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How 60 Canadians confronted cancer one day

June 15, 2006

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

It was an ordinary spring day: Sunny in Central Canada, rainy on the Prairies. Nothing unusual. But in another, hidden world, extraordinary dramas were unfolding — as they always do, for the thousands of Canadians living with and dying from cancer.

There are 153,100 new cases a year in Canada, about 420 a day, and each day also brings an average of 193 cancer deaths, more than 70,000 a year. But those numbers hide a more complex tale, one that includes thousands of shaken families, excruciating loneliness, yearning loss and deep transformation.

Today, launching a special series, The Globe and Mail looks at the disease from that vantage point — choosing one day, entirely at random, to present a panoramic view of how profoundly Canadian lives are shaped by cancer.

The Globe's Erin Anderssen spent five months interviewing dozens of patients and families, seeking to represent the breadth of cancer's impact, from toddlers to seniors, mothers to young bachelors. Next, she painstakingly reconstructed each person's unique June 15, building a narrative that runs from dawn through night. (The chronology here follows those experiences, regardless of time zones.)

Some could celebrate, while others had grim news. Many faced tough choices, made tougher by the flaws in Canada's cancer-care system. Alongside their narratives are obituaries for more than a dozen people who lost their battles that day.

As well as their stories, the participants graciously provided all of the images you'll see here — personal photos, paintings and written statements.

What you read may sadden and disturb you. It may galvanize and inspire you. It is a window into an all-too-common reality that cries out for understanding.

Editor's Note: This article continues with more than 50 profiles of people coping with cancer. To access the rest of these profiles, follow the "NEXT" links at the bottom of this and subsequent pages.

NEXT: 5:20 a.m.

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