Krissy Chutskoff on her breast cancer journey

Krissy Chutskoff was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. Navigating this disease at a young age came with challenges, yet throughout her cancer journey, she found hope in her loved one’s support, leaning into feel-good activities and learning about the new Calgary Cancer Centre.

Here, she shares her story…

Tell us about yourself…

My name is Krissy Chutskoff. I’ve lived in Calgary for over fifteen years now and share a home with my husband, Chad, and our free-roam house bunny, Flirt, who makes us laugh and brings us so much joy every day. My husband and I are both originally from Saskatchewan, so we are both devoted Saskatchewan Roughrider fans and enjoy travelling back to the province regularly to spend time with our families.

Although my husband and I are homebodies, who enjoy staying in with a good book, movie, or crossword, we also enjoy supporting local live music, entertainment, and food with our friends.

Krissy’s bunny, Flirt.

How did your cancer journey begin?

I found out that I carried the BRCA1 gene in 2009 when I was 27. Because of that, I was set up with semi-annual mammograms, MRIs, ultrasounds, blood tests, and physical exams for breast cancer surveillance.

I stayed on this surveillance program dutifully until December 2019, when I went in for a regularly scheduled surveillance MRI. I wasn’t overly concerned about it since my most recent mammogram, and a recent physical exam, didn’t show any cause for concern. With this, I was in high spirits for the holiday season.

A day after my MRI, while driving home for Christmas, I received a call from my Doctor that the MRI had shown a large mass and a swollen lymph node in my left breast. Given my BRCA1 gene status and this mass’s seemingly rapid growth rate, this likely was something of concern. I returned from the holidays, on January 2, I was sent in for a biopsy. On January 8, I was officially diagnosed at the age of 37 with stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer, which had spread to my lymph nodes.

Krissy with her husband,

I had 18 months of active treatment, which included neoadjuvant chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, 25 rounds of radiation, and 6 months of additional oral chemotherapy.

How are you doing today?

Today I am just over a year out of active treatment, considered NED (No Evidence of Disease) and doing quite well! I’m still getting used to my “new body” and struggle the most with fatigue, brain fog, sore joints, and other fun symptoms that go hand in hand with a post-cancer and surgical menopausal body in your thirties.

Daily workouts and walks in our beautiful neighbourhood help loosen up the body, and I recently completed the 8-week brain fog course through Wellspring, which armed me with many wonderful tools to utilize and help with that. I also had a prophylactic oophorectomy to decrease my chances of developing ovarian cancer (the BRCA1 gene also greatly increases the risk of that).

From the moment I was diagnosed with cancer, there was a plan in place and no messing around. My experience at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre felt like a well-oiled machine.

How did you feel supported by the healthcare professionals and staff at the Tom Baker?

I remember the first chemo treatment that I had alone. I couldn’t open my snacks (one of the many reasons caregivers are so important, snack help) because my hands were in ice mitts to prevent neuropathy. I started to cry, an RN saw me struggling, and she ran over immediately to help. The excellent Tom Baker Cancer Centre staff, and the caregivers supported me as much as possible in a constantly changing situation.

Not to mention, I have no doubts that if I did not receive routine screening due to my BRCA1 mutation, I would not be here today.

What were some challenges you faced through your journey, and what advice do you have for others who may face the same challenges?

The hardest part of my diagnosis was the worry it caused my family and friends. I know that my parents would have given anything to take the pain away for me and seeing how hard it was on my husband (the ultimate caregiver) was very difficult.

A piece of advice I lived by was even though it can be uncomfortable to ask, just do it. People genuinely want to help, so let them know what you need if anything (rides, dinners, help cleaning). That and don’t feel the need to purchase a ridiculously overpriced wig. Amazon has endless fun ones for a fraction of the cost.

How do you OWN.CANCER?

