14-years-old twin brothers Olivier (left) and Nicolas Lessard are fundraising for cancer research with their mother Geneviève Dubé in honour of their late father Michel Lessard

14-years-old twin brothers Olivier (left) and Nicolas Lessard are fundraising for cancer research with their mother Geneviève Dubé in honour of their late father Michel Lessard

It would be an understatement to say that life has been challenging for Geneviève Dubé these last few years. The mother of twin teenage boys lost her husband Michel Lessard to leukemia last June. One of her sons had a serious accident several months earlier, requiring reconstructive knee surgery. Geneviève’s mother-in-law died from acute myeloid leukemia the previous year in 2017.

The toll of grief however is not evident in Geneviève’s easy smile and infectious laugh. Nor has it diminished her optimism about the future, and what can be done to help others who are stricken with cancer, particularly leukemia, as her husband and mother-in-law both were.

“That’s the issue with leukemia – you are so weak, you are so tired. Michel needed to come to the hospital every week for a blood transfusion because he had very little strength,” explains Geneviève.

A successful portfolio manager, and former member of the board of the Royal Victoria Hospital Foundation, Michel spent six weeks as an in-patient at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) undergoing chemotherapy treatment last spring. He returned a month later for another session only to learn the devastating news that not only was he not strong enough to undergo a long-hoped for bone marrow transplant, the chemotherapy treatment had not been successful. Michel was placed in palliative care, and died at the age of 56 less than a month later.

“We received the news that the chemotherapy didn’t work, so it was a question of how long we had left together,” she says. “Michel never had the bone marrow transplant that could have saved his life because he was just too weak.”

Geneviève has been quietly recovering for the past ten months, slowly rebuilding her life and focusing on her children above all else.

“Michel passed away almost a year ago. I needed to take a step back. Now, I know what my goals are – I’m focusing on my two teenagers.”

This month, the elegant, vivacious attorney is returning to work, but with a new perspective and a commitment to a work-life balance that single parenting her sons, both competitive ski racers in a Sport-Études program at a prestigious Montreal high school, requires.

She has also made a commitment to honour her husband’s memory by fundraising for cancer research through the MUHC Foundation’s Run for a Reason initiative. Geneviève and her sons Nicolas and Olivier will run the 5-kilometre race together with the goal of raising money for cancer research focused on leukemia. She has personally donated $5,000 towards the cause.

“Doing this run together is encouraging for us, it’s to help support research. Our dad couldn’t be saved, but maybe others will be,” says 14-year-old Olivier.

Olivier and his brother are running for this very poignant reason, and they will likely be leading the pack on the morning of the race. The two intend to complete the 5K in under 25 minutes. Nicolas has previously run the same distance in 20 minutes, something his mother says she isn’t sure she’ll be able to match, but she’s willing to try.

“There were only three people in Michel’s life, and mostly two – the twins,” says Geneviève with a smile. “Life for Michel was his family.”

As an official charity of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge taking place April 27 and 28, 2019 the MUHC Foundation is encouraging its supporters to sign up to fundraise and participate in one of the following events; 21km, 10km, 5km or the 1km Kids Run.

If you would like to support Geneviève and her sons to raise funds for cancer research, sponsor her here.