A cancer survivor talks about the meaning behind his fundraising journey and the significance of a haircut
Health is often taken for granted. Day by day, you wake up and have the same routine as the previous day. How often do you take a second to think about how lucky you are to have a healthy family? Probably not very often. I’m guilty of this, despite my medical past.
At the age of three I was diagnosed with Ependymoma, a type of malignant brain tumor often found in children. My parents were younger than I am now, and they were going through a divorce. They had a son with cancer, and a two-year-old daughter constantly asking when her big brother was coming home. Take what you will from this story, but my parents were the real heroes.
That year I spent my fourth birthday and Easter at the IWK Hospital for Children in Halifax, N.S. You wouldn’t think I’d remember that much from that time, but I do. I remember the Easter bunny coming to visit me in the hospital. I remember receiving a little yellow wind-up car as a gift for my birthday. I always played with that car in the hospital hallways.
I prepared for radiation therapy for months, even though it would have been risky for me at that age. Instead, one doctor decided to try surgery.
I remember waking up after the surgery, with more than 40 stitches going up the back of my neck to my head.
Cancer-free and motivated to give back
I’m now 26 years old. It’s been 12 years since I officially became cancer-free. And in a few days, I’ll be shaving my head. _q_tweetable: I was one of the lucky ones. I give back because I’m capable of giving back._q_I’m currently participating in a fundraiser, and it’s a special one for me. I’m raising money in support of the Relay For Life here in Fredericton, N.B. On June 1, I’ll be shaving my beautiful hair and donating it to the local wigs for cancer program. The support I’ve received from Stantec, along with my friends and family, has been astounding. I’ve raised over $700 so far. I hope to reach my goal of $1,000 before the event.
The haircut will reveal a 12-inch scar from my surgery. Getting that haircut, and exposing the long-hidden scar, will leave me feeling naked. I know questions may be asked about it, and I know my answer may have people feeling uncomfortable. But it’s a subject I am more than willing to talk about, and I believe it’s a powerful way to raise awareness.
Giving back is extremely important to me, as I’ve received so much support since I was a child.
A group photo from Camp Goodtime, taken about a decade ago.
As a youngster, I accepted an invite to Camp Goodtime, a week-long event for children dealing with cancer or recovering from it. I got invited every summer. It was a place for kids to feel welcome.
Camp Goodtime had such an impact on my life. I can’t put it into words.
Each summer, I’d return to camp with the feeling that time had been paused. I’d come back with the same feeling that I had the previous year: the feeling of bliss. The feeling of being at home. I’d see everyone from the previous summer, and it felt as if nothing had changed.
I returned to Camp Goodtime every year for seven summers as a camper, and as soon as I could, I wanted to return and give back as a volunteer counsellor.
Unfortunately, it’s been several years since I’ve been able to come back to camp, mainly because of work commitments and other responsibilities. But facilities like Camp Goodtime – currently in its 33rd year – still need support.
Supporting the Canadian Cancer Society
Now, I’m unbelievably thankful to work for a company that shares my mindset. Stantec genuinely supports my initiative to fundraise for the local Canadian Cancer Society.
Since the beginning of 2017, when I started here at Stantec, I researched ways to get involved. It started with a Curl for Cancer event, where I fundraised over $600, thanks to the generosity of my friends, family, and co-workers.
The next large fundraising event was the “Bite for the Fight.” For this event – in which local businesses and chefs team up for a cooking competition – I got Stantec involved more than I ever could have expected. Seven of our team members, including myself, put in countless hours thinking of and implementing different ways to fundraise for the event. We managed to raise $2,500, and Stantec then matched that to help us reach our goal of $5,000.
Now, I’m proud to be fundraising for the Relay For Life event and the Canadian Cancer Society. I really like my long hair, and I haven’t had a real haircut in four years, but it’s time for a change.
This is a very personal subject for me. No matter how much money I raise, or amount of time I put in, it’ll never match what was given to me. I was one of the lucky ones. I give back because I’m capable of giving back. The majority people affected by cancer aren’t as lucky as I am.
Cancer affects everyone. Remember to count your blessings while you have them.
About the Author
Justin Burns has electrical/control design experience in a multidisciplinary consulting environment. He graduated from Cape Breton University with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering Technology (Instrumentation & Controls) and volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society.More Content by Justin Burns