Keenleyside not slowed by cancer

June 15, 2006, volume 36, no. 4
By Carol Thorbes

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To look at Peg Keenleyside, her youthful face framed by short, blond hair, and two young children by her side, you wouldn't think that she is turning 50 or has recently conquered breast cancer.

But this newly minted graduate of Simon Fraser University's school of communication had a baby boy, endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and championed several major projects on her way to convocation mall.

“I was diagnosed in July 2004, about six weeks after my baby boy Nicholas was born,” says the Delta mom of two, who is married to an actor. Nicholas is now two and her daughter Madeleine is four. “I had just finished my term and had been organizing a conference right up until a couple of weeks before I was due in May 2004. My husband was in New York filming The Interpreter the day I got my diagnosis.”

Thirteen months after being diagnosed and treated, Keenleyside returned to SFU. “Chemo and radiation really zap your energy,” she notes. “I've always been a really high energy person so this was really hard for me to go through.”

You wouldn't know it, judging from Keenleyside's involvement in establishing No Sweat SFU, a student group that championed the creation of an ethical purchasing policy at SFU. It ensures that the university never buys clothing produced in Third World sweatshops.

Keenleyside was also involved in helping fellow communication students market and fundraise for Picture Our World, a project that builds global bonds between underprivileged children. 

Keenleyside even found time and energy this May to help the Canadian Cancer Society raise $200,000 in Delta for cancer research by participating in a relay.

She attributes her boundless energy - even in trying and life threatening times - to a passion for creativity.

Before coming to SFU, Keenleyside acted, wrote and produced for theatre. Her interest in “how the global political wheel turns on so much patriarchal power,” inspired her to write and produce Hockey Wives, a biting satire featuring the CBC's Mary Walsh. Keenleyside used her ample talent with multi-media technology to write, direct and produce interactive, historical theatre in Lynden, Washington.

“I was just always that kid who was organizing all the others in the neighbourhood for the show with the clothesline and the blanket, you know? Maybe it's because we often didn't have television. Mostly I think it just comes from a need to get my creative stuff out there.”

With a second university degree now tucked under her arm, Keenleyside still has no plans to sit back. “I'm going to freelance as a consultant in the arts and communication,” she says. Keenleyside also holds a bachelor of arts in drama from the University of Alberta and a diploma of media arts from John Abbott college in Montreal. “I imagine there's a non-profit or two that might need someone with my skill set. I'll also work as an artist again. No doubt my experience with cancer and being a new mom at the same time will be featured in a project.”

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