Outsmarting cancer, their way

The Passchier sisters,

They helped outsmart cancer one step at a time

“There’s still so much to learn about cancer, and cures and what we can do for people. Our mom was able to stay with us 11 more years because of cancer research.”

Catelyn, Michelle, April and Cassandra Passchier know better than most that there will never be enough time when it comes to those we love as they lost their mother to cancer in 2006.

As a way to honour their mother, in 2011, they began fundraising to raise money and awareness for cancer research, something they knew had a real impact on people’s lives.

For 5 years, they took part in yearly runs and other large-scale initiatives, but the immense support they received from family, friends and their community made them realize they had the power to do more and to potentially have more control over where the money raised would go.

“We’d go to Run for a Cure and we’d do the day, and then that’d be it, out of our minds until the next year. And we said “No! Let’s be hands-on involved!” Not just because people are supporting us since our mom passed away, but doing this because we believe in the research. We believe in the cause, but let’s know why we believe in it.”

The Cancer Research Society proved to be the best choice and offered them the challenging opportunity to raise $60,000 in four years. A sum that would then be matched by the Society to provide a full operating grant to a scientist in the field of their choosing.

“We thought to ourselves: ‘This is great! It was literally zero cost, so everything we did, 100% of every dollar would go straight to cancer research. That was one thing we really felt strongly about, that everything would go straight to the cause.’ ” 

That is how the Passchier sisters created their main event “Walk 4 A Cure”.

They ran their event annually from 2012 to 2016, and with the support of those around them were able to organize a series of other smaller events that ranged from dodgeball tournaments to calendar photoshoots. Through their hard work and dedication, they were able to not only achieve but surpass their goal by raising a total of $65,300 for cancer research in four years.

Through extensive research done by the oldest sister Michelle, the Passchier sisters decided that they wanted the operating grant to go towards a scientist who was working in the field of nutrigenomics: the study of the relationship between nutrition, health, and the human genome.

“It has a lot to do with what you put into your body and how your genes express themselves. This was something we felt was associated with what we, as individuals, can do for ourselves on a personal basis.”

The Isaiah 40:31 fund, named by the sisters after their mother’s favourite Bible verse, was added to the available operating grants of that year and Dr. Michael Wilson was chosen by the Cancer Research Society’s expert panel to be the recipient.

They not only made a difference in successfully funding cancer research, but they were also able to have a personal connection with the researcher whose work they funded and in 2018, they even got the chance to visit Dr. Wilson’s lab at the Sick Kids hospital in Toronto.

“It’s pretty neat to be able to actually be directly involved. None of us are into science so it was so cool to see what they do every day. It makes it so real. It’s not like we donated money and that’s it, the researchers are actually working on things and their work has been published, and they’ve made progress.”

There are many ways to get involved with the Cancer Research Society, from creating your own fundraising event, volunteering with us, or even becoming a monthly donor. Every dollar helps fund promising cancer research and gives more time to our loved ones.

“There’s always progress being made and anything that can be learned about cancer, on how to treat cancer or prevent it is important and can make a difference in someone’s life. It’s important to just keep educating ourselves, even us who aren’t doing research, just to know what we can do to stay healthy. People just don’t know everything that is happening, and all the little steps that are making progress, so for us being able to have been involved with a grant and getting updates, you see that there are things being learned and that there is real progress in these research fields.”

Related stories

Presenting you the 2022 SNGS grantees

Canada, 2022
everydaycancerheroFuture in researchResearch

Unique of its kind, the Scholarship for the Next Generation of Scientists (SNGS) offers bridge financing between postdoctoral work and an independent research position ($170,000 over three years). This opportunity is extremely valuable as it represents a launch pad for the most talented researchers to gradually and effectively establishing their independence in a recognized Canadian … Read more

Three of the 2022 grantees

Canada, 2022
everydaycancerheroFuture in researchResearch

Since the Cancer Research Society was founded, thousands of researchers have received a grant or scholarship for their cancer-related research project.   For those researchers, these funds have huge impacts and generate positive repercussions for several years, both because of breakthroughs that are made over time and because of the careers that are propelled by them.   … Read more