Eloise Finds Comfort in Pursuing her Dreams
Earlier in June, Childhood Cancer Canada hero, Eloise McIntosh, shared her journey with supporters at One Golden Night, CCC’s annual fundraising gala in Toronto. We want to share with you the message Eloise shared with us. Eloise is nine years cancer-free, and while her journey to survivorship has been far from easy, she is comforted by her fortune to live to tell the tale and use her privilege for good.
“It is a great privilege and honour to speak with you. After surviving cancer in my early teens, I appreciate and welcome the opportunity to advocate for children and youth like me impacted by childhood cancer, which has become one of my greatest passions. Far too many children don't get to stand here and share their stories. This is not necessarily because they don't want to. They can't. Too often because they have lost their lives, or their scars – both mentally and physically – which cut too deep. I am very lucky. For me, cancer was merely an obstacle, not a roadblock. I came out the other side, somewhat battered and bruised. However, for the most part, I was able to return to my “normal life.”
All said, I want to ensure this isn't just about me and my story -- which is one of hope and prosperity. My story is also about many stories of tragedy.
I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 14 years old. It was the summer following my grade 9 year; I had just finished my first year of high school, and generally life was pretty good. After the awkward middle school years, I felt I was finally "figuring it out" --my identity, my friendships, my life. Everything seemed to be falling into place. But quickly, it all fell apart. After finishing my first year of high school exams, I convinced my parents I should go on a 3-week hiking and camping trip in Hawaii alongside 15 other teens. This trip was outside my comfort zone, but I was excited about a new experience beyond my sheltered Toronto bubble. I knew it would be life-changing, and it was, but not in any of the ways I had imagined.
Halfway through the trip, we embarked on our largest hiking expedition: a 24-mile two-day hike through remote Hawaiian valleys. On day one, I began feeling sick and this sickness was unlike any other feeling of sickness I had ever felt. Overnight, my sickness worsened, and I could hardly sleep. By some miracle, I finished the hike. When we arrived back at our van, I instantly burst into tears, and two hours later found myself in an urgent care clinic. As expected, the doctors speculated I picked up something on the hike. But, as the days went by and my sickness worsened, my intuition was that this was a far bigger beast began to creep in.
When I arrived home, my mom took one look at me and instantly knew something was wrong. When I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever of 105 degrees F, we went to SickKids. This is when I went from practically never stepping foot in a hospital before, to basically living in one. Within two weeks from what was supposed to be the “best summer ever,” I was diagnosed with cancer -- Stage 2B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I still remember the moment I was called into the cancer clinic and asked to join my parents who were speaking with the doctor. The vision of walking into the room, seeing my parents in a sea of tissues -- and my dad weeping as he tried to tell me I had cancer, will forever scar me.
Obviously, I knew what cancer was. But to me, it did not happen to kids or teenagers -- let alone me. I quickly realized how naive I was. Two weeks later, I began the first of four rounds of chemotherapy. And soon, I saw how different my life would be. I didn't get to go to my first day of school, parties with my friends, or participate in the seemingly normal things other teenagers did. And, despite feeling incredibly loved and supported, I felt very lonely.
Through this extremely painful time, the only thing which made me feel better was channeling my pain into a purpose. A good friend of my mom’s knew of a charity event which would be the perfect fit. This was my first real introduction to life as a childhood cancer ambassador. So, when I was asked to be the keynote speaker at One Golden Night, nearly 9-years-later, it all felt very complete. A short 3 months after being diagnosed with cancer, I went into remission, and slowly but surely began working towards restoring my normal life. And while much of my life has been restored, I still live everyday as a cancer survivor, and in other words, a huge ball of anxiety.
Luckily, I went on to graduate high school and pursued a Bachelor of Commerce at Queen's University. Throughout all this time, I continued to advocate for this cause. In my third year of university, I was tasked with building an e-commerce business for the final project in my digital marketing course. Combining my passion for childhood cancer advocacy and my business acumen, I co-founded the Good Hood Club: a loungewear brand which uses symbols of comfort to champion childhood cancer. We do GOOD through HOODs, raising both funds and awareness for the cause.
During my time in treatment, I realized the importance of comfort. Whether it be the comfort of my friends and family, the comfort of knowing everything was going to be ok, or just simply the comfort of an oversized hoodie and baggy sweatpants, comfort was critical. I know this is a shared sentiment amongst the childhood cancer community, and it serves as the backbone for the Good Hood Club. In late 2019, after the course finished, we decided to keep the Good Hood Club going. Upon graduating, I chose to pursue this passion as a full-time career, revolutionizing the way we think and give to childhood cancer. We have built a community united in comfort.
Despite all I have been through, it has been the lessons of others which have touched me most. Two years ago, my nine-year-old cousin, Hunter, was diagnosed with DIPG, an incurable form of brain cancer. Instantly, she and I bonded. Although different circumstances, cancer was something we unfortunately had in common. Together, we worked to create Hunter’s very own Good Hood Club collection – entirely designed by her. We sold over 1,600 Hunter branded products while sharing our story and vision.
Although Hunter was 12 years younger than me, she taught me a lifetime’s worth of lessons; she taught me to be patient, she taught me to be kind, and most importantly she taught me to fight ten times harder for this cause. More than anything, Hunter wanted to help this community. A month before she passed away, Hunter sent me a text, which read, “Cancer sucks, but it’s so awesome you are part of my family because I don’t feel like I am the only one with cancer. There is nothing we can do but fight and help other kids, so they aren’t scared.”
Ever since, I have promised to carry on this dream of ours: to fight and help other kids so they don’t have to be scared. Remember, like me, every one of the children impacted by cancer has a dream. To be. To do. To make. To see. Survival means the opportunity for these dreams to become reality, and in turn make our world a better place. While Hunter cannot be here with us physically, she is here, radiating her legacy, trying to ensure other children don’t need to be scared like she and I were.”
Childhood Cancer Canada is a beneficiary of Good Hood Club’s philanthropic efforts where a portion of proceeds will support the childhood cancer families we serve in Canada. Get your Good Hood Club gear today and join a community united in comfort.
Each month we honour a different Hero . If you would like to share your Hero’s story, please reach out to [email protected].