What began as a routine colonoscopy in the fall of 2009 ended with the shocking news that Mardele Atchison had anal cancer. “The first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘Farrah Fawcett just died of that!’” she recalls.

Atchison had been tested every three to five years as a precaution because her mother had died of colon cancer at the age of 62. While Atchison’s physician reassured her that the cancer was in early stages and very curable, she was also informed that if she hadn’t been going for regular check-ups, the cancer wouldn’t have been found in time and she would have died.

Within three weeks of her diagnosis, Atchison began aggressive, concurrent chemotherapy and radiation treatments that made her so sick she became hospitalized.

Mardele Atchison with her husband Don

Mardele Atchison with her husband Don

Two months after being discharged from hospital, she traveled to Alberta for advanced medical imaging called Positron Emission Tomography – Computer Tomography scan, commonly known as a PET-CT. PET-CT is today’s most advanced medical imaging technology, providing three-dimensional images of the body not available through other tests such as the CT scan or MRI exam. That means earlier diagnosis and faster treatment for cancer, cardiac and neurology patients. Saskatchewan doesn’t have a PET-CT and more than 300 people leave Saskatchewan each year for these scans. Once PET-CT is fully operational at Royal University Hospital, it’s expected more than 1,000 patients per year will access it.

Atchison traveled to Alberta a second time for a second PET-CT scan. Both results were clear. She feels fortunate her family had the time and resources to travel out of province and was relieved to have the results. She says she can just imagine how difficult it must be for those who aren’t able to leave the province for a PET-CT scan or haven’t been referred for one: she says the unknown is incredibly frightening.

“It’s just devastating when you get news of something like cancer, and then to need a test like a PET-CT scan and have to travel for it – that’s just wrong,” says Atchison.

The RUH Foundation’s $2.5 million PICTURE THIS! Campaign will bring PET-CT to Saskatchewan. To reach the “photo finish,”, the Province of Saskatchewan has committed $4 million. The RUH Foundation has committed to raise the balance of the funds and has partnered with PotashCorp which will match donations up to $1 million.

For more information or to make a donation to be matched by PotashCorp, visit www.ruhf.org. RUH Foundation is also on Facebook and Twitter @RUHFoundation.