NDHF Volunteer Anu Mayer Advocates for Cancer Care for Central Vancouver Island
Six months after joining the Hospital Foundation’s volunteer Board of Directors in 2021, Anu Mayer’s daughter Natasha was diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer. Today Anu shares how the need for cancer care here in central Vancouver Island came very close to home for her family.
November 13, 2021 was a milestone day for Natasha Mayer – graduation day. She felt an area around her neck that was swollen and irritated. She had been complaining about being tired but chalked that up to a busy UVic course load and reaching the grad finish line. As the neck lump persisted Natasha visited her doctor in Nanaimo, who recommended a screening with the local cancer clinic. January was given as the earliest they would get in.
So Natasha waited, but her neck got worse. Back at school in Victoria, Anu encouraged Natasha to get it checked out again. So on December 7th Natasha went to the ER at The Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. Over the next 3 days in a whirlwind of appointments at the Jubilee, Natasha received a confirmation it was cancer, a biopsy was booked, and she had an ENT visit. Anu moved down to Victoria to support her daughter. December 15th the biopsy was performed, and Christmas Eve the diagnosis was shared – Stage Two Cancer.
Healthy and young, the doctors were very positive this was a treatable cancer for Natasha. They felt lucky.
The next 6 months Anu split her time between an Air B+B near the hospital, the Cancer Clinic, and fitting in zoom calls for her Nanaimo based business and philanthropy roles. All while navigating the challenging COVID protocols and ever-changing lockdowns.
The Cancer treatment facilities were state of the art. Mom and daughter passed the hours talking and playing crib in the chemo rooms with blankets, reclining chairs, all to make the patients more comfortable. On May 9th Natasha rang the bell and was officially cancer free. As Anu shares, it was the best Mother’s Day gift ever.
It’s hard for Anu to not see the correlation of being asked to join the role of a board member for the Hospital Foundation and going through a medical fight in her family months later. “It has made me even more determined that we need to advocate and lead the change for our growing community,” shared Anu. “We were lucky- Natasha found another route going down the Malahat and we were able to uproot our lives to support her in Victoria for her treatment, not every family has the ability or resources to do that.”
April is Cancer Awareness Month, a month close to Anu and so many central island families. The province has promised a new cancer centre for central Vancouver Island, and as the mom of a cancer survivor and as a volunteer on the NDHF board of directors, Anu is working to hold the Province accountable. Cancer Care is one of the 6 Key Focus Areas of the Hospital Foundation to ensure the best possible outcomes for cancer patients through new cancer services and equipment.