Sen. Nancy Greene Raine, Canada’s most decorated ski racer, is undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer.
Sun Peaks Resort, where Greene Raine is the director of skiing, said she was scheduled to have her thyroid removed Thursday in Kelowna, B.C. A news release said additional treatment will begin within four or five weeks to manage the suspected spread of cancer cells.
Nicknamed “Tiger” because of her speed and aggressive turns, Greene Raine dominated women’s skiing for two years. She won Olympic gold and silver in 1968 as well as overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968.
She was voted Canada’s female athlete of the 20th century in a countrywide poll conducted by The Canadian Press in 1999.
Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid — the butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck that produces the hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.
It’s not known what form of thyroid cancer the 73-year-old Greene Raine has, but there are several types. The most common is papillary thyroid cancer, which arises in the cells that produce and store thyroid hormones. Papillary thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but most often affects people aged 30 to 50.
In most cases, treatment involves full removal of the thyroid, often followed by a dose of radioactive iodine to destroy any residual thyroid cells to prevent recurrence of the cancer. Patients must take life-long daily doses of a medication to replace the hormones normally produced by the gland.
Each year, an estimated 6,800 Canadians are diagnosed with various forms of thyroid cancer and about 200 die from the disease, which is roughly three times more common in women than men, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Overall, thyroid cancer has an average 98 per cent five-year survival rate.
Greene Raine won the giant slalom at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France, by a blistering margin of 2.68 seconds. She also won silver in slalom and finished 10th in downhill after overcoming an ankle injury a month out from the Games that threatened to derail her medal chances.
She finished her World Cup career with 13 victories over a two-year span before retiring in 1968 at age 24.
Greene Raine blazed a trail for other top women skiers in Canada, with 1992 Olympic downhill champion Kerrin Lee-Gartner calling her a big influence.
A provincial park, lake and mountain summit near Rossland, B.C., where Greene Raine was raised, all bear her name.
Greene Raine, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009, plans to return to her duties as soon as possible following her treatment.