Cailyn H.: A Fighting Spirit

In 2010, the Canadian Cancer Society estimated that “2 out of 5 Canadians (45% of men and 42% of women) are expected to develop cancer during their lifetimes.” It is safe to say that, according to this statistic, the majority of WCI students have each known someone who has fought a battle with this terrible disease.

Grade 9 student Cailyn H. was diagnosed with a brain-stem tumour in 2004 and has been receiving chemotherapy treatment ever since. Though the tumour, a Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma, may be benign, it is growing in a malignant area and there is risk it could spread throughout her body. Thankfully, this has not happened yet.

This is in part due to the countless treatments Cailyn has undergone, each one earning her a Bravery Bead from her Child Life Specialist, someone who helps children diagnosed with cancer to prepare before their procedures. “There’s one [bead] for an injection or a scan, there’s one for really anything related to medical procedures,” Cailyn explained. “They’re kind of like a tangible memory of what happened.”

She has enough beads to fill over nine necklaces.

With the number of treatments and the emotional effect of the disease, life with cancer is anything but easy. “After my treatments,” Cailyn said, “I get nerve pain, headaches and nausea, and just general stomach pain. So I don’t feel well enough to do anything, to go out with friends.”

She also expressed, “I don’t want to be treated differently. I want to be not pitied, just accepted,” which is something she wishes more people understood about her experience with cancer. Despite this, she continues to keep a positive outlook, speaking out to aid in raising awareness for the need for continued cancer research.

Cailyn shared her story at the March 29 rally for WCI’s upcoming Relay for Life event to be held in late May. Her presentation made a distinct impression for her audience that consisted of students and staff from the school.

Students from the Relay for Life committee spoke about the upcoming overnight event and outlined details involving registration, the activities taking place throughout the night, and their goal to raise over $50,000.

Several students also performed a musical piece and one of the school’s math teachers, Ms. Schnute-Klaassen, gave a moving speech in memory of former WCI art teacher, Mrs. Klaassen.

“[Relay for Life] is important to me,” Cailyn shared, “because I think finding a cure right now is one of the oncology priorities, and not just adult cancer, childhood cancer as well.” After a long pause, she disclosed, “My friend lost her battle to cancer a year and a half ago, and I don’t want that to happen again.”

WCI was the first school in the Waterloo Region to host a relay event with the Canadian Cancer Society and now Vikings are gearing up once again for WCI’s sixth Relay for Life event.

To participate, students must form a team of 6-10 people and have your team captain before registering. Waivers and a $20 fee are required to complete the registration process, which closes on Wednesday, April 13. Relay for Life will take place on May 6-7.

More information about WCI’s Relay for Life event can be found here: