‘I was so fortunate.’ Surrey mom gives thanks for close-to-home cancer care

A nagging cough in the morning and before bed was Anneka Gill’s first sign that something wasn’t quite right, but she put it down to allergies or something similar. When the then-32-year-old coughed up blood during a trip to India, bronchitis was suggested, and then the possibility of tuberculosis following a chest x-ray at home, but diagnosis remained elusive.

A lymph node on Anneka’s neck, swollen first to the size of a pea, then a golf ball, before receding, was the next clue that something was amiss, but testing for streptococcal infection brought no results.

Fortunately, the ensuing biopsy finally revealed the cause: Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Despite hearing the word “cancer” on the day she and husband Jas were celebrating their son’s birthday, Anneka felt relief that hers was among the most treatable, and that she’d be celebrating many more special days.

That gratitude also supported her through the six months of gruelling chemotherapy treatments that followed, but she was thankful she was in BC Cancer’s care. “Jas did so much research and B.C. is one of the most advanced globally in research and treatment,” Anneka says.

And, thanks to BC Cancer – Surrey, Anneka could be treated close to home, where Jas and their extended family could help care for their daughter, five years old at the time, and son, just three.

“I was so fortunate to have the cancer centre close to home and to have a big support network nearby,” Anneka says. “It was just a 25-minute drive from home, but it would be so much more difficult for people who have to come from far away, or have to relocate for treatment without their support network, especially for those who don’t have the prognosis I had.”

Looking forward for cancer care in the Fraser Valley

Today, recovered and healthy, Anneka urges other young moms to take symptoms they experience seriously. She had no family history and was training for a half-marathon when her symptoms began; she didn’t experience many of the common cancer symptoms, while some, like fatigue, she saw as simply part of being a mom. “Even if it’s just a cough, do go to your doctor, instead of thinking it’s nothing.”

In addition to the amazing nurses at the BC Cancer centre in Surrey, Anneka gives thanks to the many donors who not only made research and treatment for her cancer possible, but made close-to-home treatment possible.

The Fraser Health region is one of the fastest-growing areas in the province and cancer cases are expected to rise by 35 per cent over the next decade, as the population grows and ages.

To meet that need, the BC Cancer Foundation has committed to fundraising $30 million to equip the second BC Cancer centre in Surrey – which is currently under construction – with the latest in life-saving technology, ensuring Fraser region residents have timely access to the life-saving care, where and when they need it.

Learn more about the BC Cancer Foundation’s efforts to fund world-leading cancer research and care here in the Fraser region – and how you can help – at bccancerfoundation.com/fraser.

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