At a cancer charity run last spring, Senator Vern White, then chief of the Ottawa Police Service, was angry. He had just been diagnosed with colon cancer.
White is a regular participant in the Alterna Ultimate Run for Men’s Cancers (formerly called “Do it for Dad”), and the annual friendly fundraising competition between police, firefighters and paramedics.
“Last year, a week before the run I found I had colon cancer myself,” he said at the launch event for this year’s run. “I was angry and mad at the world. Why me?”
White said he found inspiration in Greg Hébert, a radio broadcaster who is fighting a brutal battle with a cancer of the head and neck while fundraising and speaking publicly to raise awareness about cancer prevention.
“His passion around fighting it impacted on me and gave me an understanding that realistically it can happen to anyone and our options were to give up or fight—and it changed my focus mentally, which was important in my battle,” he said.
After surgery, White was given the all-clear he said. He still undergoes frequent tests, but is healthy and ready to run in this year’s 10-kilometre event.
“I got it early, and that’s one of my points,” he said. “Don’t wait to get sick… If you’re over 50 get a colonoscopy.”
White said he didn’t speak out about the cancer as police chief or when he was appointed to the senate because he wasn’t ready until now.
“Honestly I wasn’t comfortable with it,” he said. “It took me longer than most people.”
The Alterna Ultimate run will be held on Father’s Day, which is June 17 this year. Organizers are hoping to raise more than $500,000 for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. For more information go to ottawacancer.ca.