Women's College Hospital Foundation - Brianna Varcoe

Life Changers

Brianna Varcoe

At just 10 years old, Brianna Varcoe is helping to save lives by advancing groundbreaking breast and ovarian cancer research at Women’s College Hospital.

Her drive to make a difference comes from a deeply personal place: just before Christmas 2016, Brianna lost her mom, Krista Silverberg-Varcoe, to breast cancer. Krista was 37 years old when she passed away, leaving behind her husband, three young daughters and a loving circle of family and friends. A bright light in the lives of her family and friends, Krista’s loss came as a profound shock to all who knew her.

Krista carried the BRCA genetic mutation, which significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Her sister, Kirby, is also a BRCA carrier and recently began seeing specialists at Women’s College Hospital – a world leader in BRCA research – to explore her treatment options for stopping cancer before it can start.  

As Kirby and her family began learning more about WCH’s impact in the area of BRCA research and preventive treatment, Brianna took a special interest in supporting this important work – work that strives to save the lives of women just like her mom. 

In mid-March, she hosted a “spa day” fundraiser, inviting family and friends to enjoy manicures and pedicures at her home for $25 each – with services provided by her aunts, honourary aunts, grandmothers and some close family friends. About 50 guests attended the event, which raised an incredible $2,500 to advance hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research at Women’s College Research Institute. 

“I decided to do the fundraiser so that other moms, aunts and grandmothers don’t have to go through what my mom did,” says Brianna, who’s in grade five. “My mom was a great person. She was really special to me so I wanted to do something and hopefully make her proud of me. I don’t want other kids to have to go through what I did.” 

Brianna’s event will help fund major discoveries at WCRI with the potential to save lives around the world. Just last week, the hereditary cancers team launched an unprecedented Canada-wide screening project for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that will inform ongoing research breakthroughs and empower thousands of Canadians to know their risk and their options for preventing breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. 

Kirby, like the rest of the family, is in awe of Brianna’s courage and generosity during such a difficult time in her life. 

“She is very much like her mother – courageous, compassionate and strong,” says Kirby. “She wanted to raise money to help find a cure for the disease that cheated her out of a life with her mother, and to help ensure that no one else has to go through what she and her sisters are going through.”

A few days after Krista passed away, her mother, Suzanne, told Brianna and her sisters that when they find themselves really missing their mom, they can look up into the night sky and find Krista by looking for the brightest star. Just as Krista is the brightest star for her young daughters, Brianna’s generosity will help other women find the bright light of hope by supporting life-saving research. 

Women’s College Hospital Foundation extends its deepest gratitude to Brianna, Kirby and the entire Silverberg-Varcoe family for their incredible courage, and for choosing to honour Krista’s memory by helping to save the lives of generations of women. 

To learn more about Women’s College Research Institute’s hereditary cancers research team, please click here. To join Brianna in supporting this life-saving work, please click here and select “Breast Cancer Research” from the designation drop-down menu. 

If you are interested in hosting your own community fundraiser in support of Women’s College Hospital, please click here or contact Kat Biondi at kat.biondi@wchospital.ca or 416-323-6323 ext. 2339. 
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