Life Raft Group Canada is mourning the loss of our dearly loved Vice-President, Lynn Burrows. Lynn was always a light-hearted and optimistic woman, in spite of her decade of struggle with GIST. Her smile could light up any room … perhaps that is a cliche, but everyone who met Lynn knows how true it is. Lynn was the compassionate heart of our organization. Holding a graduate degree in Counselling from the University of Victoria, British Columbia (2000), Lynn combined professional training with an innate gift for understanding each person’s unique situation and needs.
As soon as she joined the LRG Board, she took on a leading role, sparking multiple new initiatives and helping us to address, in particular, the psycho-social needs of our members.
Lynn always connected – providing helpful and practical assistance in a way that was supportive, empathetic, and personal. She was also an impeccably organized, efficient, and committed Board member.
Lynn’s first GIST fundraising adventure was “Mullet Madness” in 2011 … she had to explain to me what a mullet is! Soon, she had much of the town of Kamloops, B.C. growing out their shaggiest long hair to raise funds for Life Raft Group and GIST research. “Mullet Madness” was our first major fundraising event. It was not only a financial success but also a great morale boost to our young organization. Her next merchandising adventure was printing customized tote bags and t-shirts for our 2013 Day of Learning; I remember the laughter we shared, as the Board gathered in her hotel room, on the night before the meeting, to stuff the kits into those bags.
Lynn represented the Canadian group at the GIST New Horizons meeting in Paris (2012). Afterwards, she wrote that “I learned a great deal from this conference on so many levels and do see the need to have them in the future. There is so much we patient advocacy groups do – and sometime struggle to do – on a regional/ local level, but … we also need the strength of the global group.”
Lynn and I attended the New Horizons meeting in Switzerland (2014), where we were treated to a traditional Swiss meal that Martin Wettstein and his wife served in his home by the shore of Lake Lucerne. I’ll never forget the long hike that Ginger Sawyer, Lynn, and I took from the meeting hotel to the Lindt chocolate factory store, on a day that was hot enough to melt our purchases!
Lynn participated in the LifeFest gathering in New Jersey that fall. I remember with chagrin that soon after we left for our “off-site dinner” in Manhattan, we suddenly realized that the charter bus had left Lynn behind, back at the hotel! Lynn wasn’t at all perturbed; she just used her phone to access a service I had never heard of – “Uber” – got to Times Square at about the same time that the bus did, and greeted us all with a big grin.
Lynn designed and facilitated an interactive session, “Coping with the Emotional Impact of GIST”, and presented it at our Days of Learning in Toronto (2013), Vancouver (2014), and Ottawa (2015). These workshops and the issues that they brought to the fore led directly to our appreciation of the need to re-orient a significant part of our resources to addressing members’ needs for psycho-social, not just medical, support.
Lynn’s clinical situation was becoming ever more challenging. Several times, she made the long trip across Canada, from central B.C. to Toronto, to consult with the specialists there. But I never heard her complain about her struggle with GIST. She would just say (in the words of her famous silver bracelet) “Fuck Cancer” (yes, I will say it just as she said it!), laugh, and move on with her busy life.
Lynn, you have left us a legacy of compassion, enthusiasm, positive energy, and above all love.
I only wish we could have had more time ….