In early-December 2020 David Corke was happy to be out doing what he loved again—coaching soccer.

The former professional player, now the Head Coach for one of Coastal FC’s high-performance programs, was trying to concentrate on helping his team when seemingly out of nowhere his back started to hurt.

He made it through the rest of the day, but he decided he needed to check into it.

“I went and saw a chiropractor—didn’t help. And then the pain got so bad that I went to get it examined and they thought it might be kidney stones,” says David. “We investigated that. Antibiotics didn’t work. Then they took some blood, and before you knew it, I was off to VGH.”

The blood work came back with a diagnosis that floored him. David had leukemia. A cancerous mass had formed in his stomach that was causing the pain. He needed treatment immediately.

“I started chemotherapy on Christmas Day,” says David. “It was confusing, scary, and obviously I couldn’t see my family because of the pandemic.”

David went from being on the soccer pitch helping promising young athletes to realize their best selves, to being isolated in hospital away from everything he loved—his wife Vanessa and two teenage sons. He went from being a healthy, strong, dynamic, and confident person to dropping down to 51 kilograms, unable to climb stairs or bathe himself.

Thankfully, David had the support, care and expertise from Dr. Maryse Power and the health care teams at VGH—the provincial Centre for the treatment of blood cancers and blood diseases.

Caring for approximately 100 new patients with acute leukemia and providing 200 bone marrow transplants annually, VGH’s Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant (L/BMT) program is for adults who need the best, most advanced care and treatments. Patients are flown in from around the province and the Yukon to receive care at VGH. Your donations are central to the L/BMT program, funding critical research, state-of-the-art equipment, and educational bursaries that improve staff knowledge and patient care.


Treatment begins

“Dr. Power spoke to Vanessa and said, ‘Yes, your husband is very sick, but now we know his diagnosis, we now know what to do.’ Whereas before it was like, let’s throw some mud at the wall and see what sticks, as it were, in terms of test after test,” said David.

The next several months would take everything David had in him, with two rounds of chemotherapy, full body radiation treatments and ultimately a stem cell transplant on April 30, 2021.

During his chemotherapy sessions, David also encountered a spiritual care practitioner Not one who considers himself religious, David found himself surprised at how meaningful the conversation was to him.

“She sat with me for, I’m going to say at least two hours one day, where I was hooked up to machines galore and she, and I remember this is clear as day, she said to me, ‘What does cancer mean to you?’ And I broke down because my mother passed of breast cancer, my grandmother passed from breast cancer, and recently my mother-in-law passed of multiple myeloma. So cancer to me meant death,” said David.

“And she sat with me for and taught me about being positive, staying positive, and some mechanisms to cope,” adds David. “And I can’t really express this enough, we had a phenomenal conversation.”

After the toughest months of his life, with thanks to the many specialists and health care providers at VGH, David made it through. And in April 2021, his cancer was in remission. Though his journey to recovery was far from over, for the first time in months David felt everything might turn out OK.

In celebration of his care team’s dedication, David, his family, and his friends started a fundraising campaign called the “Corke Classic”. It began in 2021 with 60 golfers raising money to support patients and their families struggling with new living expenses: gas cards, grocery cards, flight tickets, and more. It has since tripled attendance with 180 golfers and raised $20,000 in 2023.

“I feel outstanding today,” says David. “This is about me giving back and providing what I can. I can’t say thank you enough to all the teams at VGH.”