Arnie Vered - Cancer Champion

Liz and Arnie Vered

Being a Cancer Champion was deeply important to Arnie Vered.

“I am not looking to survive cancer,” Arnie told his loved ones when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2014, “as surviving is giving cancer too much respect."

“My goal is to beat cancer. I want to be a Champion of Cancer and follow the footsteps of the many Champions of Cancer who have shown how one's inner strength and the strength of family and friends are such an integral part of the success of being a Champion.”

A Champion is exactly what he was.

A loving father and professional engineer who ran two large companies – Arnon Corporation and Ron Engineering and Construction - he was also an active and dedicated local philanthropist who believed in giving back to the community. It was a legacy he carried on from the example of his parents, Sara and the late Zeev Vered. Arnie spent thousands of hours over the years volunteering his time and expertise to local organizations. The list of organizations that he supported includes Telus Ottawa Community Board, United Way, Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, The Ottawa Hospital, CHEO, National Arts Centre, Alzheimer’s Society, Jewish Federation of Ottawa, and Soloway JCC.

His tireless volunteer work and philanthropy was recognized by the greater community. In February 2014, Arnie was honoured for his generous volunteerism with a Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. As well, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David Onley presented him with a Medal for Good Citizenship in April 2014 in a ceremony at his alma mater Carleton University, where Arnie was also on the board.

Arnie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after a mass was discovered on his pancreas in March 2013. He saw Dr. Richard Mimeault at The Ottawa Hospital, where he learned that his cancer was sufficiently advanced that a simple surgery was not possible. The complexity of his tumour and the structures it touched required a combination of chemotherapy and surgery that was not yet available at the Hospital.

Dr. Mimeault explained that standard chemotherapy would not predictably shrink the tumour, but that new, investigational chemotherapy might have a better chance of inducing a response. Arnie chose to see a hepato-pancreato-biliary specialist in Montreal because his wife Liz’s family is in Montreal and it was a relatively short trip. Arnie had four rounds of investigational chemotherapy treatment in Montreal to shrink the tumour before the surgeon could operate.

On July 30, 2013, Arnie underwent a seven-hour Whipple procedure, the most common operation to remove pancreatic cancers. Nine days after surgery, Arnie went home to Ottawa. For five months after the operation, he returned to Montreal for follow-up trips.

The whole ordeal was made extra difficult because of the required travel back and forth to Montreal, taking him away from his six children, extended family, and friends. Being away from this powerful support group was very hard. Therefore, it was a great joy and comfort to Arnie when, in January 2014, he was able to continue treatments at The Ottawa Hospital’s Irving Greenberg Family Cancer Centre, located at the Queensway Carleton Hospital. Arnie felt there was no reason why the kind of treatment he needed shouldn’t be offered here in Ottawa.

“Arnie didn’t want this to happen to someone else – the stress of travel back and forth, having to be away from one’s support system and the comforts of home,” said Liz Vered. “That’s the whole reason behind the chair. He wanted to make sure that nobody else had to go to Montreal or Toronto for this type of care when it could be available in Ottawa.”

Ottawa has a far-reaching reputation for outstanding health care, as evidenced by the organizations that Arnie supported, such as the Heart Institute, CHEO, and The Royal. Arnie felt that The Ottawa Hospital had the opportunity to build on its expertise to become a centre of excellence for pancreatic cancer care and research. He wanted to help make it possible for people to be treated closer to home, and so he lent his support to establish a research chair.

A research chair would focus on hepato-pancreato-biliary issues, conducting research and clinical trials, and ultimately providing the latest knowledge and highest standard of treatment and care for hepato-pancreato-biliary patients. For patients who live locally, the advantages of having a research chair means not having to go anywhere else. This was Arnie’s wish and his legacy to Ottawa.

Arnie was a very well-loved and widely respected man. When he passed away in July 2014, over 1,200 people attended his funeral. Giving back to the community meant everything to Arnie, and the Ottawa community is grateful for his generosity and the legacy that he left.

The Vered Family Chair for Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Research