Noam Katz, 25, was born and raised in Edmonton, AB. He completed his BSc at McGill University in 2006, and is currently in the 2nd year of a Master’s program in neuroscience at the University of Ottawa.
I have been fortunate in that throughout my life I have never had to battle cancer. However, it is nearly impossible to find someone these days that does not know either a friend or family member who has had to battle this disease in one of its many forms. I too have known many friends and family members who have had to deal with this horrible affliction. Although never easy, it is even more difficult to comprehend when those affected are young adults in the prime of their lives. This was the case in September of 2003 when Josh, my roommate at the time and one of my best friends, lost his sister Alison to cancer just shy of her 29th birthday. One of the most profound moments of my life was answering a call from him in which the only thing I can recall him saying was “today is the worst day of my life”. Nothing could sum it up better than this. Fortunately, Alison’s daughter Rebecca, who was delivered nearly 2 months prematurely upon the discovery of a tumor in Alison’s abdomen, managed to cling to life and continues to carry on her mother’s memory to this day. I have had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca on a number of occasions, and it is amazing to see the joy that she brings to everyone’s life despite the terrific loss of her mother. Sadly, I never had the privilege of meeting Alison, who from all accounts was truly an exceptional person; Josh has graciously written a few words about his sister which can be found below.
This leads me to the story of another courageous young woman, one of the most inspirational I have ever come across. Allison Shapiro was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 19 and fought valiantly for 7 years against the disease, unfortunately losing the battle in 2006 at the age of 26. However, throughout the years she was battling cancer, she managed to finish a university degree, get married, and start a phenomenal organization aptly titled “Alli’s Journey”. Through this outlet, Alli provided an account of her own personal battle with cancer, while at the same time being a constant source of inspiration and support for other young adults in a similar position to hers. Furthermore, the organization raises money for a network of support groups that provide critical care, counseling and assistance for young individuals aged 18-35; something that is so crucial to effectively battle the disease.
I am 25 years old; only slightly younger than both of these wonderful women, and a few years older than the friends of mine who battled cancer during our undergraduate years at McGill. To those who know me, my long hair has been a familiar trait for the last 8 years or so. I am proud to say that twice I have cut off at least 10” of my hair and donated it to an organization called Locks of Love. Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term, permanent medical hair loss from any diagnosis (www.locksoflove.org). I currently have a pony-tail that is just over 9” long. Due to time and genetics, this will likely be the last time that my hair will ever be this long. In an effort to both increase awareness of “Alli’s Journey” as well as to raise money to be donated to the organization, once my hair reaches the donation-required 10” in length, I will not only cut off my pony-tail but will in fact shave off all my hair…that’s right….all of it!
Now, this is the part where you come in. Whether you realize it or not, by taking the time to read this message you have already begun to help spread awareness of Alli’s Journey, as well as maintaining the memory of two very special women. But, there is certainly more that you can do. First and foremost, you can contribute to the fund that has been set up for when I shave my head, of which all of the money raised will be donated to Alli’s Journey. No amount is too small, and every cent contributed will be immensely appreciated. Second, you can pass this message along to everyone you know. It is only with your help that we can increase awareness of such organizations that provide support for individuals struggling with what will likely be the most difficult ordeal they will ever have to endure. Finally, share your story. In doing so, we are able to maintain the memories of our loved ones, while also showing others who have been through, and are currently going through similar situations that they are not alone. If you would like to share your story, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read this. Again, I sincerely appreciate all contributions that you are able to make; monetary, literary or otherwise. And always remember, “Every worthwhile journey takes courage, strength and heart”…
-All the best, NOAM
If you would like to honour Noam, for his generous support of Alli’s Journey, please go to our Donate link above and use the CanadaHelps.org” link. You can then change the fund/designation to “Noam Katz – Hair Fund.”