I had a prophylactic oophorectomy to decrease my further chances of developing ovarian cancer (BRCA1 gene also greatly increases the risk of that). I have been working hard at trying to keep a healthy but balanced lifestyle to help prevent recurrence but also still enjoy the things I love. I am also participating in clinical trials and research geared towards women’s health and early onset cancers as well as utilizing courses offered by Wellspring.”

What does the new Calgary Cancer Centre mean to you?

I distinctly remember sitting alone in one of the dark and aged Tom Baker basement waiting rooms watching the TV as it displayed renderings of the new Calgary Cancer Centre – showing the bright open atrium – and feeling an overwhelming sense of hope for future patients.

“When someone knows they are receiving state-of-the-art care and it looks and feels new and shiny, it gives people extra confidence in their journey.

The state-of-the-art technology, treatment, research, and clinical trials that will be offered at the new Centre means that many more lives can be saved.


At the Calgary Cancer Centre, we’re bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible. Help make an impact for patients like Krissy, and donate to the OWN.CANCER campaign today.

New gift to OWN.CANCER campaign builds on renowned Calgary strength in cancer-focused emotional and psychological research and care

OWN.CANCER Campaign Co-Chair John Osler (left) and philanthropist Patrick Daniel unveil a plaque in honour of the Daniel Family Foundation's gift

OWN.CANCER Campaign Co-Chair John Osler, left, and philanthropist Patrick Daniel unveil a plaque in honour of the Daniel Family Foundation’s gift. Photo by: Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary.

Cancer patients and their families will benefit from a new multimillion-dollar gift through the OWN.CANCER campaign (a partnership between the University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Cancer Foundation) to advance Calgary’s world-leading psychosocial oncology research and care.

The $5 million contribution by Calgary philanthropist Patrick Daniel and his family will support a world-class clinician-researcher through a new research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology in the Department of Oncology and Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute — a joint entity of Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary.

Psychosocial oncology (PSO) is a cancer specialty that addresses the social, psychological and emotional issues that arise with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as survivorship. With one in two Albertans currently expected to face a cancer diagnosis, this work is essential.

Calgary’s already world-renowned program will benefit greatly from the gift, as well as a new collaborative space in the Calgary Cancer Centre. The Daniel Family Foundation Psychosocial Oncology Hub will bring clinicians, researchers, care teams and families together — under one roof — to collaborate on the cancer challenge in a way that hasn’t previously been possible.

A family affair

Patrick Daniel's mother, Catherine Daniel

Patrick Daniel’s mother, Catherine Daniel, was passionate about psychosocial oncology after her cancer diagnosis in the late 1970s. Photo: Courtesy Patrick Daniel

The retired energy executive is a long-standing champion of psychosocial oncology. Daniel’s connection to it is personal: his mother, Catherine Daniel, truly owned her 1978 lymphoma diagnosis and years of treatment by researching and developing her own emotional and mental well-being plan. Daniel says she did this four years before the first meeting of early experts on psychosocial oncology in Canada even occurred.

“It was a very unusual thought at the time; not very many people connected your mental and emotional health with your physical health. The fact that she believed so much in it made me want to do something to help,” Daniel says. Catherine went on to enjoy spending time with her children and grandchildren for another 14 years before she died in 1992, he adds.

A long-standing champion for PSO, he’s given generously to the field — first through Enbridge, where he served as president and CEO from 2001 to 2012, and later through the Daniel Family Leadership Chair in Psychosocial Oncology at UCalgary. With this new gift, he hopes to capitalize on the opportunity for growth through the Calgary Cancer Centre and OWN.CANCER campaign

“UCalgary’s work in psychosocial oncology has been world-recognized and makes a real difference. It is very satisfying to be supporting such globally impactful work,” says Daniel.

On the map

Dr. Barry Bultz, Ph.D., is a global founder of psychosocial oncology whose work put Calgary on the map in this field. Bultz, an Alberta Health Services psychologist and UCalgary researcher, led the development of some of the very first protocols for screening for cancer-related distress — known as the ‘sixth’ vital sign in cancer patients — which are now embraced as the standard of care in cancer hospitals around the world. Earlier this year, he was recognized with the Order of Canada for his work.

