For our third Day of Brave, we are highlighting Archer Michaud, this year’s student Shave for the Brave Ambassador!
Archer’s mom, Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29 when he was 11 months old. A friend told her about Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC), and she attended Retreat Yourself in Rocky Harbour, NL in April 2011.
“I was in awe. I was talking with people my age. I was discussing issues relevant to me and my generation. And best of all, I wasn’t asked to pay for the retreat,” she wrote in 2015.
When Julie was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2015, she signed up to Shave for the Brave — and Archer signed up with her. “When I found out that my hair would be vacating the premises, once more, I knew what I had to do. I had to pay back YACC for helping me connect with those YACC friends. I had to try to help make sure that others out there — others like me — could attend Retreat Yourself or Survivor Conference and make YACC friends. How? I would shave my hair before cancer laid claim to it.”
Having a supportive community is something Archer can identify with, saying his favourite Shave so far was the one at the Men’s Den Barbershop in Fall River, NS in 2017 because “There were so many people, and me and my classmates were all in the group that was shaving.”
Julie made countless lasting impressions on the YACC community, from her amazing Survivor Conference-themed costumes, to ensuring karaoke was offered at every event, to fundraising through her Chloe the Cancer Cat colouring book series, but her legacy truly lives on through the private Facebook group for YACC alumni.
After attending Retreat Yourself, Julie started the group to help keep the national community connected between face-to-face events. It now has over 1,300 members (like Louise!) who have access to a supportive community at their fingertips 24/7 that can help with the 3 a.m. “scanxiety,” share treatment and recovery experiences, or to answer questions like, “When should I tell the person I’m dating that I have cancer?”
“YACC friends know what not to say. I love my friends, and every single one of them means all the best, but some things are just not that helpful. I won’t ‘beat this’; I will have cancer and treatment for life. Telling me I’m strong and that you could never deal with this is not really that encouraging. I know what they are trying to do, and I love them for it, but YACC friends know those things don’t really help because they’ve dealt with it themselves,” she wrote.
“Another bonus to YACC friends: some of them have been diagnosed as metastatic. This helps give me hope through living with cancer. I have great friends to lead me by example. Cancer can be in your life and not take away your idea of living.”
Sadly, Julie died in January 2020. In May, Archer is set to earn his fifth yellow Shave for the Brave toque.
His past Shaves have raised thousands of dollars to support people like his mom and her “YACC friends,” and this year, his dad, Mike, is facing the razor with him.
You can show your support to their Shave at www.shaveforthebrave.ca.