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A shave for the brave


July 1, 2015
By Danette Dooley

805 words – MR pic: dooley-aug.jpg

A shave for the brave

by Danette Dooley

The RCMP Division in Newfoundland and Labrador kicked off its partnership with Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) in May with members of “B” Division shaving their heads to support the organization’s Shave for the Brave.

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The Mounties raised almost $25,000 for the cause. That’s enough to support 12 young adults through their cancer battle. The force’s long-term goal is to change 100 lives by raising $200,000.

Shavers included commanding officer Tracy Hardy, Supt. Greg Lawlor, nurse and event co-organizer Maria Shelley, members of the Emergency Response Team and Tactical Troop and two children of members of the partnership committee.

YACC helps young adults move through and beyond their cancer experiences by providing information, support, skills and opportunity through web-based and face-to-face programs.

Some 7,000 young Canadians adults face a cancer diagnosis every year on average – that works out to 19 people a day, Hardy noted. Her shave honoured RCMP Cst. Jamie Carswell of Alberta.

Carswell joined the RCMP in 2007 at age 23. Two weeks into training she discovered a lump in her left breast.

“She had an injury so (the lump) was originally attributed to a pulled muscle,” Hardy said.

However, after being in her first posting in British Columbia for only a month, Carswell was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. She was transferred back to Alberta to be closer to her family and friends and endured eight rounds of chemotherapy, which shrank the tumour enough to have surgery and radiation.

During her radiation treatments, a nurse suggested that Carswell seek support from YACC. During a “Retreat Yourself” weekend in Montreal, Carswell made friends with other young adults who understood what she was going through.

In 2013 Carswell became a mother to a baby via a surrogate, all the while with continuing support from her YACC friends. When her baby was only three months old, Carswell was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer and began more treatments.

“Jamie is an inspiration. She now provides support to other young people dealing with cancer. She’s become a resource for them now,” Hardy said.

Carswell is currently posted in Blackfalds, in the Red Deer area of Alberta, and is grateful for the support she’s received from YACC since 2008.

“This is a support I didn’t realize I needed until I found them. Then, once I was there, it was just really good to connect with people going through the same things that I was going through at that time in my life.”

Carswell is also grateful for the RCMP’s support since her cancer diagnosis.

“The RCMP allowed me to move back to Red Deer where I could get the support I needed from my family… they allowed me to come in and out of the office based on how I was feeling. I’m currently working at getting back out there now… I’m retraining now and will hopefully be back at it in the fall.”

Carswell said it’s “awesome” that the commanding officer of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador stepped up to the plate to shave her head.

“Tracy is a person that everyone looks up to. It’s good to see one of the higher-ups want to get out there and spread the word about what YACC is doing.”

YACC founder and executive director Geoff Eaton, also a cancer survivor, describes young adults with cancer as “the forgotten generation.” He’s delighted with the RCMP partnership.

Hardy is demonstrating his favourite kind of leadership – leadership by example, Eaton said.

YACC had raised more than $3 million dollars through shave events over the past decade.

Partnerships like the one forged with the RCMP are invaluable to his organization, Eaton said.

A woman in a high profile position, Hardy admits it took a little time for her to commit to the shave but she’s proud to be supporting such a worthy cause.

“This is just a tiny sacrifice on my part. It’s an honour for me as commanding officer to be able to be a bit of a conduit for Jamie to expand on her ability to tell her story,” Hardy said.

The money raised through shave events goes towards YACC programs and services. However, just as importantly, Hardy said, these events help raise awareness about these initiatives.

Hardy encourages other police forces to come onboard and support YACC either financially or by organizing their own shave events. Visit www.shaveforthebrave.ca for more information or www.youngadultcancer.ca for more on the YACC.

“Family and friends are important but that peer support can provide an extra level of support that you can only get from someone that’s been there,” Hardy said.

When asked how it feels to have her hair buzzed off – a question she’s been asked many times – Hardy replies “Cold but proud!”

dooley@blueline.ca