Red Deer’s Michael Wark was 27 when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“It turns your world upside down,” said Wark.
“It’s a terrifying experience. All of a sudden, you’re filled with doubt and uncertainty of what the future holds, or even if you’re going to be alive in a year.
“I had spent most of my 20s working through school. I was five years married, my wife and I were preparing to try for our first child, and all of a sudden, this diagnosis hit us out of the blue.”
Wark shared his story with the more than 100 people attending the fourth annual Light the Night Walk at Bower Ponds in Red Deer on Saturday. He was the event’s “honoured hero.”
In June 2018, Wark was on a wilderness retreat when he noticed he was feeling a little more tired than usual. He then started having cold-like symptoms.
“I took a few days off work, went to see my doctor and got some blood work done. It was at that point, he said it might be a good idea to get a specialist referral.”
After 10 days, Wark still wasn’t feeling good, and his wife convinced him to go to the ER at Red Deer Regional Hospital.
“I was admitted right away, went through some intensive testing, and two days later, was told that I had cancer,” said Wark.
He went through seven months of treatment involving chemotherapy, radiation and a stem-cell transplant from a genetically matched donor.
This past January, Wark officially became “100 per cent cancer free,” he said.
“Having the support of people around us made a world of difference while you’re going through treatment. It tells you that you’re not alone,” he said.
The Light the Night Walk, which is hosted by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, raises awareness and money for cancer research. There are more than 200 events held across Canada.
Kate Holowaty, the society’s community and fund development co-ordinator, said this was the best turnout the Red Deer event has experienced.
“The goal of the walk … is to have an evening of remembrance, healing and hope, and we want to bring the blood cancer community together,” Holowaty said.