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Returning the favour

Returning the favour

Dr. Raymond Lam and Alanna Wong remember their sister, Joyce Lam, as head-strong and resilient. These were traits that served her well as she wrestled with arthritis for most of her life.   

“She was always a fighter,” says Raymond. “For a lot of her life, Joyce had this condition, but she never let it define her. She always looked to do whatever she wanted despite any physical limitations. That was the type of person she was.” 

A grateful fighter, one could say. Joyce, who passed away at age 63 in April 2022 after arthritis had caused severe damage to her heart and lungs, received support from Arthritis Society Canada throughout her life. The Vancouverite left the organization a gift in her Will to help change the future for people impacted by arthritis.  

The miracle of medicine 

Joyce LamJoyce had a complex condition that presented when she was in university. Initially, she was diagnosed with lupus, and later mixed connective tissue disease. Arthritis, however, was always part of the clinical picture. 

Her health deteriorated rapidly in her mid-twenties as the disease attacked her heart and lungs, and she eventually was admitted to an intensive care unit. Raymond, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, was away doing his training when this happened. He made an emergency trip home to see her.  

“She was on death’s doorstep. Her doctors didn’t think she’d make it,” he recalls. 

As Joyce fought for her life, she participated in a clinical trial of a new medication. The results were beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. 

“She got so much better during that clinical trial. Her heart and lungs stabilized – she was well! It was a miracle,” Raymond says. “Even though the medication showed mixed results overall in the trial, it worked for her. It was one of those unexpected results that can sometimes happen in medicine that no one could have predicted.” 

Planting a seed for future generations 

JoyceThanks in part to the trial medication and the care of her doctors, Joyce lived more than 30 years longer than expected. She still had arthritis and other medical issues, but she lived well. Throughout those three decades, she relied on Arthritis Society Canada’s support. 

When she was diagnosed, Arthritis Society Canada’s B.C. Division shared information about the disease so Joyce could understand what she was facing. The organization taught her how to cope with arthritis, lent her helpful assistive devices and connected her with peer support programs. In return, Joyce volunteered – she took calls on the Arthritis Answers Line, talking people through a new diagnosis and offering a comforting voice of reassurance. The gesture carried extra meaning coming from someone with lived experience. 

“Arthritis Society Canada was important to Joyce. It helped her to stay independent,” says Alanna. “That’s why she volunteered, and why she wanted her gift in Will to directly help patients impacted by arthritis access the much-needed support they might not be able to afford themselves.” 

Alanna adds that research was of particular interest to Joyce. Because she benefitted greatly from a clinical trial, she promoted research and wanted to help establish new and better treatments.  

In 2004, Arthritis Society Canada’s B.C. Division helped to start a fund in Joyce’s name at the Vancouver Foundation. It supports the creation of new programs and services to help reduce pain and disability for people living with the disease. Joyce planned for her estate gift to go directly into the fund, ensuring Arthritis Society Canada would receive quarterly annual income installments from it when she passed. 

“Joyce was an incredibly special person,” says Liesl Drayton, Director, Planned Giving, Arthritis Society Canada. “She was passionate about advocating for the six million people in Canada living with arthritis, and this very generous gift will help to ensure her legacy lives on for years. We are deeply grateful.” 

As Raymond and Alanna paint a picture of their “spunky and playful” sister, they touch on her love of cycling, her nieces and nephews, her dog and her husband, Tom. They also circle back to her interest in supporting Arthritis Society Canada and dispelling myths around the disease. 

“Ordinarily, arthritis is seen as a condition of the older person. Because Joyce was young and vigorous, she could challenge that,” Raymond says. “She was an ambassador for Arthritis Society Canada, but the organization was really good for her, too, in that it offered her a way to give back and help others with the same condition.” 

If you would like information about leaving a gift in your Will, please reach out to Liesl Drayton at