Future cop looks out-of-the-box in cancer fight

Ryan Stevenson’s dream is to be a Toronto Police officer just like his legendary grandfather, Det. Sgt. Gerry Stevenson.

But one dream at a time.

In November, the 27-year-old Scarborough native was hit with news that would delay things.

Not only was the lump in his throat that was preventing him from swallowing properly a toonie-sized cancerous tumour, the cancer had spread to his liver.

And things were going so well.

He had just got word his police foundations diploma from Centennial College had taken him a step closer to his ultimate goal. Toronto’s bylaw enforcement section called to offer him a job.

“This was on the same day,” Ryan said.

Cancer is never considerate with its timing.

“I know I am going to beat it,” he said. “You can lay down and die or you can battle it.”

He’s going to battle. He’s down 40 lbs., but plans to take the job and one day join Toronto Police. His grandfather was one of the detectives who worked on the infamous 1977 Shoeshine Boy case — the sexual assault and murder of 12-year-old Emanuel Jaques.

Ryan said his grandfather died two years before he was born, “but his name hasn’t hurt.”

“Some of my teachers worked under him,” he said with a laugh.

Ryan wants to be just like his grandpa. First, he needs to beat cancer.

“Ryan wants to help people,” said stepfather Wayne Proulx.

Now it’s Ryan who needs help.

He’s hoping to get it from some research mice and cutting-edge medical techniques. Since this help isn’t covered by OHIP, Proulx launched a crowdfunding campaign that’s reached $36,000 of its $100,000 goal. The money is for targeted cancer research with Champions Oncology, an innovative American company with a lab in Mississauga, which takes the cancer from a patient’s tumour and injects it into “avatar mice” to allow doctors to see what treatments respond best.

“Ryan is on aggressive chemotherapy right now,” said his mom, Catherine.

But the hope is to find the most effective treatment with the help of the mice.

“It’s amazing new technology that even Rob Ford is doing,” Catherine said. “We will do what we have to do for Ryan.”

Proulx calls his wife a “ferocious warrior” and “Ryan’s best advocate.”

But it does cost money.

“So many have been so generous,” Catherine said.

But she, Wayne and Ryan hope his story can also help others.

This is new medical thinking and these treatments are very specific, so people can’t get OHIP coverage. Ryan’s family has already spent $17,000. More will be needed.

If Catherine could speak directly with Premier Kathleen Wynne, she says she’d tell her: “It would be great if we in Ontario could get more and faster access to new medical achievements and have it put under an umbrella to get more of it covered.”

Ryan’s family has no beef with the government or any of the medical professionals they’ve been working with at Sunnybrook.

“They are all outstanding,” Catherine said.

But she raises an excellent point: There needs to be more out-of-the-box thinking to help fund new treatments. The only thing on a mom’s mind is finding something that works.

“We want to get Ryan better and to move on with his life.”

Ryan tells me that will include keeping Toronto safe just like his grandfather did.


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