Curing My Husband’s Cancer: How Feminism Changed Cancer Treatment

Feminism is the belief in equality between sexes. Feminism is the understanding that all people, regardless of gender, orientation, race, religious affiliation, or ability have something to contribute. Thanks to this belief, my husband is being treated, and, if everything goes according to plan, cured of his cancer.

This week, my husband began his first week of radiation treatment, compounded with chemotherapeutic pills to aid in the destruction of the cancer cells that have invaded his body. Every day that we have visited the radiology department, where we first met the doctor who guided us thoughtfully through the radiology department, I have whispered a prayer of thanks to Madame Marie Curie for her Nobel Prize-winning work on the discovery of radiology. I am grateful to this long ago pioneer of women in science, and her ilk for their life saving work.

As the laureate of two Nobel Prizes for Science, and the first female Doctor of Science in Europe, Madame Curie dedicated her life to the discovery and understanding of radiation and radio particles as they pass through objects, including the human body. Madame Curie was determined, in her lifetime, to cure cancer using radiobiology and she succeeded in the curing of surface and skin cancer lesions, before moving to the treatment of cervical cancer. Her death in 1934 was directly caused by her life long dedication, and thereby exposure, to the development of radiology.
Marie Sklodowska Curie –

The work pioneered by Madame Curie is today carried on, in my husband’s case, by Dr. Maha Almahmudi at the BC Cancer Centre. Dr. Almahmudi is the Radiation Oncologist on my husband’s team of doctors.

In 1875, Jenny Kidd Trout was the first female licensed physician in Canada. An active feminist of her time (read: white Christian), Dr. Trout worked to advance the medical education of Canadian women, declaring that it was her hope that one day each large town in Ontario would eventually have at least “one good, true lady physician working…” (

Jennie Kidd Trout - Canada Post Stamp
Jennie Kidd Trout – Canada Post Stamp

Dr. Trout’s hope is now certainly fulfilled, with roughly 40% of all doctors, and 54% of all new, young doctors, in Canada being female, per a 2017 MacLean’s article. (

In this vein, our family physician is a trusted and phenomenal woman. Dr. Prem-Smith has been our family’s practitioner for nearly a decade, and we are incredibly grateful for the pioneering efforts of women like Dr. Trout, and Dr. Emily Stowe, who advocated and opened doors for women in Canadian medicine.

In 1949, Dr. Jane Cooke Wright began work with her father Dr. Louis Wright, on the experimental chemotherapy treatments. Studying the experimental anti-cancer chemicals, and how they reacted with leukaemias and lymphatic cancers, Dr. Wright advanced the treatments to the point that several of her test patients went into remission. At 33, Dr. Wright became the Head of the Cancer Research Foundation. In 1971, Dr. Wright became the first African-American Female President of the New York Cancer Society.

Her work led to the current understanding of chemotherapy, including the Capecitabine tablets that my husband is taking in conjunction with his radiation treatments, to reduce the tumour in advance of his surgery.
Jane C. Wright at work, ca. 1950s Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and

Today, Dr. Ann Tan is the doctor responsible for Dave’s chemotherapy, as his Medical Oncologist. Dr. Tan walked us through the potential side effects of Capecitabine, as well as the benefits of it in conjunction with Dr. Almahmudi’s radiation protocol.

Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf is recognized as the first female pharmacist in North America, opening her own apothecary shop, to work alongside her husband’s medical practice in the Thirteen Colonies in 1727. As there were no laws prohibiting a female from practicing as an apothecary, she set up shop and paved the way for future female pharmacists. A study by Donica Janzen, BSP; Kerry Fitzpatrick, BSP…; and Linda Suveges, PhD, shows that females now make up more than 59% of pharmacists in Canada. (

My husband’s pharmacists at the BC Cancer Centre, who spent time explaining the procedures and side effects of the Capecitabine, prescribed by Dr. Tan, were both women.

In fact, the only healthcare provider on My husband’s team who is not female is the surgeon who will remove the tumour, Dr. Carl Brown. That said, when we met with him, we also met with the colorectal Fellow who is studying with him… also a female. (

Feminism is the belief, or rather the fact that gender has no bearing on a person’s abilities or skills. A team of women are saving my husband’s life. A team of women, who have followed ceiling shattering women, are saving my husband’s life. Feminism is saving my husband‘s life.

So, when I silently thank Marie Curie, or Dr. Jennie Trout, or Dr. Jane Wright, for making it possible for there to be a Dr. Prem-Smith, or a Dr. Almahmudi, or a Dr. Tan, you had best believe that it is with sincere appreciation and ardent admiration.

Women in Science Art by - available for purchase following this link to her Redbubble site
Women in Science Art by – available for purchase following this link to her Redbubble site

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