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Photography by Patient Voice.
Photography by Patient Voice.
Photography by Patient Voice.

Neil's story

Cervical cancer
Patient Voice spoke with Neil Salinas about his sister Alison’s battle with cervical cancer, and why it’s so important to keep fighting for early diagnosis in younger patients.

Toronto, ON

My little sister understood me in a way no one else did, because we were so alike. We always joked that we were twins born three years apart.

When Alison was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013, she was just 32 years old and she was frustrated at the lack of information available for cancer patients her age. Pretty much from day one she decided that she was going to fight not just for her own survival but for other cancer patients as well. After being dealt such a bad hand, her first thought was how she could help other people in the same situation. That was Alison.

In 2015, she was the guest speaker at the midway point of the 220-kilometre Princess Margaret Ride to Conquer Cancer, and I was there as a videographer. When she stood on that stage in front of thousands of rowdy, sweaty cyclists, I could just feel the atmosphere change as her speech moved and inspired everyone. That was the moment that I decided I would ride the next year with her Tealpower team. I had no idea at the time that she wouldn't be there to see me do it, or that I was documenting the last big public event of her life.

“From day one she decided that she was going to fight not just for her own survival but for other cancer patients as well.”

My sister passed away in November of 2015, and one of the last things she said to me was that if I grieved too long, she’d come back from the dead and kick my ass. If anyone could pull that off, it would be Alison. 

These last five years should have been the worst of my life, and in some ways they were. Not having my sister around sucks. But at the same time, I've really felt Alison pushing me to do more and succeed more than I ever have before. In the last month, I moved to a new place in Liberty Village, steps away from where Alison used to live with her partner. As I walk around the neighbourhood, I can feel her telling me that this is where I need to be. She's still helping me — just like she always helped anyone she could.”