July 22, 2021 by Women in Insurance Cancer Crusade (WICC)
Editor’s Note: In honour and celebration of Women and Insurance Cancer Crusade (WICC)’s 25th anniversary, Canadian Underwriter will be publishing each Friday a personal story of someone who has been touched by WICC’s fundraising activities in support of cancer care and research. There will be four stories in all, starting this week with the personal story of Donna Cassidy. Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry has strongly supported WICC, which has set a goal of contributing a total of $25 million to cancer care and research by 2025.
Donna Cassidy, Assistant Vice President, Chubb Insurance
Donna Cassidy has always been a believer that behind every cloud is a silver lining – she is just a naturally positive person. But sometimes, it’s difficult to find the light.
For Donna, that reality hit home in August 2020, when she, her mother, and her sister all sat beside her father’s palliative care bed for a week, watching the disease win out. Darkness had come to them in a very personal way, and the light was hard to see through the anger, frustration, sadness and concern.
Her father was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate many years ago. At the time, doctors didn’t know what type or how aggressive it was until it was too late. It wasn’t until it had spread to many other parts of his body that his family realized how aggressive it actually was.
After the loss of her father, Donna wasn’t exactly looking for a silver lining, but rather a way to cope. Sometimes, this can manifest through distraction. For Donna, that distraction came in the form of raising money to fund cancer research. Shortly after her father passed, she had to get ready for WICC’s inaugural Virtual Breakfast event. There was no time to waste. There was work to be done.
Donna found solace in pouring her energy into planning the event. It provided her with an outlet and opportunity to see that, even when things seem bleak and pointless, there are ways to make a difference — if not for her personally, then for someone else someday.
As a long-time WICC volunteer, Donna has participated in numerous events and in various roles, most recently as the co-chair of the Annual WICC Breakfast. The topic at the previous breakfast event, which took place after her father’s diagnosis of metastasis cancer, was early detection of different forms of prostate cancer.
At the breakfast, researchers explained the importance of early detection, which determines whether the cancer will remain in the prostate or if it would metastasize. Knowing this early on makes a significant impact on the survival rate of patients, because treatment plans would be vastly different.
Following the event, a decision was made to fund some of this research. “I hope you can imagine how good it felt to be able to be a part of this,” Donna said. “To know that some of the money that you helped to raise for WICC was going to fund a program whose purpose was finding a way to identify types of prostate cancer earlier, so that treatment could be more tailored to what the patients faced. This knowledge and change in treatment could be a saviour for so many lives that might otherwise be lost or affected by cancer.”
So, there it was, her unexpected silver lining, a way to matter, to contribute, to fight back. Although the research could not bring her father back and it wouldn’t take away the pain from losing him too soon, it might save other fathers, husbands, or sons.
As Donna put it: “WICC gave me a light, a candle, to see past my immediate darkness towards a day when maybe, just maybe, we get to talk about cancer in the past tense. And I hope that what we do can act as a candle for others in the same way.”
Donna Cassidy is a longstanding supporter of WICC.