Jamie Carswell was prepared to fight criminals, not cancer, when she enrolled in RCMP training.
While doing pushups during drill exercises, the cadet discovered sharp pain in her breast. At first, doctors thought she had torn a muscle.
The day before her 24th birthday, Carswell was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was just starting what I had dreamed of my whole life,” said Carswell during Young Adult Cancer Canada’s Shave for the Brave fundraiser at Red Deer’s Parkland Mall on Saturday.
“It made me grow up really fast — and slow down and take into consideration that little things don’t matter.”
While undergoing treatment, Carswell noticed she was the youngest adult getting treatment wherever she went.
Young Adult Cancer Canada reports more than 7,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. Those between the ages of 15 and 39 are diagnosed with cancer more than five times as much as children.
Things are looking up for Carswell, now 27. She’s engaged and hopes to have children some day. The young constable is working desk duties at the Red Deer rural RCMP detachment, with hopes of becoming a regular duty officer soon.
Carswell has been away from treatment for about a year and a half, but is currently taking the prescription drug Tamoxifen.
She has two sisters, including oldest sister Tanya Michel, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2010. Both Tanya and Jamie do what they can to support each other. Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) has been there, too.
The national cancer organization provides resources for young adults looking for inspiration, information and support. It has an office in Calgary. Carswell has been a volunteer peer supporter through the group and gets involved in any way she can.
“You get to meet friends who are going through the same thing,” she said.
Along with sister Tanya and her husband Chris Michel try to be the voice of YACC in Red Deer.
“Anything I can do to give back to this organization,” said Tanya, 31. “They’re the ones who brought me through a lot when I was first diagnosed. They got me on the right path.”
Tanya and Jamie took pledges during the three-hour event that drew a large crowd near the food court. Chris Michel, event chair, said this is the first event of its kind in Red Deer. The national kickoff took place six years ago in St. John’s, N.L.
Michel said he wanted to start such a fundraiser because there are so few supports for young people with cancer.
Young Adult Cancer Canada reports there are only eight young cancer support groups in Canada.
Among the 25 individuals who had their head shaved was city councillor Buck Buchanan.
After raising about $700, Buchanan sat down in one of the chairs to have his short grey hair shaved entirely off.
One of his sisters died a few years ago of breast cancer, so fundraisers like these are dear to him.
He remembered a Toronto policewoman he worked with who was diagnosed with cancer at age 30. Five years later, she died.
“The ones that get cancer in the 20 to 35 age range, these are the forgotten ones,” said Buchanan.
Money from Red Deer’s Shave for the Brave will be used towards programs and resources, including sending 12 survivors to a conference. Red Deer’s event raised more than $10,262 and money is still coming in, said Chris Michel.
For more information, www.shaveforthebrave.ca and www.youngadultcancer.ca