“The way we treat cancer goes beyond the tumour to address the whole patient and their unique journey. In Calgary, we have focused our research on really understanding the psychological needs and social well-being of patients with cancer, both during and after treatment,” says Bultz, the Daniel Family Leadership Chair in Psychosocial Oncology.

“We are placing a major research emphasis on survivorship and identifying new strategies to help patients transition to life beyond cancer.”

UCalgary clinician-scientists were also among the first to use their own research to develop and customize mindfulness-based therapy programs and relationship workshops for patients coping with cancer. Current research includes integrative oncology, as well as examining the unique needs of survivors of pediatric cancer. This work is bolstered by philanthropy, including the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Enbridge Research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology and the Button Family Initiative in Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology and Survivorship.

Catalyzing opportunity

The new Daniel Family Chair in Psychosocial Oncology will lead psychosocial oncology research and care for the next 10 years at the new Calgary Cancer Centre, harnessing strengths around access to psychosocial patient outcome data through Alberta’s unique province-wide electronic health record system and UCalgary’s research partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS).

UCalgary offers powerful capabilities to analyze the data. New data-driven research will enhance real-time communication among researchers, care providers and patients and families, and foster a learning healthcare system where care is continuously improving for other Albertans who enter the Calgary Cancer Centre’s doors.

“This generous gift from Patrick will enable us to attract additional internationally recognized leaders to build on our research excellence in the psychosocial space — providing a power-up for this critical work. It will attract talent, international collaborations, and research funds to Calgary to fuel projects of significant global importance,” says Dr. Jennifer Chan, MD, director, Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute.

“The Daniel Family Foundation Psychosocial Oncology Hub at the new Cancer Centre will support research, clinical care and community engagement centralized under one roof,” says Dr. Don Morris, MD, Ph.D., head of UCalgary’s Department of Oncology; and facility medical director, Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the new Calgary Cancer Centre, Alberta Health Services.

“It will allow resultant multidisciplinary teams to provide cutting-edge psychosocial cancer care for our patients and their families. The opportunities afforded by this chair will significantly expand the scope of the new cancer centre’s reach to address the diverse needs of pediatric, young adult and adult cancer populations, and encourage new and collaborative partnerships with underserved communities.

“In addition, this gift will allow the recruitment of the best and brightest trainees as part of the next generation of psychosocial oncology researchers and clinicians.”

UCalgary President Ed McCauley, Ph.D., agrees: “World-class research and education are absolutely driving better care. This targeted and proactive approach can help mitigate further cancer-related challenges — reducing overall healthcare costs and allowing patients and families to return to work faster and live their lives more fully.

“We are so grateful to the Daniel Family Foundation for their philanthropic vision and commitment to changing the trajectory of cancer.”

Learning to live again without fear

Beth, breast cancer survivor, and her husband Chuck

Beth Fortin with her husband, Chuck Fortin

Beth Fortin, a Calgary breast cancer survivor, mother and supervisor in the insurance industry, finished her treatment in April of this year. While the cancer is no longer in her body, it left behind serious symptoms of trauma and distress. She says the psychosocial oncology care she continues to receive through Tom Baker Cancer Centre has been tremendously helpful for both herself and her partner, Chuck.

“No matter what your stage of cancer is, you are going to end up with psychological trauma, because you have to learn to live every single day with the possibility of recurrence. The counselling I received has empowered me to start living again without fear,” Fortin says.

“I feel proud to live in a city with this calibre of expertise in cancer-specific psychosocial therapy and I would encourage every cancer patient to seek it out.”

Like Catherine did before them, the Daniel Family Foundation is delivering a tangible impact on the lives of countless cancer patients.

“There’s so much yet to be done. We’re only really scratching the surface in terms of emotional and mental health and what it does for physical health,” says Daniel

At the Calgary Cancer Centre, we’re bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible. Help make an impact for patients and donate to the OWN.CANCER campaign today.

