A Second Life: Longtime Vancouver business exec Nancy McKinstry faces another cancer battle

The Order of Canada recipient is raising money for ovarian cancer research.

Credit: Tanya Goehring

The Order of Canada recipient is raising money for ovarian cancer research

Nancy McKinstry was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005. Over the past 18 years, the Vancouver business executive with a resume longer than most novels has lived what she calls her second life.

Now the cancer has returned, and McKinstry and her husband Greg have established the Nancy McKinstry Endowment Fund for Ovarian Cancer Research. The couple seeded the fund with $50,000 and it’s now raised triple that amount.

McKinstry was a founding member of Minerva BC, which delivers leadership and mentorship programs for women. She’s also a former partner at Vancouver investment firm Odlum Brown, and the former chair of ICBC.

On the fund page, McKinstry writes:

“I have enjoyed countless cherished times with my three sisters; learned to row a single scull; designed and renovated two apartments; built our dream home on Gabriola; and helped community charities that are important to me, especially the Minerva Foundation, Simon Fraser University, and OVCARE, B.C.’s ovarian cancer research program. I have watched the next generation of leaders at Odlum Brown flourish, contributed to the success of four corporate boards, and spent time with close friends and family. 

This is the life that was given to me because of the groundbreaking research in gynecologic cancer in our province. In 2005, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is usually a death sentence for women and a huge loss for those who love their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and friends. 

How grateful I am to have survived. How blessed, how fortunate I feel to have had those 18 years. But now the cancer has returned to my body with a strength that cannot be beaten back. 

In the time I have left I want to make one more investment. Like the ripples in a pond, I want the impact I have been able to make to spread even further.”

BCBusiness has covered McKinstry several times, including this 2017 profile on her love of rowing. Her last paragraph in that first-person account tells a story itself:

“I feel so privileged that at my age I’ve found a strenuous sport that I just love. It’s very meditative; it’s very rhythmic. Being out on the water, just you and the boat, is something very special.”