By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

After battling cancer and a debilitating related condition with high doses of chemotherapy in Cranbrook, Sandy Cook is preparing to receive stem cell therapy treatments in Vancouver starting on April 20th.

The 56-year-old Invermere woman has recently been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis, which has prevented her from working as a legal assistant at MacDonald Thomas Law in Invermere and from volunteering for the Columbia Valley Rockies and Windermere Valley Minor Hockey Association for several years.

Now, the Columbia Valley community is working toward raising money for Ms. Cook to attend Vancouver-based treatments as both an inpatient and an outpatient this spring.

Sandy Cook

Sandy Cook

When we found out, we gently pushed to find out if there was anything we could do to help as a club as the Columbia Valley Rockies, and as it turns out, the condition she has is very treatable, but she has to respond fully to it, said Graeme Anderson, event organizer for the upcoming Sandy Cook fundraiser. In order to do that, we want to help minimize any of the external stresses that she would have, including the financial burden of not being able to work and having to pay, for lack of better words, the hidden costs of treatments for a critical illness where theres a lot of travel theres a lot of cost to that and some of the treatment itself will draw a cost.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell, which are known to help individuals fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells. The cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause kidney problems instead of producing helpful antibodies.

In addition, Ms. Cook has been diagnosed with a rare disease known as amyloidosis that occurs when a substance known as amyloid builds up in ones organs. Amyloid is an abnormal protein that is typically produced in bone marrow, but has the ability to be deposited into any tissue or organ, which can affect different areas of the body in different people and can lead to life-threatening organ failure. While there is no known cure for amyloidosis, there are treatments available to help manage a patients symptoms and limit the production of amyloid protein.

At this point, Mr. Anderson and his wife, Noelene, are collecting donations on behalf of the Columbia Valley Rockies Junior B hockey team to raise as much money as possible for Ms. Cook to cover the upcoming treatment costs in Vancouver.

We want to basically take that stress away and also take the stress away of her paying her bills and living when she comes back home again until shes able to work again, he explained, noting there is an online fundraiser for Ms. Cook posted on Crowdrise and a Sandy Cook Fundraiser account that has been created to accept community donations at Kootenay Savings.

In addition, collection boxes for donations are being distributed at some of the businesses throughout the Columbia Valley starting with AG Valley Foods.

Were also asking for donations from some of the voluntary bodies in the valley that will make funds available for people undergoing hardship, said Mr. Anderson. In addition to that, we run a (recreational) hockey tournament in April every year to raise funds for the club. This year, its running between April 22nd and 24th at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena. Were going to use it as a platform to fundraise further for Sandy and we hope to attract more local teams than we normally do.