“The Gift” of cancer

There’s a line near the end of the play that speaks to the gift that the young girl is given from her mother’s cancer. It’s a gift that’s hard to put into words.

Paige Falardeau

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — There’s a line near the end of the play that speaks to the gift that the young girl is given from her mother’s cancer. It’s a gift that’s hard to put into words.

Stephanie, the daughter, tells her mother that she has learned “how to live, love and give so that some day someone gets that gift from me.”

The Gift is a play about a mother’s battle with cancer, as seen though the eyes of her 16-year-old daughter, Stephanie.

The experience of facing her mother’s cancer takes Stephanie on a journey of compassion and self-awareness.

She begins in a world that revolves around her alone. She sees only how the cancer affects her life. But by the end, her eyes have opened wider. She realizes it’s not only about her. It’s about her mother, her family, everyone.

The story of how she gets there will be told by drama students at Governor Simcoe Secondary School. They will present The Gift, a one-act play commissioned by the Hope Cancer Care Network in Chicago in 1998, on Thursday in the school’s Grantham Theatre. All proceeds will be donated to the Rankin Cancer Run, which takes place Saturday.

The idea for the play began with the school’s drama teacher, Rassika Malhotra-Risko. A woman close to her died of cancer, and she felt the play was a way to honour her and at the same time, teach students about giving back to the community.

It also has a special meaning to many of the students who have experienced cancer in their family circle.

Paige Falardeau, 15, lost her great aunt to cancer last year. She plays the daughter.

“I’m doing it for her,” she says.

In one scene, Stephanie dreams she’s at her mother’s funeral. She confronts her mother: “How could you bring me into the world, just to leave me?”

Hillary Kerr’s grandfather died of cancer when she was a young girl. The 15-year-old’s grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. Two of her aunts have also been diagnosed with cancer — one with colon cancer, the other with breast cancer.

“It makes you think about how lucky you are to have people survive,” says Kerr, who is part of the ensemble.

Last year, Sarah Winger’s aunt died of cancer. The 14-year-old is also part of the ensemble.

And three years ago, the production’s stage manager, 17-year-old Trisha-Lee Halamay, had her last chemotherapy treatment. Back in 2004, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and endured just over two years of treatments.

These days she’s in Grade 11 and talks to students at schools about cancer and the Rankin run. She sees an oncologist every six months.

“I don’t want to forget about it,” she says. “It’s given me the gift of who I am.”

“I’m proud of it and I want to share it with others.”

It felt only natural to be a part of the play.

“I can use this to help others,” she says. “I can do something with it other than just let it overtake my life.”

In the play, Stephanie finds out her mother has breast cancer after overhearing a conversation between her parents. She is confused, hurt and overwhelmed.

She runs away to the house of her grandmother, played by 14-year-old Christina Ismailos. The grandmother is a lung cancer survivor who carries around her last pack of cigarettes.

When Christina was a child, her best friend died of cancer.

“So many things happen quickly,” she says.

“It’s important to make people feel like they know they’re appreciated.”

“The gift the mother gives her is the ability to be strong.”

Just Posted

Ride to Conquer Cancer cancels but Red Deerian keeps going

Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer was cancelled due to smoke

Record-breaking year in Red Deer for smoke

Expect more smoke in Red Deer Wednesday

Mustard Seed prepares people for workforce

Employment Readiness Fair to be held August 28

Update: Bomb squad investigates, destroys suspicious package in Red Deer

North police station was closed as they investigated Tuesday afternoon

Updated Red Deer smoke free bylaw to ban smoking cannabis in public

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Liberals unveil poverty plan with lofty goals, but no new spending programs

OTTAWA — The minister in charge of Canada’s latest national plan to… Continue reading

Case of truck driver charged in Humboldt Broncos crash adjourned until October

MELFORT, Sask. — The case of a Calgary truck driver charged in… Continue reading

Animal crackers break out of their cages

After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of… Continue reading

Alligator kills woman trying to protect her dog at resort

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A woman who often walked her dog… Continue reading

Patients redirected as water leak shuts down Edmonton hospital’s emergency room

EDMONTON — Ambulances are being redirected to other hospitals after a water… Continue reading

Parks Canada moves second bison bull that wandered out of Banff National Park

BANFF — Parks Canada says a second bison bull that wandered out… Continue reading

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is scrapping an unpopular lottery system for… Continue reading

Air Canada-led consortium signs deal to buy Aeroplan program from Aimia

TORONTO — A consortium led by Air Canada has reached a deal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month