also met with Laura, the Family Counsellor as I was worried about my girls. My wife had gone through breast cancer after my youngest was born, and then a hysterectomy 5 years after, and also how quickly I had become incapacitated, I was worried about what they were thinking. Although the offer was always open to them to see the Family Counsellor again, one on one, none of them chose that path.
Favourite pastime: I love spending time at my tree farm, either doing odd chores or just relaxing.
Fun Fact: I lived in Nigeria for 6 months when I was 6 years old.
Looking forward to most in San Antonio beside the Peloton event: What a great city to end at! Last time I was there, we were all commenting how great it would be if somewhere around Toronto a canal system could be created
Wise words and encouragement to share with the riders: Enjoy the ride, be safe, but most importantly savour the memories!
Your cheerleading style: Quiet, but there for you!
Anything else to note or share?: I am a hobby cyclist, having completed the Ride to Conquer Cancer 6 times (had to miss last year as I couldn’t even get on the bike due to my back, and this year my challenge was to start it and ride the first 30 km, which I did!). I look forward to more time in the saddle as I get better.
Name: Barbara Nicholson
Home City: Toronto
Wellspring’s impact on your cancer journey: I came to know Wellspring as a caregiver, in light of cancer treatments for my parents and both of my younger sisters. What an astounding benefit for my well-being to participate in this community!
Favourite pastime: Walking my dog by the water.
Fun Fact: I have LOTS of tattoos, and I read Tarot cards.
Looking forward to most in San Antonio beside the Peloton event: What a great way to offer gratitude and praise! Many years ago, I attended a conference in San Antonio and I always knew I would someday return.
Wise words and encouragement to share with the riders: You will NOT be alone- we’re all part of your team!
Your cheerleading style: I’m not sure if it’s a style, but I can offer an ear and a cheer!
Name: Payal Abrol-Virji
Home City: North York (Toronto)
A little bit about your cancer diagnosis: I was diagnosed with breast cancer just after my 40th birthday. Not only was it shocking, it brought so many emotions forward impacting my emotional well-being.I have recently completed the bulk of my active treatment though I still have some ongoing treatment for a number of years to go.
Wellspring’s impact on your cancer journey: As I mentioned I struggled quite a bit with my emotional well-being following my diagnosis. A close friend brought me to Wellspring to reintroduce me to their supports and services to address my immediate and ongoing needs. I had initially been introduced to Wellspring when my mom was diagnosed over 10 years ago as a caregiver and I can truly say that Wellspring has been a support through generations in my family.
The programs hit the mark for all those affected by a cancer diagnosis, survivors, caregivers and other family members. Their array of programs have been so overwhelmingly positive in enhancing my well-being. I have also made genuine friends through these programs who I consider tremendous supports and companions when attending programs together!
Favourite pastime: I enjoy playing games with my 7 year old… our favourite being Monopoly Deal. My other favourite activity, helping me destress is shopping – the mall can sometimes be my happy place!!
Fun Fact: I am a speed reader and can often finish a book within a day.
Looking forward to most in San Antonio beside the Peloton event: Seeing the sights and the city. My husband and I were in Austin a few years ago and I feel like this is an opportunity to enjoy yet another part of Texas!
Wise words and encouragement to share with the riders: I am so proud to support your ride. I wish I were able to do what you are doing. This challenge you are taking on will support so many. Be proud as you push forward to meet your goal!!
Your cheerleading style: I am a loud and encouraging cheerleader but I also do not seek to be a distraction to the riders.