Meet our newest Localife leaders!

Meet our newest Localife leaders!

YACC’s social event-based program, Localife, is run by volunteer leaders in eight cities across Canada. Before some of our leaders get ready to move on at the end of their terms later this spring, we wanted to introduce you to all of the new leaders who have come on board to carry the baton.

Welcome to the team!

Calgary 

Hello Everyone my name is Blair Richardson and I am proud to be one of Calgary’s new Localife leaders!

In 2016, and again in 2017, I was diagnosed with a blood cancer called Myleodysplastic Syndrome (MDS). When I was diagnosed my mom suggested I attend a Localife event, but for years I didn’t and that was such a mistake. In October 2018 after a very negative life event I decided to attend my first Localife event and it changed my life forever. I finally met people who could understand what I was going through and were able to support me on ways nobody else could. Since that first event I’ve wanted to be there to support the community that supported me when I needed it most. I’ve gotten to do that through YACC first as a YACCtivist and now as a Localife leader!

Outside of planning awesome events for the incredible Localife Calgary community, I am a huge hobby nerd. I love my video games and table top wargaming. I also love to check out as many local events and activities as I can!

I hope I’ll get to see you at a Localife event soon!

My name is Sara Montgomery and I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in March 2015. I had just graduated high school at 18 years old, and found out I had less than a week to have my right leg amputated above-the-knee. Being a brand new adult and facing the world after high school was already scary, but to have my identity of being a young athlete stolen by cancer put the cherry on the cake. I still am going through treatments via surgeries as my cancer has metastasized into both my right and left lungs, but am learning how to kick ass one day at a time.

I sipped the “YACC Kool-Aid” in 2016 on Retreat Yourself BC, and was nervous to meet other young adult survivors and patients until I realized that hearing their stories and experiences was exactly what I needed to find a new normal. YACC has brought me so many new friends, new adventures, and lasting memories that make me come back for more each time.

I recently moved to Calgary from Edmonton on January 1, 2020, so hearing about the new Localife leadership role was extremely thrilling. I am super excited to be a part of the YACC Calgary community and to meet everyone involved! Get ready to meet this one-legged lady who is always smiling (or eating)!

 

Edmonton

Hey friends!

My name is Morgan McNeely and I live in sunny-yet-frozen Edmonton, AB. In September 2015 I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, and was so lucky to find YACC early in my diagnosis. After several years of getting all the love from my YACC peeps, I am so excited to be a Localife leader here in Edmonton and meet the amazing people that make up the YACC community. I love feedback, and please let me know if you have any ideas for upcoming events!

I can most likely be found eating apples, drinking coffee, and/or showing photos of my cat to people who did not ask to see photos of my cat. My partner Mark is my most favourite human, and we have a cozy little apartment filled with plants. I love to bake, talk about the weather, and get paint on things. I am terrified of butterflies, moths, and most bugs that move in three dimensions, but I love camping, hiking, and nature despite these fears. 

 

St. John’s

Hello friends!

My name is Kaylee Oliver and I’m a brain cancer warrior! I was diagnosed in February 2017 when I was 20-years-old. After two brain surgeries and part way through chemotherapy, I attended my first Localife event. Along with my diagnosis came side effects such as Cushing’s syndrome, epilepsy, and a lot of anxiety. Despite that, YACC pulled me in and they have been my second family ever since!

I’m still learning how to navigate everything after diagnosis. I love being outdoors when it’s not raining, cooking plant-based meals for anyone around me, travelling as often as I can, and taking as many photos of animals as the storage on my phone allows.

I’m very proud of this foggy rock I call home, so I can’t wait to get out and share fun experiences with all of you!

 

Toronto

Hello fellow Yaccers! I can’t wait to chat and get to know each of you through our adventures in Toronto together.

My name is Kayla; I am 26 years young and I am a 2x blood cancer thriver. I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014 at the age of 21. In 2015, after a year of treatment, I relapsed at age 22 with Grey Zone Lymphoma, a type of rare blood cancer. During my two years of active treatment, I was attending university full-time and graduated with the rest of my class in 2016. I don’t even know how I did it but I did and here we are!

I joined the YACC community back in 2017 at Retreat Yourself BC where I met a group of amazing humans who changed my life and helped me start on my own path to recovery. Since then I have been involved in multiple Survivor Conferences and retreats as a peer supporter and now as one of your new Localife leaders!

