Cancer research saved Tyler Cook's life.
Now, the young man has become a committee member with the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life, and has advocated for more life-saving research.
“The money they raise at relays is the reason I'm here,” Cook said.
In 1991, Cook's mother, Susan Cook, died of stomach cancer.
Seventeen years later, his oldest sister, Jennifer Brady, also died from the disease.
That year, Cook and his other sister, Shelly Beauchamp, had their blood tested to see if they were genetically predisposed to stomach cancer.
Their doctors discovered they both had a rare genetic mutation – discovered by Canadian Dr. David Huntsman and his research team in 1998 – that they had inherited from their mother and gave them a 70-per-cent chance of developing stomach cancer by the time they were 60. Cook was 29 at the time.
Both he and his sister opted to have their stomachs removed as a preventative measure.
Gastric cancer is often fatal, and because it does not start with tumours, is often only discovered by stage four, when it is usually too late to treat.
Prior to his surgery, Cook had a biopsy that turned out to be negative. But after his stomach was removed, his doctors discovered it had the early stages of cancer.
He was told he would not have lived more than two years without the surgery.
To replace his stomach, Cook's esophagus was extended. The surgery was similar to a gastric bypass, used to treat severe obesity, he said.
He now has to chew his food more carefully, and can only eat smaller meals, but has experienced few other side effects.
Last year, Cook joined the Sudbury Relay for Life committee, to help promote the event he says helped save his life.
This year's event starts Friday at 7 p.m. at the Laurentian and will end at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Cook, who will also participate in the 12-hour team relay, said around 400 cancer survivors will participate in the Sudbury event – the most in the province.
Last year the Sudbury event raised $310,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. In the past 14 years, the Sudbury relay has raised more than $4.8 million.
With only online donations counted, this year's relay raised $138,226 as of June 20 at 9 a.m.
To donate visit www.relayforlife.ca and follow the links for the Sudbury relay.
Like what you're reading? Click here to make us your homepage today!