Terry Fox prize goes to Kinney

September 23, 2004, vol. 31, no. 2
By Marianne Meadahl

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Bryan Kinney got the call that changed his life after giving his first criminology lecture of the spring 2002 semester.

A blood test revealed the onset of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare form of cancer. Instead of preparing his next lesson, he began a course of blood transfusions, chemotherapy and radiation that would render him helpless and siphon off 55 pounds. His chances were at best 35 per cent that he'd survive beyond the next two years.

But the SFU doctoral student in criminology didn't lose faith. And he didn't go it alone. His ability to get through treatment and return to teaching - with wife Aili at his side - has led Kinney to be named this year's recipient of the SFU Terry Fox humanitarian award.

The award is given annually to someone who has demonstrated personal qualities of courage in adversity and dedication to society exemplified by Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope. He'll receive the award during Terry Fox Day ceremonies at SFU in convocation mall on Sept. 23 at 11:40 a.m.

A few weeks before Kinney was to begin teaching in 2002 they went on a Carribbean cruise. During the trip Kinney didn't feel well. He questioned a bruise caused from carrying a simple towel bag. “You can never be prepared for hearing the worst. You face abruptly what's important and what isn't,” he recalled after hearing the diagnosis. “It sorts you out in a hurry.”

His first concern was for his class. Aili, who is also a SFU PhD candidate and a professor at the University College of the Fraser Valley, took over his teaching duties for the next three months and carried on her own work, completing a contract with the Justice Institute. She spent the rest of her time at the cancer treatment centre, where Kinney was a patient for two months.

“Aili took care of all the logistics. All I had to focus on was getting through it,” says Kinney. “She's amazing.”

Aili points to her husband's infallible spirit. “Bryan always sees the bright side of things,” he says. “He keeps his senses about him, and he's not afraid to make light of things. We share that dry sense of humor. It helps.”

For the next several months they made the 55-km round trip from Port Moody to the centre for Kinney's daily treatments, which lasted up to 14 hours a day.

The pair work with another SFU husband and wife team, Paul and Patricia Brantingham, who study crime in urban settings. Kinney's research looks at court sentencing patterns in Vancouver and surrounding areas.

Kinney resumed his studies in 2003. “We're in a best case scenario now,” says Kinney, who has been in remission since his first round of treatment. He'll be finished chemotherapy by the end of May 2005.

“Right now I'm still looking at a 50-50 chance, but it doesn't bother us like it did at first,”he admits. “I worry about things and giggle, all things considered. I look at life and I'm happier in everything. More in love than ever.”

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