A Step in the Right Direction
By: Lilly S., Level II student, Prince of Wales Collegiate, St. John’s
We've all heard the old saying "no pain, no gain" but do any of us know what this really means? Just recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a former graduate of Prince of Wales Collegiate, Geoff Eaton. If anybody, he can testify to this very statement.
Two years ago, in November of 1998, Geoff was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). This is a life threatening illness where malignant cancer cells are found in both the blood and bone marrow. Only 22 at the time, and just six months after having graduated from Memorial University of Nfld., this news came as quite a shock to Geoff and his family.
The only chance for his survival was to find a matching marrow donor, and receive a bone marrow transplant. As it turned out, Geoff found a perfect match; his father Frasier Eaton.
“I was in a really unique situation,” explains Geoff.
His mother also played a critical role in Geoff’s recovery, as she is a breast cancer survivor. His mother provided him with the emotional support that only someone who has experienced the disease first hand can give. Then there was his father, who not only donated the bone marrow for Geoff’s operation, but also found the energy his son no longer had to do research on leukemia. As a team, the two worked towards doing everything they could to help their song with the disease.
“I adjusted the bar in my life,” says Geoff
Just before the diagnosis, Eaton’s priorities were focussed on the professional aspect of his life. Working long hours at running and building his own business, play hockey, and spending time with friends left little time to focus on himself and his personal needs. After being diagnosed with leukemia, however, Geoff had no other choice but to re-evaluate his life and make some major changes. This in mind, he decided to put forth all his energy into dealing with, and hopefully conquering his challenge - overcoming leukemia.
“You can accomplish anything you want, if you want it bad enough.”
Now knowing his goal, Geoff had to formulate a plan to achieve it. Up to this point his life primarily consisted of work and hockey. For this reason, he decided to use hockey as a means by which to deal with the leukemia. He dealt with the situation as though it was a series of hockey play-offs. The first three rounds were chemotherapy; the fourth was his bone marrow transplant. Round five, Geoff left for home and became an outpatient, and round six nearly proved fatal. After entering a drug-induced sleep, doctors thought that Geoff’s days were numbered, and he feared the worst. However, being the fighter he is, Geoff proved everyone wrong as his condition began to slowly improve.
“I got to the gates of heaven, looked in, say there was no hockey and turned around to come back,” Geoff laughs as he recalls a spin on events.
Currently in the middle of game seven, Geoff patiently awaits to claim his cup in April 13th, 2001. When this day comes, his risk of relapse will drop greatly.
It’s from this experience that Geoff launched RealTime Cancer, a non-profit organization. Its goal is quite simple: to voice the cancer patient’s perspective, and to heighten it awareness and knowledge about preventing and coping with cancer.
“It was meant to be an educational tool, but became a support group,” Geoff recalls.
Initially, he just wanted to share his experience with any who were willing to listen. But with focus and commitment, (two of Geoff’s favourite words), Geoff turned the project into something more meaningful to those who suffer from cancer.
“I am a firm believer in Can, as opposed to can’t,” Eaton explains as he describes his positive outlook on RealTime Cancer, and life in general.
In early November, Geoff visited Prince of Wales, and issued a challenge to the student body. Geoff challenged students to make an effort to understand the trials involved in dealing with and preventing cancer.
This will be done by allowing students to read a series of e-mails. These e-mails will be read in chronological order as they were sent to Geoff throughout his battle with leukemia. This will help us to understand Geoff’s perspective of his challenge to fight cancer. His experience was filled with highs and lows, but Geoff believes he had learned many valuable things from it including the importance of compassion, the need for encouragement, and the necessity for acceptance. Hopefully, this challenge will help the students of PWC incorporate some, if not all, of these aspects into our own lives. So far over 100 students have joined Geoff's challenge. All are invited. To join log on to www.realtimecancer.org and take the challenge yourself.
Geoff Eaton is truly an inspiration to all those who believe in never giving up. His positive attitude and determination are no doubt; two aspects that will continue to help him deal with any obstacles that may come his way. I know I speak for all of those at PWC when I congratulate him on his success thus far, and wish him the very best with his “challenge” in the future.