As originally published on UCalgary News.

How Nicole Maseja owns cancer

Nicole was born in Calgary, raised in both BC and Alberta, and graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Arts in French and a minor in Linguistics.
In 2016, she met her partner, Josh, who was from Australia and pursuing his PhD in engineering at the U of C. They were both only 25 years old when Josh was diagnosed with cancer in his spine – a rare and aggressive type of cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma.


“It took a while to diagnose it because it was so unusual. It manifested as back pain at first,” Nicole recalls. Josh underwent many surgeries and complications, and Nicole spent every day with him at the hospital, becoming his main caregiver.


young cancer patient

Nicole (right) with her husband Josh (left)

The following year and a half involved chemotherapy and radiation. However, Josh, unfortunately, passed away in January of 2019, a month after he and Nicole were married in December.

Still, Nicole is glad to have been his caregiver. “It was definitely one of the most fulfilling and beautiful experiences. I feel really lucky that I could be there for him.”

In fact, Nicole explains that it changed her trajectory of life. Her original passions to pursue teaching and study linguistics shifted to something else. “While both very great fields of study, they didn’t feel as meaningful anymore.” Instead, Nicole felt more drawn to the field of health sciences.


“Some people never want to look at a hospital again after this kind of experience,” she says, “but I was quite the opposite and felt drawn and pulled towards it.”


With support from her late partner’s family and peers, she decided to go back to school and is now pursuing a Bachelor of Health Sciences Honours program at the U of C, specializing in health and society. Nicole finds great joy and purpose in it. “I feel very fulfilled and very inspired and motivated to keep learning.”


Nicole presenting her research at Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute Summer Student Research Day

This past summer, Nicole was involved in her first cancer research work through a summer studentship with Dr. Miranda Fidler-Benaoudia. Her focus was on adolescents and young adults (AYAs), and their experience with cancer symptoms and outcomes. Nicole was also able to present her research at the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute Summer Student Research Day, which was a great experience for her.


Expressing her gratitude for her mentor and supervisor Dr. Miranda Fidler-Benaoudia, Nicole shares that she was “wonderfully supportive and inspiring.”


Nicole also hopes that her cancer research can help shape the care that adolescents and young adults (AYAs) will receive at the new Calgary Cancer Centre, which will be completed next year.


“The care that [Josh] had was extraordinary the whole time at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre,” she reflects. “[The Calgary Cancer Centre] is going to take it to a completely new level.”


Nicole is also excited about the Centre having a dedicated section for adolescents and young adults (AYAs). As there is a lot of attention and funding for children and older adults with cancer, Nicole wants to advocate for the adolescent and young adult (AYA) age group, who may be forgotten in relation to cancer. “They’re in this in-between stage of life,” she says, explaining that they are discovering their self-identities, often going to school or just starting their careers, and trying to navigate life on their own.


“As a result, the AYA age group has unique needs that we are striving to meet by advocating for targeted resources.” Nicole explains.


Drawing from personal experience, Nicole also explains about how she and her partner often felt isolated, as they were most likely 30-40 years younger than others around them during most cancer treatments.

Young male cancer patient

Nicole’s favourite picture of Josh

Overall, Nicole feels positive about sharing her story, and feels fortunate in her involvement in the health science field of study. “While it’s very emotional at times… overall more than anything, it feels very empowering. And I feel really, really lucky to be where I’m at having the opportunity to do this and hopefully make a tiny difference.”


At the Calgary Cancer Centre, we’re bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible. Learn more about how we plan to OWN.CANCER through the Calgary Cancer Centre here.

How Randy Thompson owns cancer

Randy Thompson has been working as a Social Worker for over 30 years. Although his professional experience helped him navigate through his cancer journey, it was the consistent support from his family and loved ones that gave him the strength to persevere.

