Community rallies behind business owner

By Bradley Turcotte – 

The community is rallying around local business owner Alex Neron as he fights a recent diagnosis of colon cancer.

Community members staged a benefit event and created a donation fund. The benefit, held August 1 at Hintonburg Public House, featured a live auction where local artists donated their art to Neron’s cause.

Neron, a self-taught artist who is the founder of Railbender tattoo studio and art gallery on Hamilton Avenue North, says he was “completely shocked” and “in disbelief” following his diagnosis.

“When you hear a diagnosis, you’re not educated on the topic so you’re sort of terrified and clueless,” Neron, 38, admits.

Railbender’s Alex Neron has found himself in the middle of a fundraiser. File photo by Ted Simpson.
Railbender’s Alex Neron has found himself in the middle of a fundraiser. File photo by Ted Simpson.

Susan Flynn, Senior Manager, Cancer Prevention at the Ontario Division of the Canadian Cancer Society, estimates there will be 25,100 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in Canada this year.

“Everyone is encouraged to discuss their particular screening needs with their doctor,” Flynn adds on the topic of detection and prevention.

Neron assures his prognosis is hopeful and alongside traditional treatment avenues, he’s exploring alternative approaches. High doses of natural supplements, acupuncture sessions, yoga and meditation are tools Neron is utilizing to fight the disease from a psychological perspective.

“I’d like to think it’s helping,” Neron says. “I’m lucky that my doctors are open to that. We’re in good hands on both sides.”

Eating healthy has always been a part of Neron and his wife Marta’s lives as the recently wed couple met in an organic grocery store. Yet in light of Neron’s diagnosis, proper nutrition is now essential. Sugar, red meat and processed foods are out, although Neron says he does allow himself an occasional beer from his neighbours at Beyond the Pale.

“Eating well can help you at each stage of cancer treatment and recovery,” Flynn reinforces. “It can give you energy, help you feel better and keep your body strong. It can help you cope with side effects during treatment. And it can help you heal and recover after treatment.”

However, health conscious food and alternative medicine treatments are not covered by the health care system. While Neron is still present at Railbender, his income is severely reduced while he undergoes treatment.

These revelations led local photographer and founder of Love Ottawa, Dwayne Brown, to start a fund to assist Neron during this difficult time.

Brown learned of Neron’s diagnosis through social media and, along with his Love Ottawa partner Anita Ruivo, set up the donation fund for Neron.

“It gives them some emotional support,” Brown says. “It lets them know that their community, their friends, their family, people that don’t even know them, in a way, have their back.”

“They have been very humble and gracious. They have not once had their hand out,” Brown says. “Your mind has to be on fighting the cancer and not worrying about paying your way every day.”

Love Ottawa’s blog post on Neron’s plight is the site’s most successful post to date, reaching close to 40,000 Facebook users.

The community’s support surprised Neron and he says that overwhelming feeling has been escalating.

“All I can say is words can’t express how thankful we are.”

Donations and well wishes can be directed to

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