Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Luckiest man' walking the walk

Cancer survivors support each other

  • Print
Cancer survivor Lawrence Traa calls himself 'the luckiest man in the world' after cutting-edge surgery increased his life expectancy from two years to eight.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Cancer survivor Lawrence Traa calls himself 'the luckiest man in the world' after cutting-edge surgery increased his life expectancy from two years to eight. Photo Store

I was dreading it.

Dreading the thought of being in front of nearly 1,400 people and having to walk the fashion runway at Sunday's 22nd annual Guardian Angel Benefit for Women's Cancer.

Until, that is, I got to meet and got to know the other cancer survivors who walked the fashion runway with me. Woman and men and even teenagers who have walked the walk with various forms of the disease in ways far more challenging than my own.

There was 78-year-old Ethel Gordon, a breast cancer survivor of nearly 20 years who delighted the crowd by boogying down the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg runway. And 74-year-old former Canadian men's curling champion Terry Braunstein modelling pyjamas almost as bravely as he has confronted and beaten bladder and prostate cancer. And Ryan Veldkamp, who's just 16, and Jill Zarney, who's 26 and Erin Smith who's 29.

And then there was Lawrence Traa who introduced himself this way.

"I'm the luckiest man in the world."

The 52-year-old former general manager of Standard Areo was pulling on a shirt backstage at the rehearsal the day before when he startled me with those words. This was after he told me the message his doctor had given him last year just before Christmas.

That he had a brain tumour and maybe two years to live. There was more bad luck where that came from.

Less than five years after he had to tell his then-teenage children that their 45-year-old mother's cancer, after being in remission for more than seven years, had spread to her liver. Lorilee Traa had only days to live.

"Someone asked me, 'What's the toughest thing you've ever had to do?' "

Tougher, even, than telling his daughter, Morgan, and son, Mitchell, that he had two years to live because there was nothing that could be done for his brain cancer.

Except that's not how it turned out because Traa wouldn't allow it.

He remembered something and someone that might help him find and receive the advanced treatment he so desperately needed.

The something he remembered was being at a Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters event in March 2011 where an award was presented to IMRIS, a Manitoba- conceived enterprise that the year before had acquired cutting-edge neuroArm imaging technology. The kind that is used for advanced brain surgery.

The someone he remembered was Ed Richmond, a friend and former boss at StandardAero who had been an executive at IMRIS.

Traa contacted Richmond and Richmond contacted Dr. Garnette Sutherland, a professor of neurosciences at the University of Calgary's Foothills Medical Centre and the father of the technology that, at that time, Winnipeg didn't have.

Dr. Sutherland agreed to review Traa's file, and told Traa to come to Calgary.

They could operate.

Last March, Traa underwent a 14-hour operation during which a team led by Sutherland removed 70 per cent of the tumour.

Traa said suddenly his life expectancy went from two years to eight. That's why Traa calls himself the luckiest man in the world.

But we're in luck, too.

The technology that had prolonged Traa's life is here now.

In mid-September, Health Sciences Centre announced the opening of its $25-million centre for surgical innovation; one of only seven in the world.

But there's more good luck where that came from. One day recently Traa was at CancerCare Manitoba having his blood monitored when he saw a young woman who was weeping. He asked if he could help in some way. The 39-year-old mother of three told Lawrence she had brain cancer, and she was waiting to be the first patient to have brain surgery in the new centre for surgical innovation and she didn't know what to expect.

And there was Traa to help her get through it.

Just as Traa and my other new cancer-survivor friends helped me get through the fear of that dreaded fashion show.

By walking that walk together.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 5:59 AM CDT: Replaces photo

9:36 AM: adds missing word

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Zoo officials detail tiger death

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose cools off Thursday in water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Jia Ping Lu practices tai chi in Assiniboine Park at the duck pond Thursday morning under the eye of a Canada goose  - See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge Day 13- May 17, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Jets' three pre-season losses in a row are a sign of things to come?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google