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jim and tracey june 15.JPG Tracey and Jim Button raising $5-million to U Calgary to fund research into support programs for cancer patients.

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The donors: Jim and Tracey Button

The gift: Raising $5-million

The cause: To fund programs to help children cope with cancer

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When Jim Button went to have his appendix X-rayed five years ago, he thought it would be a straightforward procedure.

Instead, the doctors found a massive tumour on his kidney that turned out to be cancerous. After surgery to remove the kidney, Mr. Button thought everything would be fine. But 18 months later, scans showed the cancer had spread to his lungs and it has now infected much of his body. Doctors “basically said, ‘You have statistically a year to maybe two years to live. Get your affairs in order and good luck,’" Mr. Button recalled from his home in Calgary.

He and his family struggled to cope with the news and they relied heavily on a team of counsellors. Mr. Button, 55, is still undergoing treatment and his wife, Tracey, said the counselling has been invaluable to her and their two children. They are now trying to raise $5-million to expand these kinds of services to children with cancer. The money will go toward the creation of a chair in pediatric psychosocial oncology and survivorship at the University of Calgary.

“What I saw being successful for me needed more help and support as it related to kids,” Mr. Button said. “If you go through chemotherapy or if you’ve had a brain tumour and you look different or have a speech impediment, it’s a tough thing to go back to school,” he said, adding that many children drop out and have difficulty finding work. Ms. Button said the programs “have been so important to our well-being as a family that I would like to know that other families have the same opportunities."

The Buttons plan several fundraising events to raise the money, including a dinner on Dec. 9. Mr. Button said they don’t have a timeline to reach their goal and, he added, “Having a terminal diagnosis means you want to get it done sooner than later.”

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