Jeanne Kollée

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Arts Community Rallies Behind Cancer Fighter


Judy Westcott

For The Lethridge Herald- May 17, 2014



A local woman’s battle in her fight against cancer was given a shot in the arm Saturday by patrons at an art auction fundraising event at CASA.

Organized by local artist Robert Bechtel, the fundraiser was held in support of Carrie Balkham, who has been undergoing costly treatments in Vancouver to treat stage four colon cancer.


Balkham, a registered nurse at Chinook Regional Hospital and a member of the local arts community, recently started a treatment called localized hyperthermia in addition to chemotherapy treatments. Considered an alternative treatment plan, it is not covered by provincial health plans or insurance. With assistance of friends and family, Balkham is left paying for six treatments at a total cost of $20,400. She is unable to work because of the treatments.


“It’s very close to my heart,” said Bechtel. “I first met Carrie through another artist’s memorial, Wendy Lipinski, who passed away recently from pancreatic cancer. When I heard what Carrie was going through, I wanted to help and thought an art auction was a good idea.”


Local nurse and hobby photographer, Jennifer Gomez, works with Balkham at the hospital and donated several of her own photographs to the auction.

“I felt it was very important to contribute to this event,” said Gomez. “I have so much respect for her very fierce will to fight through this.”


 Besides Gomez and himself, Bechtel said Saturday’s art auction included pieces from Aaron Hagen, Rick Gillis and Jason Trotter, as well as many other artists from Lethbridge, Calgary and Vancouver. Donations came from as far away as Sweden and Tel Aviv. Some of Balkham’s own artworks were also featured.

“Her friends and family have been very supportive and have contributed a lot to securing donations for the auction,” said Bechtel. “I’m not sure how much we’ll raise today, but I think we could do quite well – there’s a lot of great work here.”




Robert Bechtel with one of his watercolour works for auction.


Auction items ranged from paintings and photographs to jewelry and gift baskets. One of the more unusual items was a guitar autographed by Paul Stanley of the rock band KISS, which had been purchased off the Internet and donated to the silent auction.


Local businesses were also very generous, Bechtel said, noting many of them had donated items for the auction or supplied refreshments for the event.

Calgary-based musician Jordan Doell, whose donated gift basket included his CD’s and a private performance for the lucky bidder, was on hand to entertain during the event.


According to the Canadian Cancer Assocation, localized hyperthermia is a cancer treatment that uses heat to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumours. The cancer tissue is exposed to high temperatures (usually between 40-43 degrees C ) for 60 to 90 minutes, which can harm and kill cancer cells by damaging proteins and structures within the cells.


There is usually little injury to normal cells and tissues with the treatment. Blood flow to the tumour is also reduced as a result of the treatment. It is usually performed in conjunction with radiation or chemotherapy treatments and has been used as part of cancer treatment in Europe for many years.


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