Prince Edward Island MLA Valerie Docherty shares her cancer battle stories

Docherty says attitude is key to living with disease as cancer society launches 2014 Relay for Life Dream Team

Dave Stewart
Published on March 5, 2014

Prince Edward Island's Relay for Life events will take place on the following dates:

May 30 in Summerside; June 6 in Kings County; June 7 in Kensington; June 13 in Charlottetown; June 20 at Westisle; January 2015 at UPEI.

Valerie Docherty says a positive attitude has played a huge role in her battle with cancer for the past 20 years.

Most days, Docherty serves as the minister of community services and seniors and the minister responsible for the Status of Women. On Tuesday, she spoke as a cancer survivor.

Docherty was guest speaker at the Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. division’s 2014 Relay for Life launch as a member of this year’s Dream Team, a group of 10 people who have committed to raising $5,000 each in support of the cause and to help raise awareness through their personal stories.


“Three times I have had to hear the words ‘You have cancer’,’’ said Docherty who was first diagnosed with non-Hodgson’s lymphoma Stage 4B in October 1995. Her father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2002, one month after Docherty learned she had a recurrence of her own cancer.

“I’m still here (and) one of the reasons why, I believe, is attitude. Did I have tears? Yes, I did. Did I have moments of anger? Yes, I did, but they were not frequent. You have to be positive. You have to get out of bed in the morning.’’

Docherty said she applied the same attitude to her father when he went through his ‘Why me?’ moments, forcing him to stay as active and as positive as he possibly could.

“You have to make an effort. If you don’t, you will die and you will die a lot quicker.’’

Since 2002, the local cancer society has raised more than $4.4 million on P.E.I. through Relay for Life and in 2013 the events contributed close to $300,000 to their work. As the society’s signature event, Relay for Life is responsible for about 30 per cent of its overall funds.

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee, another member of the Dream Team, lost a brother to cancer a few years ago.

“I know the pain. I know what families go through. I know what families continue to struggle with,’’ Lee said.

“This is a small way for me to give back to the cancer society and, hopefully, be part of the larger team that will help find a cure for cancer.’’

Last year, the local cancer society supported more than 2,200 Islanders through various programs. It also enabled the society to advocate for changes to public policy and invest in research.

Lori Barker, executive director of the P.E.I. branch of the cancer society, became emotional talking about how cancer has touched her life.

“I think of my sister-in-law's father who is battling stage 4 cancer right now. I think of my children,’’ Barker said. “I don’t ever want them to hear the words ‘You have cancer’ and if they do I don’t want them to be afraid. That’s what motivates my work each and every day.’’

Barker said survival rates are improving but the war is far from over.

“We tackle this disease one day at a time.’’

Valerie Docherty, minister of community services and seniors and minister responsible for the Status of Women, speaks of her experience with being diagnosed with cancer three times when she spoke Tuesday during the Relay for Life Dream Team camaign in Chaarlottetown. She shared her ppersonal cancer journey and explained the importance of Canadian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Members of the 2014 Relay for Life Dream Team:

• Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart;

• Nancy Hamill, program instructor with Tremploy in Alberton;

• Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee;

• Gerald Fitzpatrick, owner of Fitzpatrick & Company Chartered Accountants and a member of the Canadian Cancer Society’s P.E.I. division board of directors;

• Community Services and Seniors Minister Valerie Docherty;

• Barry Stewart, 30-year employee of the credit union system, a member of the Parkdale Sherwood Lions Club and the person many have come to know as the ‘man with the pink fire truck’;

• Wrestler Kowboy Mike Hughes and Jason Mosher, owner of Naturally Fit gym;

• Barbara Smith, partner with Stewart McKelvey law firm;

• Montague Mayor Richard Collins;

• Kali Simmonds, naturopathic doctor and owner of The Root Cellar