Montreal sisters inspire: fighting same rare cancer Terry Fox had

“If my sister can do it, I can do it," says Katelyn Harding, 19-year-old Montrealer who was diagnosed with the same cancer as her sister, just months from each other. Osteosarcoma is also the same rare Cancer Terry Fox had. Pamela Pagano reports.

The Harding sister’s strength and courage have been inspiring.

Meet Cassandra and Katelyn, who within just months of each other were both diagnosed with the same rare Cancer Terry Fox had: Osteosarcoma.

“I mostly looked at in a way of like, okay my sister did it,” said Katelyn. “I’ll be able to do it.”

Katelyn Harding with her father, Christopher, at Montreal’s MUHC on Jan. 22, 2024. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

“You’re my baby girl,” said the sister’s father, Christopher Harding. “You will remain my baby girl.”

Katelyn is 19 years old now –- something her dad has to be reminded of –- to him she will always be his “Katie Bug.”

“She’ll do everything possible,” said Christopher. “Whatever is necessary, in order to get out of this wheelchair.”

Dr. Ahmed Aoude and Dr. Ramy Saleh viewing a scan at Montreal’s MUHC on Dec. 29, 2023. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

An athlete – playing rugby and ringette – Katelyn thought the pain and numbness she was experiencing was no more than a sports injury.

“We went to get an X-Ray done,” explained Katelyn. “Then that’s how we found out.”

She heard the word her family has heard before: Cancer.

Diagnosed about six months after her sister Cassandra completed her own treatments with Osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bones.

“Two sisters, same cancer, both young, mother passed away of a cancer,” said Dr. Ramy Saleh, medical oncologist, Cedars Cancer Centre, MUHC. “It really clicked in our head that there is a genetic thing that might actually be causing this.”

After undergoing testing, doctors found that both sisters have what’s known as the P53 genetic variant.

“When they have that mutation,” explained Dr. Saleh. “And it’s expressed in their body, there’s a tendency for the body to do multiple cancers.”

“Sometimes there’s a 100 per cent chance that they will have a cancer in their life.”

A scan at Montreal’s MUHC on Dec. 29, 2023. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

Terry Fox had to have his leg amputated due to the Cancer.

Today, with medical advancements, Cassandra was able to keep hers.

The family –- in caring hands at Montreal’s MUHC. 

Cassandra, now in remission.

And Katelyn –- halfway through chemo treatments and is in rehab, learning how to walk again.

“We did, I think it was 18 hours in one day,” said Dr. Ahmed Aoude, spine and orthopedic oncology surgeon, MUHC. “Then she went through intensive care for a couple days.”

“Then we went back (to surgery) and then took out the tumor the second day,” he added. “To make a total of 36 hours.”

Image on screen at Montreal’s MUHC on Dec. 29, 2023 showing the reconstruction of Katelyn ‘s sacrum. (Credit: Pamela Pagano/CityNews)

Katelyn’s surgery – What Dr. Aoude calls “one of the biggest surgeries in modern medicine.”

“He still knew from that first moment exactly how long and how complex it was gonna be,” said Christopher, who called both doctors and all medical staff he’s encountered: wonderful. “And again, we re-embarked.”

The sisters – sharing their journey on social media – inspirations for other young patients.

As for “Katie Bug’s” inspiration: her sister.

“I’m not scared at all,” said Katelyn. “I know that if my sister can do it, I can do it.”

Top Stories

Top Stories