YACC taught me that it’s okay to not be okay and introduced me to a community I didn’t know I needed, but am so grateful to be a part of. As a survivor, I work towards living a holistic lifestyle, including investing in healing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I hope to share some of my energy with all of you as we laugh and make memories together in the next year to come. If you ever need someone to talk to, someone to listen, or someone to tell you a funny story, feel free to always reach out to me, I’ve got your back!

My name is Maggie, and I was diagnosed with advanced pharyngeal cancer in 2017 at age of 35.

YACC was a place I accidentally stomped upon and haven’t looked back. I was not sure if this would do me any good since I was having hard time reconnecting with society after cancer but finding YACC was the best thing ever happened to me. I was like a lost boat and YACC was a dock with protective barrier. When I questioned myself after my treatment, YACC made me feel I was no different than anyone else. Our vulnerability is our biggest strength and tool to re-carve our future.

I hope being a part of the Localife Toronto community helps me connect with people who are in the same place I was two years ago. I want everyone to feel comfortable being part of the events and trying something new together.

 

Vancouver

Hi everyone! My name is Norma. Although the circumstances of me getting here to be the Localife leader weren’t the best (cancer sucks), I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and hear everyone’s own story with it. I believe there is something we can all learn from one another when we get together and share our experiences. I also like to have fun! Looking forward to spending time with you and making some new amigos!  See you soon! Lots of love.

 

 

My name is Hannah and I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2017 when I was 22 years old. I had just finished my Bachelor of Science degree at UBC with my sights set on going to veterinary school. My diagnosis completely turned my career upside down and created a lot of distance between me and my social network at the time. Luckily, one round of chemo did the trick, but accepting a new career path and building new connections was just as challenging and is still an on going process.

I found out about YACC through another local Vancouver charity and it has been wonderful to be part of a group that just “gets it.” So far I have attended the Big Cancer Hook-up, Retreat Yourself Adventure, and several Localife events.

In my spare time I love escaping to the mountains and being surrounded by wildlife and nature. I am excited to be a part of Localife Vancouver and meet some amazing people.

 

Victoria

Hello! My name is Roxanne van Velzen. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 21. I was in the middle of what was supposed to be a fun summer of field courses to finish up my marine biology degree. I was registered to start another one year advanced diploma program in water quality in the fall as well. I am a very stubborn person by nature and this lead me to remain enrolled in a very vigorous full time program during my cancer journey. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.

I felt super isolated in the early days of my diagnosis. I had chosen to go to university on the opposite side of the country from all my family and that decision seemed like a horrible mistake in the weeks after my diagnosis. But then I found YACC. Through YACC I was able to be supported and I found a little family I never knew I needed. I now have friends all across the country and right here where I live who truly just “get it.”

I am so excited to be part of Localife Victoria! I may be new to the island but I am thrilled to get to explore what it has to offer with fellow YACCers. Having a space where YACCers can be supported when they are down and celebrated when things are great is what our Localife will be. Whether you have had a busy day or it’s your first time leaving the house for a week, Localife will be a judgment free space for all.

I hope to provide a welcoming face for newcomers and a friendly familiar face for loyal Localifers.

 

Winnipeg

Hi, my name is Derek. I was 34-years-old when I was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma in my left knee in early 2018. I had 25 rounds radiation and a total knee reconstruction to remove it. The surgery was a success, however my cancer has metastasized in my lungs. Thankfully it’s slow growing and I’m currently receiving chemotherapy to treat it.

I have lots of support people in my life which has been very helpful and comforting. However, I still found myself alone because I had no one in my life to relate to. I didn’t know anyone even close to my age with cancer. My struggles with leaving my career, trying to be positive to my three boys, and going from being fit and capable to disabled and fatigued really hit me hard. Between my surgeries and chemo, I was approached by a psychosocial oncology clinician from CancerCare Manitoba which is affiliated with YACC.

I was hesitant at first, but took the meeting and he opened my eyes to whole world of support. Two weeks later, I attended a monthly group meeting for young adults where I learned more about YACC and Localife. It was a bit overwhelming at first. To go from not knowing anyone to relate to and then being in a room filled with people who were in all stages of their journeys was very reassuring. I was with people I could talk to and they would actually understand because they had similar experiences to me. I attended Survivor Conference 2019 in St. Catherines, ON and saw the full reach of YACC from coast to coast; the community was amazing. I knew then I wanted to be more involved and help others as YACC helped me.


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