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Two Trent Students Take the Fight Against Breast Cancer on the Road

Alison Ellwood and Megan MacDonaldAfter her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, Alison Ellwood spent a lot of time reflecting on the situation and asking herself what she could do to help or make a difference. Her answer came during a summer canoe trip when she became inspired to combine her love for the outdoors with a personal desire to connect and share the stories of breast cancer struggle and survival across the country.

This month, Ms. Ellwood's vision becomes a reality as she and friend Megan MacDonald, who both graduated from the Consecutive Education program at Trent this spring, launch the HerStory Project – a cross-country bike tour aimed at strengthening the ever-growing network of Canadian women, families and communities that have been affected by breast cancer. 

According to Ms. Ellwood, "It is all about weaving a common thread from one coast to the other – something that binds us all together."

Having departed from Vancouver on May 8, Ms. Ellwood and Ms. MacDonald will spend three and a half months travelling from coast to coast on their bikes, collecting stories, words of wisdom, and artistic expressions from those who are living, or have lived, through the experience of breast cancer. At the end of the project, the stories from survivors, relatives, friends, and communities will be compiled into a publication which will aim to inspire, encourage, and mark the lives of those that have been touched by the disease.

The idea of collecting inspiring stories came after Ms. Ellwood witnessed how the connections her mother formed with other women with similar experience helped give her mother the strength and courage she needed to fight the disease.

"The connections and stories take away the isolation and help turn fear into courage," Ms. Ellwood said. "HerStory opens a window of opportunity for people to talk and share."

As for the biking component, Ms. Ellwood and Ms. MacDonald think of it as a personal challenge in honour of all the women who have struggled and continue to struggle against a disease that, according to the Canadian Cancer Foundation, will affect the lives of one in nine Canadian women.

"I love the challenge, both physical and emotional," said Ms. MacDonald who joined the project only a few months ago. "It is going to be really interesting to see how it all unfolds."

Ms. Ellwood and Ms. MacDonald met last fall as students in the Consecutive Education Program. Before long they realized how much they had in common, including a love of the outdoors and the fact that both of their lives have been touched by cancer – Ms. MacDonald's father was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. The two women are looking forward to spending the summer together and creating something that will ultimately help people who are affected by cancer.

In addition to resulting in a final publication, the HerStory project will also count towards the completion of Ms. Ellwood and Ms. MacDonald's alternative education placement, a requirement of the Trent Education Program. 

Asked how they felt about the opportunity to use this project as their placement, Ms. Ellwood responded, "This is all about shared knowledge and education; it's about learning from one another and passing knowledge along. It is alternative education at its finest!"

In terms of what the two women are looking forward to the most, they both return to the notion of hearing the stories of courage and survival and being able to share those stories with people who can benefit most from the strength and perseverance of others.

"We are going to learn so much about ourselves and each other," said Ms. MacDonald. "We want to hear the stories that are inspiring to everyone and I know we will have a lot to share in the end."

HerStory Update – July 7

Ms. Ellwood and Ms. MacDonald return to Peterborough this weekend as they continue to make their way east. 

For more information on the HerStory project, please visit

Posted July 7, 2006





























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