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Fundraiser for Pemberton’s ‘peaceful warrior’ Rich Prohaska hits $47K

After defying doctors’ prognoses for years, Prohaska is now receiving hospice care in Squamish

The Pemberton community is rallying behind one of its own, Rich Prohaska, who, after defying doctors’ prognoses for years, is now receiving hospice care for terminal cancer.

In 2019, Prohaska was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and given “weeks to months” to live. Four years later and he has consistently beat doctors’ expectations, as he and his family explored a multitude of treatment options.

Sadly, the beloved Pembertonian recently suffered numerous seizures, and it was discovered his tumours have grown. He is now receiving care through the Sea to Sky Hospice Society in Squamish.

Family friend Wendy Brookbank set up an online fundraiser through GoFundMe that, at press time, had raised $47,000 of its $50,000 goal for the Prohaska family. She explained Prohaska’s wife, Heather, has taken leave from her job at Signal Hill Elementary, leaving the family with no steady income.

“He was diagnosed four and a half years ago, and he was given a very short timeframe for living,” she said. “They used traditional as well as alternative medicines. It included a completely vegan diet, all organic food, nothing processed. That alone was very, very expensive. Now Rich has been moved down to a hospice. This money is going to help them in their day-to-day while they don’t have any income, also to offset a lot of costs.”

The Prohaskas have exhausted every financial avenue possible since Rich’s diagnosis, Brookbank explained.

“They have used their life savings in order to save Rich’s life,” she said. “We hope to just put money back into their everything. The whole community wanted to do a GoFundMe a long time ago. Rich is an extremely proud guy. They are hard-working people and they didn’t want to accept monetary donations.”

The response to the GoFundMe has been overwhelming. Brookbank stressed it’s a testament to how loved her friend of more than three decades really is.

“Somebody described him as a ‘peaceful warrior,’” she said. “That’s such a great description of Rich. He is calm and always smiling. He just makes everyone around him feel really good. He is very dedicated. The man is a machine. He could lead the most amazing rock climbs.”

Prohaska enjoyed a prolific skiing and climbing career. A certified heli-ski guide for a number of companies in the region, he was also an avid mountaineer. He summitted Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, so many times—eight—that he is affectionately known as “Mr. Logan” in the mountaineering world. In 2017, he also served as guide to his daughter Naomi when the 15-year-old became the youngest person to summit Logan. Prohaska also counts first ascents in Baffin Island, China, Greenland, and Antarctica.

“I first met Rich in the early ’90s,” said Brookbank. “He was living in his van in the day lot in Whistler. There were a whole bunch of us, all avid skiers and climbers. There were three of them that engaged in really big mountain adventures. They travelled all over the world for first descents and first ascents. His daughters are now the same age as my daughters. We have just been close for all those years”

Prohaska was determined to do everything he could to buy more time with his family. “The very first oncologist he saw said he had weeks to months to live,” said Brookbank. “Rich is a highly motivated person in everything he does. He started looking at all the ways to make this better. He did this with chemo and radiation. There were times when his markers were super low. He was in great form. He was outliving the timeline that doctors were giving him.”

The family’s church, Pemberton Community Church, has also rallied around them during this difficult time. “He is also a very religious man, a devout Christian,” said Brookbank. “He puts a lot of faith in God. They have a big religious community. They really hoped with all of this, there might be a miracle and it would work.”

The Prohaska family drew attention to their neighbours, Dawn Hunter and Bendigo Noble, two other Pembertonians dealing with their own cancer diagnoses who the community has raised funds for. At press time, roughly $83,000 had been raised between those two recent GoFundMe campaigns, a testament to the care and generosity of Pemberton locals.

Brookbank said the Prohaskas are blown away by the standard of care Rich is now receiving.

“Rich really felt like he could do this on his own,” she said. “Heather was administering the pain medication. Then, the pain just got too great. Rich felt he wasn’t ready yet. Even a month ago, there was no talk of not winning. The doctors in Squamish just said that they could really help him down there. He checked in and the whole care at the Squamish hospice centre has just been amazing. They are taking care of Rich, taking care of Heather, taking care of their kids.

“The greatest thing that has happened down there is that he’s comfortable, very comfortable,” Brookbank added. “He is declining, but he is able to do it in a comfortable state. The facility that we have in this corridor is just next level.”

Brookbank said the Prohaskas have been deeply moved by the support and messages they’ve received so far.

“Even with the GoFundMe, people feel like they can finally help in some way,” she said. “They have been such strong community members for so many years. It’s so nice for Rich, Heather and the girls to even look through the names and feel loved. They see that their dad is someone that has really made an impact on the community.”

Donate to the fundraiser here. Hunter’s fundraiser can be found here, while Noble’s can be accessed here.