Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

VHF fundraiser: Surgeon credits MRI technology in recovery from cancer, cycling injury

Dr. Ralph Lapp is championing MRI technology as a supporter of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s $11 million Imaging is Power campaign

After a career as an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ralph Lapp found out first-hand what it’s like to be a patient in the health-care system he’s been part of for decades.

He said magnetic-resonance imaging, or MRI, technology — the same technology he has used for many of his patients — made all the difference in his prostate- cancer treatment, and later when he suffered serious injuries in a cycling crash.

He’s now championing that technology as a supporter of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s Imaging is Power campaign, which aims to raise $11 million to refurbish three existing MRI machines and to purchase a new CR scanner, SPECT/CT scanner and C-arm.

Lapp received his prostate cancer diagnosis in July 2018. A biopsy by Dr. Iain McAuley, a urologist, revealed the cancer. The MRI scan he ordered showed what Lapp called “the real story”: his cancer was spreading.

“The MRI tipped the balance,” Lapp said. “It showed that the cancer was eroding out of its capsule and we really had to take this more seriously.”

That led to a radical prostatectomy — removal of the prostate gland and adjacent lymph nodes — and now a cancer-free life five years later, said Lapp.

“I’ve got a lot of thanks in relation to quality of imaging and availability here in Victoria.”

A year after his own diagnosis, a close friend died of prostate cancer, and he realizes he could have met the same fate.

Lapp said he is confident the MRI scan helped save his life.

“There’s been no sign of recurrence of cancer since that time and it gave me an opportunity by the time I was 75 years old [to be] back doing all sorts of things,” Lapp said. “Sailing, cycling, time trialing and racing on the bike.

“Unfortunately that tendency to go fast maybe had something to do with a nasty collision less than two years ago.”

Lapp was cycling on Lochside Drive in December 2021 “at a good pace, within reason” when a delivery van going in the same direction turned into his path.

He said he was badly hurt and his helmet was demolished. He suffered a broken rib, a damaged disk, a shoulder injury and “worst of all, a serious concussion.”

The concussion necessitated an immediate CT scan of his head and chest, and he later had a specialized MRI scan of his shoulder.

“The quality of the images is absolutely stellar,” he said of his MRI.

He said the plan in the Imaging is Power campaign to upgrade three MRI machines in current use to move toward that higher level “is absolutely brilliant.”

“I’m fully in support of that whole approach.”

Lapp, who still occasionally assists in the operating room, said he didn’t know if his shoulder injury would keep him from operating or cycling again, but he said expert medical care — and MRI technology — made both possible.

About 2,000 MRI scans are done monthly on Vancouver Island residents, and there is no doubt they help save lives, he said.

The technology is constantly improving, Lapp said, and it helps so many people — including his daughter, who has multiple sclerosis.

Lapp noted that 40 per cent of equipment in hospitals is funded by donations, saying people should know what a difference their generosity can make.

Donations can be made online at ­, by calling the foundation at 250-519-1750, by visiting the foundation offices at Royal Jubilee, or by mailing a cheque to the foundation at ­Wilson Block, 1952 Bay St., Victoria, B.C. V8R 1J2.

[email protected]

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: [email protected]