Canadian Cancer Society awards Charles Keliher medal of courage

Jocelyn Claybourne comments@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 29, 2013
Canadian Cancer Society P.E.I. president Bill Whelan, left, congratulates cancer survivor Charles Keliher on receiving the medal of honour, a national award from the society. Keliher won the award because of his remarkable survivor story and advocacy within the society, said Keliher.
Guardian photo by Jocelyn Claybourne

For the first time in his memory, he felt completely and utterly helpless.

When he appeared in the prime of his life, Charles Keliher at 51 years old, was told “you have cancer.”

Keliher received the medal of courage, a national award presented by the Canadian Cancer Society recently.

“It’s very gratifying to win the award, there are many, many other deserving people, but I’m very humbled by even being nominated,” said Keliher.

Keliher was the only participant to receive a national award during the event, but eight divisional awards were presented, including the Eileen Fulford Memorial Award.

Canadian Cancer Society in P.E.I. president Bill Whelan said Keliher’s ability to share his remarkable story and stay involved with the organization made him a top candidate to be nominated for the award.

“Not only has he taken the time to share his cancer story with other patients, but he has been a really strong advocate for the mission of the society on P.E.I.”

Keliher said it’s important for those who have cancer, or have been affected by someone with cancer, to hear his story because it’s a successful one.

“I think the more people who know there are others out there, who are having the same experience, will recognize the importance to fight it. We’re beating cancer, it’s not beating us.”

Six years after being diagnosed and then treated for colon cancer, Keliher went to the hospital for what was meant to be his final CAT scan.

The doctor recommended they expand the scan to include not only his colon, but his lung, abdomen, pelvis and liver.

A month later, the results came back. Keliher’s cancer had spread, a tumour was found on his left lung.

Keliher had the tumour removed, underwent chemotherapy and maintained regular checkups, which included more CT scans.

In November 2010, a scan revealed another tumour on his left lung, this time, resulting in the lower half of it being removed.

After battling cancer three times in 10 years, Keliher has noticed a lot of changes in cancer treatments, in large part due to volunteer work, he said.

“Remember when we introduced the smoke-free places legislation? People said it would never work, imagine a Tim Hortons or a bar where smoking was going to be prohibited. This forward-thinking initiative was the result of the hard work, persistence, perseverance of the volunteers and

members of the (Cancer Society).”

During the volunteer awards ceremony, Keliher spoke about the costs of oral chemotherapy medication.

“Although it is not yet a reality, we are told and we are confident, that we are going to have a catastrophic drug plan here on Prince Edward Island so that people will not have to choose between medication or food.”