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Living Life and Giving Back

October 8, 2019

How Margaret Wright went from having 18 months to live, to enjoying her golden years cancer-free

You couldn’t guess from Margaret Wright’s smile, her spirit, and her to-do list that she lives with end-stage liver disease. Or that in 2015 she was told she had maybe 18 months left. That is her story, though, and she and her husband Paul live it with grace, gratitude, and generosity.

Margaret & Paul Wright

It started with a diagnosis of stage-three autoimmune liver disease in 2003. Her liver specialist at HSC, Dr. Kelly Kaita, slowed the progression with medication and followed her carefully. In 2015, during a routine follow-up test, Dr. Allan Micflikier found an esophageal tumour. She had developed a very aggressive cancer.

At first, it seemed that there were no treatment options. Her liver, it was believed, was too compromised to tolerate anesthesia and pain-killers; and chemotherapy and radiation were out of the question. She was initially told that she had 6–18 months to live. On the way home from receiving that devastating news in early 2015, she and Paul phoned their three adult children and asked them to come over so that she could tell them.

“Just after we got home the phone rang,” says Wright. “It was Dr. Kaita telling us not to lose hope. There might be a surgical option after all. I am here today because he was an advocate for us and did further research. We really needed someone to act quickly on our behalf.”

Wright was scheduled for thoracic surgery with Dr. Larry Tan in just a few weeks. She has been cancer-free ever since. Dr. Kaita and Dr. Tan continue to monitor her regularly. “We will always be grateful,” she says.

Wright, now 72, is a busy grandmother of five who enjoys book clubs and dinners with friends. She is active in the Baha’i community: hosting study circles, helping with Soul Food evenings, and performing as a puppeteer for children’s classes. This fall she will be a facilitator for the Circles of Reconciliation program, bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples together.

Wright says that the love and care she received from her dear family was the most important part of her story. This year Margaret and Paul are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. She says Paul is her true hero, forever optimistic, unfailing as a caregiver. “I am blessed!”, she says.