In June of 2017, Geoff Hollis was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 34. Kassia Haynes, Geoff’s beloved fiancé, took on the caregiver role without hesitation. The four years that would follow would come some of their best times (they married and became Dr. & Mrs. Hollis-Haynes) and their hardest times. Yet, their love and laughter persisted through all the ups and downs. Through this journey, the Ring of Fire fundraiser was created in honour of Geoff and in support of colon cancer research in Alberta.
Geoff’s charisma was undeniable, and his work as a professor at the University of Alberta was a testament to this. “Geoff loved his students and had a really good connection with them. He was brilliant.” Kassia states.
His passions didn’t end there, in fact, Geoff was a connoisseur of many things. Whether it was immersing himself in board games, being the best ‘cat dad’ around, or cultivating fiery peppers on their patio garden, Geoff’s zest for life knew no bounds. He had an insatiable appetite for new experiences particularly when it came to exploring the scorching world of spicy cuisine.
Out of her profound love for Geoff and hopes of raising funds for colon cancer research, Kassia started the Ring of Fire fundraiser fours years into Geoff’s cancer journey.
“I was like ‘I should get all of my friends together for a charity run for colon cancer research to honour Geoff!’ and then I was like ‘Wait, Geoff hates running'” Kassia laughs.
The Ring of Fire fundraiser is still a marathon in its own right, a ‘Marathon of Pain’ if you will. Kassia wanted to incorporate the things Geoff loved into this event, and Geoff LOVED his spicy food.
“Participants challenge themselves to a marathon of pain as they eat 10 hot wings (or cauliflower bites), each with a spicier hot sauce than the last, while raising money for colorectal cancer research in Alberta.” – Ring of Fire website
They will be hosting the third year of this event at MKT in Edmonton on October 10th! Although ticket sales are now closed, you can support by making a donation to one of the brave souls facing the spicy pain!
The fun doesn’t end there though, each year, a celebrity guest willingly steps into the challenge, joining the courageous participants in the marathon of pain. This year, it’s none other than the “nicest tough guy in the NHL,” the pride of the Edmonton Oilers—Georges Laraque!
For Kassia, the Ring of Fire fundraiser represents more than just thrilling festivities, though. It’s a way to celebrate Geoff’s memory and his enduring impact on their community. It also brings a wave of hope for colon cancer research and outcomes through the funds they raise.
Geoff received his treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. For Kassia, the pain of watching her husband face this disease was ever present. Yet, the dedication from Geoff’s radiologist, Dr. Jacob Easaw, was the support they both needed.
“He ended up living for over 4 years with colon cancer because his doctor, Dr. Jacob Easaw, was very diligent in making sure he was always looking at the most cutting-edge research and looking for clinical trials. The last treatment Geoff was on was encorafenib. It was kind of a game changer for us. It ended up giving Geoff 18 more months, when only 5 or 6 was expected, which was really wonderful.”
When you support events like the Ring of Fire fundraiser, you play an instrumental role in advancing cancer research and treatment options for Albertans facing cancer.