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Fighting back

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Brendan Gaunce wears his heart on his sleeve – well, technically his wrist.

The 19-year-old Vancouver Canucks prospect, currently playing for the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, wears a pink No One Fights Alone wristband in support of those battling cancer or those who have conquered the disease, like his mother Julie.

Two and a half years ago a Brendan, then a grade 11 student, came home from school and was greeted by his parents when he walked in the door. They told him to sit down because the family, minus Brendan’s 26-year-old sister Allyson and 23-year-old brother Cam, both away at the time, needed to talk.

“I thought at first that someone had passed away, maybe one of my grandparents, then my mom told me she went in to get checked because she had a lump on her left side and they found out it was cancer,” said Gaunce.

“At first it was a real shock. You hear the word cancer and you think of death.”

Julie, a 51-year-old stay-at-home mother of three, heard the word cancer and thought of life. She wasn’t going to let breast cancer take her over, she was going to do what needed to get done in order to beat it and move on.

And she did just that.

Julie underwent surgery to remove the lump from her left breast and began chemotherapy soon after before undergoing radiation treatment. She lost her hair, but never the overwhelmingly positive spirit that has Brendan calling her his hero.

“I went to chemo with her and you could tell that a lot of people were questioning why them and why this and why that, but she talked and laughed her way through it. It wasn’t a grieving process for her, just a bump in the road.

“I always knew she was tough,” added Brendan, who shaved his head with brother Cam to show support, while Allyson got Hope tattooed on her wrist. “She played a lot of sports and was really good at field hockey, so I knew she was tough that way, but you don’t really see it when you’re younger just how tough parents are and how hard it is for them to go through what they go through.

“Seeing her go through that, it was pretty crazy. She’s a very strong person; some days she’d go to chemo, then come home and go get groceries. She had no hair, but she’d put on her wig and go get groceries and do everything.

“Through everything, she never complained. Not once.”

Brendan drew strength from his mother and helped out around the house as much as possible, which included cooking, cleaning, running errands - “and going to Pizza Nova because that was always her craving when she was going through chemo.”

Julie is as cancer free as can be these days and is checked regularly to ensure she remains out of the woods. Brendan said mom hasn’t changed much since getting a clean bill of health, although she is very open about helping people with cancer get through their battles.

Brendan said perspective is the main thing he gained from his mom’s ordeal and the pink wristband he wears is a constant reminder of what truly matters.

“You look at things more clearly, you see that things can change quickly, so I don’t think I’ve changed a lot, but you realize how much your parents mean to you and how important family is. It’s an eye opener.”

*****

The Vancouver Canucks, in support of the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, will host their Hockey Fights Cancer night on Monday, October 28th, when Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals visit Rogers Arena.

Special Hockey Fights Cancer merchandise will be available at the Canucks Team Store, while the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Prostate Cancer Canada and Movember will be represented by volunteers on the north plaza before the game and throughout the concourse during Monday's tilt.

The Canucks themselves will be sporting Hockey Fights Cancer helmet decals and using lavender tape on their sticks during the game, which they will autograph for charity post-game, while coaches, management and on-air TV hosts will wear special lavender ties.

Click here for more information on Hockey Fights Cancer.

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