Ottawa – Mayor Jim Watson and Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper presented a Mayor’s City Builder Award to Elizabeth Dessureault at today’s City Council meeting. She was recognized for her contributions to lung cancer awareness, research, treatment and patient advocacy.
In April 2015, Elizabeth, a lifelong non-smoker, was diagnosed with stage IIIB (late stage) lung cancer. She was 25 and five months pregnant for her first child. She was told her cancer was incurable and she was given a year at most to live.
As a teacher, newlywed (to Dax Dessureault, an RCMP officer) and mother-to-be, she refused to accept the prognosis and had her tissue sent to the United States for genetic testing. The tests revealed a rare genetic mutation called ROS-1, which meant her tumour could be treated with a pill.
She also intensively researched lung cancer and found that, while it is the most frequent killer among cancers, the stigma attached to lung cancer as a smoker’s disease means a disproportionately low share of cancer research funding is allocated to it. She decided to become an advocate for lung cancer awareness and to do all she can to change the image, and the conversation, around lung cancer.
She offered her services as a spokesperson and fundraiser to Lung Cancer Canada and Team Draft, a lung cancer awareness, research and advocacy organization in the States founded in 2011 by NFL player Chris Draft and his late wife Keasha. Elizabeth’s central message is “If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer”.
She raised funds for lung cancer awareness last fall by designing and manufacturing white leather “Just Breathe” bracelets, which raised over $10,000 during November and December for Lung Cancer Canada, Team Draft, and the Ottawa General Hospital to help fund their planned Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Laboratory. Having a laboratory in Ottawa will help make genetic profiling of tumours a standard part of medical care, allowing physicians to determine which medications will work best for a particular patient.
She blogs about her battle with cancer at fromlizzieslungs.wordpress.com.
The Mayor’s City Builder Award is a civic honour created to recognize an individual, group or organization that has, through outstanding volunteerism or exemplary action, demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to making our city a better place today and for the future. This may include lifelong service, outstanding acts of kindness, inspiring charitable work, community building or other exemplary achievements.
Individuals, groups or organizations may be nominated by members of City Council or the public.
The award is presented at the beginning of each City Council meeting.