Now 16, Baylen LaPierre’s journey with cancer started with migraines at the age of 13. When the migraines became unbearable, he was sent for an MRI, which revealed a tumour the size of a ping pong ball in the centre of his brain. Suddenly, the teen was given just a 20% chance of survival. What followed was an intense year of invasive cancer treatments — three brain surgeries, 31 radiation sessions, four months of chemotherapy, a stem cell rescue, and many medical procedures. Constantly in and out of ICU with no visitors, Baylen compares this time of his life to “COVID on steroids.”
Now that his treatment ended in late-2019, Baylen is playing an important role representing Kids Cancer Care as the 2021 spokeskid. He has embraced the programs, participating in PEER exercise, tutoring, camp and the Teen Leadership Program. As a teen leader, Baylen is actively giving back and is currently working towards a Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award.
The born and raised Calgarian enjoys giving back to the community any way he can as he says it’s all about putting smiles on people’s faces. Crediting Kids Cancer Care with helping him overcome some shyness, Baylen says the program is helping shape the person he is today. And he gives some pretty good advice, too.
How did the Kids Cancer Care community help you through your journey?
“The so-called recovery process didn’t really start when I became the spokeskid, but it started when I joined Kids Cancer Care and the team leadership program. That’s because I get to help kids be happy. And volunteering at the Children’s Hospital and just doing a bunch of voluntary work around Calgary. It just made me feel so happy to be able to help people and give them joy in their lives. That’s my recovery. Just seeing the smiles on kids’ faces, like for example at the Halloween Howler when we gave out candy to kids. They were so happy. And that was my payment — their happiness.”
What are some activities you love to do in the city?
“I like to play video games. I also like schoolwork. That’s fun. I love school. I like the Calgary Stampede and the Calgary Flames. I was in the Stampede Roundup Marching Band. I’ve done a bunch of stuff around Calgary.”
What do you love about school right now?
“Oh, math for sure. Yeah, my math — I’m pre-AP. And then science.’
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“Accounting, maybe. Maybe engineering? Maybe architecture involves math. I like math.”
What is your favourite thing about Calgary?
“I love that the weather is unpredictable. One day, it could be plus 21. The next day, it could be minus-20. I’ve never really lived anywhere else. Well, I’ve lived in Canmore for a year. But I like the big city.”
What advice would you give to another child going through a similar experience as yourself?
“I’ve always looked for the positive and everything. So look for that joy and cherish the moments, you have to remember that you’ll get through it. I try to be positive and look for optimism.”
What can Calgarians do to help support children battling cancer in the city?
“I would normally say you can volunteer at the Children’s Hospital, but with COVID, you can’t do that. But you can donate to Kids Cancer Care on their website and they have different events that you can sign up for to volunteer at. You can donate food and supplies. There are many ways to help them.”
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