Here, he shares his cancer journey and what OWN.CANCER means to him.

I was always healthy throughout my lifetime, until my cancer diagnosis at 54 years old. I am a sports fanatic and enjoy playing, which has been good for my physical and mental health. I also have a bit of a sense of humour, which has also helped me deal with the “dark days” of treatment and recovery.

I’ve learned the importance of balance throughout my journey.

How did your cancer journey begin? Where were you treated?

For approximately one month, I felt that something wasn’t right. I completed a FIT test as per my GP, and sure enough, it failed. I was then scheduled for a colonoscopy which confirmed I had cancer. My initial diagnosis was on March 25th, 2020, and then confirmed stage 4 on March 27th, as the disease metastasized with liver and rectal cancer.

It is amazing how quickly life can change in a split second and how quickly the medical community responds to such a diagnosis. Also, due to the severity of my condition, I was immediately referred for treatment at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. After a battery of tests, further investigation and recommendations, we began aggressive chemotherapy with the hope that I would qualify for surgery in one year.

With an amazing medical team, huge support from family and friends and some difficult side effects to overcome, my body responded extremely well to treatment and at the ninth month period, I was scheduled for surgery to remove any existing tumours.

After a successful surgery in December 2020, I was essentially considered “cancer free”, which was nothing short of a miracle, despite having to manage with an ileostomy for a few months. This was a small price to pay knowing the surgeon could reverse it when it was safe to do so, which was reversed approx. 7 months later.

I lived cancer free from that day up until a scheduled CT scan in 2022, where my oncologist noticed a “spot” on my lung that hadn’t been there before. While quite small in nature, was confirmed as cancerous and I was immediately referred to a thoracic surgeon for a consult and plan. We agreed that surgery would be the most assured path of treatment and I had a successful resection surgery in June 2022. Unfortunately, there was a post-op complication of a pneumothorax, which landed me back in the hospital for 14 days in recovery.

Having recovered from that, I am now cancer-free and resuming regular bloodwork and scans at Tom Baker. – Randy Thompson


How are you today?

I feel blessed being cancer free and continue to recover from my most recent medical procedures. I continue to OWN.CANCER with the confidence in my medical support team and support network, and know that we will overcome any obstacles that come our way!


What were some challenges you faced in your journey, and what advice do you have for others who may face the same challenges?

There are many challenges that cancer patients face throughout their journey, beginning with the emotional impact of hearing “you have cancer”. In treatment, you will face a number of side effects that can zap your energy, bring on other sicknesses and weigh on you mentally. It was important for me to remember that cancer treatment is a journey, that it’s a marathon not a race.

It is important to open yourself up to help from others and focus on the end-goal. There will be good and bad days and know that that’s ok. It was important to be honest with how you are feeling and to share that with others. Everyone’s journey is different. Listen to your body, ask questions and trust in the process. Always keep hope alive!

What does the new Calgary Cancer Centre mean to you? How do you OWN.CANCER?

As the province’s leading health care facility, the new Calgary Cancer Centre will mean a lot to cancer patients and their families, as a place of hope and healing. With advancements in clinical trials, innovation and research, they are finding new ways to detect cancer earlier, which will result in better outcomes for cancer patients.

This Centre is dependent on funding through various means and one of the ways I OWN.CANCER is through sharing my journey through social media and dedicating time through volunteering with the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the OWN.CANCER campaign. I was extremely proud to be a part of the OWN.CANCER commercial, which was integral to the Centre’s key fundraising campaign and will continue to support the campaign and others in their cancer journey, throughout my lifetime.

Let’s all OWN.CANCER and not let this disease define us. There is great strength in “hope”, even in the most dire of circumstances. The new Calgary Cancer Centre will be that hope! – Randy Thompson


At the Calgary Cancer Centre, we’re bringing together researchers, medical teams, prevention experts, patients and families in ways never before possible. Help make an impact for patients like Sarah, and donate to the OWN.CANCER campaign today.