HMCS Calgary loses libations in support of cancer fundraiser

Team “Onward” on HMCS Calgary, 57mm main gun in the background. From left to right: Lt(N) Adam Thomson, Lt(N) Sonja Maul-Wilson, SLt Sean Place, Adam Checketts, Team captain Lt(N) Sean Milley, Team captain Warrant Officer Steven Lewington, Lt(N) Cass van Benthem Jutting, Dusty Johnston, and Lt(N) Alex Johnston. Absent: Third team captain Lt(N) Stephen Tomlinson, who is undergoing treatment.

Team “Onward” on HMCS Calgary, 57mm main gun in the background. From left to right: Lt(N) Adam Thomson, Lt(N) Sonja Maul-Wilson, SLt Sean Place, Adam Checketts, Team captain Lt(N) Sean Milley, Team captain Warrant Officer Steven Lewington, Lt(N) Cass van Benthem Jutting, Dusty Johnston, and Lt(N) Alex Johnston. Absent: Third team captain Lt(N) Stephen Tomlinson, who is undergoing treatment.

SLt M.X. Déry, MARPAC Public Affairs ~

Some people ride bicycles for charity, while others prefer raising funds by growing mustaches, but on board HMCS Calgary the crew is foregoing libations for the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

The 4th annual “Lose the Booze” campaign by the B.C. Cancer Foundation is underway and the top fundraising team in the province is currently “Onward”, the team created by HMCS Calgary, as three of their crew members have been battling cancer this year.

“I heard an ad for ‘Lose the Booze’ on the radio,” said Lt(N) Sean Milley, the team’s creator and one of its captains. “I didn’t expect it to turn into what it did.”

Lt(N) Milley was the Above Water Warfare Officer in Calgary when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year.

“The speed on being told to begin treatment was really fast,” he says.

The cancer had been caught early and with rapid treatment Lt(N) Milley’s long-term prognosis is good, and he is looking forward to returning to sea.

Warrant Officer Steven Lewington was the senior firefighter in Calgary when he was diagnosed last March with thyroid cancer.

“We were sailing and I mentioned to the physician’s assistant that I was sweating at night,” he says.

Once ashore, it was obvious to his doctor that something was wrong in his neck.

“I never thought in a million years that I would have cancer,” said WO Lewington.

Surgery took a few months, and treatment is still ongoing, but the situation is looking positive. When Lt(N) Milley asked him about creating “Onward” WO Lewington agreed to be one of the captains.

“It seemed like the right thing to get into,” said WO Lewington. “Especially with what was happening with Stephen.”

Lt(N) Stephen Tomlinson, Lt(N) Milley’s friend and colleague, was the Navigation Officer in Calgary when he also came down with testicular cancer at nearly the same time, but was asymptomatic, which delayed his seeking aid.

His cancer was extremely advanced when it was diagnosed months after Lt(N) Milley, but he is well on the road to recovery.

“[The cancer] would have been terminal a few years ago,” said Lt(N) Tomlinson.

Unlike Lt(N) Milley’s quick treatment, Lt(N) Tomlinson will require multiple surgeries to remove tumors throughout his body and hundreds of hours of high-intensity chemotherapy.

Luckily for Lt(N) Tomlinson, on top of having the requisite dark sense of humour that is necessary for life at sea, he has shipmates who are ready to help. Lt(N) Milley took on the role of designated assistant, to help with administrative matters, so that Lt(N) Tomlinson could have time to deal with his condition.

“I engaged the navy through it all,” said Lt(N) Tomlinson. “The unit support I got was unequivocal.”

As the third captain of the team, he believes the “Lose the Booze” campaign is a natural fit.

“Giving up drinking takes at least one thing off the list,” he says, alluding to the link between drinking as a risk factor for testicular cancer.

“There is a stigma attached to this kind of cancer; men need to not be afraid to get checked,” he adds.

“Lose the Booze” was modeled after the UK’s Dryathlon and is meant to raise funds for cancer patient care and research.

“It is meant to be a bit tongue and cheek,” said Rachel Mitchell, Special Development Officer for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. “You don’t need to have a specific skill set.”

As cancer treatment evolves and new equipment is required for diagnostics and care, it can take some time for the government to adopt this new technology. By funding new equipment first, its utility can be proved, thus speeding up the process of mass adaption by the province.

One such item is the PET scanner, which was recently purchased for Victoria for $5 million by the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Without this machine, patients needing a full body scan to detect trace amounts of cancer left in the body need to travel to the mainland, something that can be difficult for someone undergoing cancer treatment. Equipment, research and things that improve patients’ quality of life are the foundations main concern.

“Every dollar raised goes to patient care and research,” said Mitchell.

You can follow the progress of “Onward” online at www.losethebooze.ca.

Filed Under: Top Stories

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