THE North Shore community is coming together to help one of its own, Chelsea Steyns, principle artistic director and owner of North Shore Academy of Dancing, who has a rare form of brain cancer.
The mother of two sets of twins has a cancer that the BC Cancer Agency says it only sees every few years.
She has touched the lives of thousands of people on the North Shore having lived in North Vancouver her whole life and taught dance classes for the past 15 years, says Maureen Forward, communications director at North Shore Academy of Dancing and a close personal friend of Steyns. With a busy treatment and recovery schedule Steyns has had Forward conduct interviews for her.
The dance community has been pulling together to fundraise for Steyns and her family. There have been bottle drives, salsa dancing events, kayaking fundraisers and car washes to raise money and rally support. On Steyns's blog more than a hundred messages of support have been written by friends and students.
"It means everything to her, she's just so touched and considers herself so blessed. I don't think she understands why (people are so supportive), she doesn't realize that she's given so much in the past to people and she's just getting back what she gave," says Forward.
Forward's friendship with Steyns started when her own daughter had Steyns as a dance teacher.
"She's just the (most fun) person you could ever imagine. Anybody that knows her, that's has had her as a teacher or their child has been a student of hers knows exactly what I'm talking about. She's got an infectious personality and everybody enjoys being around her," says Forward.
Leslie Tarves is organizing a fundraising run called Chelsea's Challenge. She also met Steyns when her three children took dance classes from her. She says Steyns has more energy than anybody she knows and is loved by all her dance students.
"They adore her, everybody adores her," Tarves says.
In January, shortly after giving birth to her second set of twins, Steyns had a temporary vision loss and numbness and tingling on her right side, says Forward. At a routine doctor appointment for her new babies, Steyns described her symptoms and was referred for an MRI.
In March a tumor was found in Steyns's brain stem and doctors took a few weeks to figure out how to biopsy it without damaging her brain or nerves, says Forward. "When they did the biopsy they cut right down the back of her neck through all her muscles and literally pealed away part of her brain to get at it." Biopsy results showed Steyns has Pilomyxoid Astrocytoma or PMA, an extremely rare type of brain cancer.
Steyns has had more than a month of five days a week radiation to combat the cancer cells, says Forward.
"They radiated the tumor itself and they radiated her entire brain and spinal column," she says. A recent scan showed that Steyns's cancer has not gone into remission and she has decided to look at therapies outside of Canada.
"Basically her doctors said it's a good idea for her to look at anything that they can't offer her here, because they don't think that chemo therapy would do her any good," Forward says.
Steyns and her family are investigating the possibility of getting treatment at the Buzynski Clinic in Texas. Forward had hoped for a different outcome. "It's surreal, I have never really believed deep down that this would happen," she says.
So far Forward estimates they have raised more than $20,000 to help Steyns. The money will help Steyns in her search for alternative cancer treatments.
Tarves, an elementary school teacher, is organizing Chelsea's Challenge, a run or walk on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 9: 00 a.m. at Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. After participating in Steyns' Sun Run team runs, Tarves came up with the idea of a fundraising run and hopes more than 200 people come out.
"I was on one of my runs one day with my husband and was thinking what can I do to help her? What can I do to help her? And by the end of it I had the run and the name Chelsea's Challenge all ready," she says.
More information on the run and upcoming fundraisers are available on Steyns's website at www.sites.google.com/site/chelseasw01.