An extraordinary experience! Cancer changed my life. I was 11 when I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and everything changed that day.
I often think of my life in five phases: Before, Just before, During, Just after and After.
– Before, I was a happy child, living in his own little world, who didn’t even know the word “cancer” existed.
– Just before the start of treatment, in all honesty, I didn’t understand what was happening. Everything went so fast and was so complicated (honestly, who understands everything a doctor can tell you in five minutes, especially when you’re 11 years old). Everything seemed so important, so serious — but it went over my head. With hindsight, I tell myself that maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes it’s easier to tackle life’s problems when you don’t know about them in advance.
– During was hard, very hard. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, lumbar punctures, isolation, medical examinations, over and over. Lots of tears, pain and vomiting. But my family was there. So were my friends. They came to see me and made me want to fight, to get out of the hospital to be with them, eat like other people, play soccer, go to school — in a word, to live! My body was fragile but my mind was strong! The treatment was hard but I was stronger than it. Some people call that courage; today, I call that life. Life is precious and unique. You have to fight to keep it!
– Just after was a relatively long period of my life — it lasted over 15 years. For sure, I was cured, but I was different. It took me years to “own” this difference. My illness made me see life, effort and pain in a different way. I pushed my limits, working enormously, enjoying being with my friends until late in the evening and getting up early in the morning after not enough sleep.
- And then After kicked in, and I finally accepted things. Am I different? Yes, I am, and why not let everyone know! Why not accept this difference and draw positive, non-destructive energy from it, a contagious, non-personal energy. And that’s when I got involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC)!
The LLSC was my first step towards After. Simply contacting an organization that welcomed me, talked to me, was a great relief. The LLSC gave me a chance to meet extraordinary people, sometimes happy and sometimes in distress, and share my experience to inspire others. The feeling that I could help, that I could make a difference, was a real relief for me after so many years of being “in a shell”. The LLSC is also Team in Training (TNT), a sports training program created by the Society to help people get ready to take part in an event (marathon, triathlon, etc.). Three years ago, I was a TNT volunteer for the half-Ironman at Mont-Tremblant. That day, I had a revelation. I saw men and women of all stripes and colours push their limits and deliver a truly incredible effort: a 1.9-km swim, 90 km of cycling and a 21.1-km foot race, with no breaks and in less than 8.5 hours. All of these athletes shared something no one can deny: they were all extremely ALIVE.
Laughing, shouting or even crying with joy, they crossed the finish line. They’d done it and now they could LIVE. The analogy with my cancer experience was obvious to me right away. I’m starting my third triathlon season in a few months, and plan to do two half Ironmans this summer, including the one at Mont-Tremblant, where I’ll be part of a team of TNT triathletes. After each training session I feel even more alive, and each competition is a reminder that while life is undeniably fragile, it’s also extraordinary.