Stacey Frey was too young to understand what was happening when she was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two and half.
For the next two and half years, her life was structured around chemotherapy and painful needles and visits to the hospital. Now cancer-free for 15 years, Frey says the disease has changed who she is.
“I didn’t realize when I was young what I was going through, but now I can do so much more. I try to get involved with everything,” she said.
This week, the Grade 12 student was at the centre of a whirlwind of preparations for the Inside Ride, held at EDSS on Wednesday. Between 50 and 60 students pedalled furiously on stationary racing cycles to raise money for childhood cancer charities.
Frey first encountered the Inside Ride at Camp Trillium, a support centre for sufferers and survivors of childhood cancer and their families. She learned about the camp almost 10 years ago, from a flyer in the hospital where she went for a checkup. She wasn’t keen on the idea at first, worried about a camp where everyone was affected by cancer, but her mom convinced her to go.
When she got there, Frey discovered that the camp wasn’t at all what she expected.
“Everyone is so happy, you don’t find someone who isn’t smiling. And if there is someone with a frown or a long face, you can change it so easily,” she said.
Not only were there all kinds of fun activities, Frey met people and made friends who understood exactly what she had gone through.
“It’s easy to socialize with camp friends because you can tell them everything you went and they’ll totally understand because they went through the exact same thing.”
After doing the Ride Inside at Camp Trillium, Frey wanted to bring it to her school. Last year she helped with the Relay for Life, and she thought this would be the perfect fundraiser for the year the school wasn’t doing the relay.
With help from her friend Brynna Wasylycia and a crew of 10 organizers, Frey enlisted her fellow students to help raise money for the Coast to Coast against Cancer Foundation. The students rose to the challenge, collecting more than $3,000 by Thursday, with 40 pledge sheets still to be returned.
Frey is graduating this year but plans to return to EDSS for a fifth year. Eventually she’d like to become a pediatric nurse and work with Doctors Without Borders. Working towards that goal, she has the option of working with U.S.-based Free the Children this summer and traveling to Romania with a medical team.
Frey still goes to Camp Trillium, but as a volunteer counsellor now. She said her experiences with cancer give her the energy to do as much as she can; that, and watching people around her struggle with the disease. Frey has lost grandparents, an aunt, and last summer, her best friend to recurring cancer.
“I meet these people and I have their influence in my life; if they pass away I still have their influence and what they gave me to pass on to others.
“I think that’s what drives me the most, is [seeing] everyone affected and just knowing every little thing helps.”