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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Leukemia survivor wants to inspire others

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Recovered leukemia sufferer William Brock celebrates his victory with fellow blood cancer survivors Jay Bouvier and Paul Balthazard, right.

MONTREAL — When he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia almost eight years ago, William Brock was certain he was going to die, even before he had begun his first round of chemotherapy.

His father died of leukemia just six weeks after learning he had the disease in 1997, and Brock thought he faced the same fate.

The lawyer, now 57, not only survived, but has fully recovered and devotes much time and energy to raise awareness of blood cancers. Two years ago, he embarked on a 2,500-km bicycle journey across Europe in an effort to support the search for better treatments.

Brock has also resumed his career as a litigation partner at the firm of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg.

He describes his life today as “nothing short of a miracle.”

Brock’s latest project is the publication of a photographic book about almost 50 blood cancer survivors called Portraits of Hope. Launched last month at the Morris and Rosalind Goodman Agora at the Université de Montréal. It was simultaneously published in French.

The book features inspiring testimonials and photos taken by Brock and professional photographer Angela Boismenu. All proceeds from its sale will go to cancer research at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.

Brock, married and the father of two children, was treated at Maisonneuve-Rosemont, a UdeM-affiliated hospital.

This coffee-table volume also includes those who have accompanied the survivors through their ordeal, including family, bone marrow or stem cell donors, doctors, nurses and researchers.

Some of the well-known people featured are National Hockey League player Saku Koivu, former player Paul Henderson and retired judge John Gomery.

Proceeds will be funnelled through the William Brock Fund for Research and Education into Blood Cancers, which was created in 2006 in appreciation of the care he received at Maisonneuve-Rosemont. His treatment included his last hope: a bone marrow transplant from his brother Gordon, a physician, who fortunately was a match, in 2005.

To date, the fund has raised more than $1 million.

“Through the stories of those who have faced the terror of blood cancers and triumphed over it, I hope my book will inspire others and encourage them to donate generously to research,” Brock said. “Such research will hopefully allow many more to say ‘I have beaten leukemia, I am alive, I am strong and I am forever grateful.”

Brock, however, does not want to leave the impression his recovery was easy.

“It was a long road back,” he said. “No matter how strong I thought I had been, recovery was painstakingly hard. But little victories gave me back my life.”

Brock feels today “stronger than ever, mentally, physically and spiritually.” His goal now is to dance at the weddings of his son and daughter.

The book is published by Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal. More information is available at www.portraitsofhope.ca.

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