Bruce Crooks

Bruce Crooks

Age: 46Halifax, NS

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Occupation: Paediatric Haematologist/Oncologist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, NS

Born: Born, raised and trained in UK. Emigrated to Canada in 2002

Family: Met husband Jozef in 2002, and married since 2006

Greatest achievement so far: Being the reason people smile.

Motto: Growing old isn’t optional. Growing up is.”

Why am I doing the Coast to Coast Kids Cancer Ride?

A simple answer? No. A complicated answer? Yes.

There are so many reasons for challenging myself for doing this. But I think the impetus has to come from a wonderful young woman named Hannah.

Years ago, I admitted Hannah and looked after her when she was diagnosed with, and started treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, the commonest childhood cancer. Even then, she didn’t complain, but met the challenge head on and did what she had to do. Years later, and after a somewhat rocky road, she is finishing her studies at university, and is one of the strongest, most positive and assertive role models I have ever met. She took the cloud that is leukaemia, ripped it apart and kept the silver lining. That taught her so many life lessons at such an early age. Last year, she stood beside me as we welcomed the 2012 National Kids Cancer Ride to Halifax and said “So how about doing this with me next year, Crooksy?”. At that point how could I say no? And here I am.

So, I’m originally from the UK, born, bred and trained. Studied at the University of Birmingham Medical School, and completed residency training in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. During the latter part of training, I unexpectedly had an offer of a job in Halifax, Nova Scotia (I had to look it up on a map), and within a month, I’d accepted, and started my move to Canada. I never imagined that move in a month of sundays!. However, once I’d visited, I fell in love with the city, the province and Canada. I made friends wherever i happened to visit. And felt immediately at home. I’m now a permanent residency, on the fast track to citizenship – but never forgetting my British roots and how that helps me deal with life over here. I had the greatest pleasure of meeting Jozef a month after I got here, and we have been inseparable since then. He surprised me on our fourth anniversary by marrying me in the middle of Tropical Storm Beryl!! Although he’s high maintenance, he keeps me grounded and always off-balance – just right to keep me from becoming too settled. And that’s good since there’s always the next challenge for us around the corner. Thank you, and i love you.

I was immediately struck by just how BIG Canada is, compared with Europe. Distances are measured in hours and days, not miles or kilometres. And there is a huge amount of wilderness here – but lakes and rocks and trees. Oh, and bears (one of my soft spots). So it is hardly surprising that one of my dreams was to cross the continent – on foot!!! But here is an opportunity to do it a different way – and to do something amazing with that opportunity – something that is very dear to my heart.

Professionally, I knew I wanted to work with kids during medical school, and during my first part of postgraduate training, became fascinated with cancer and cancer therapy (I have a couple of mentors and icons to thank for that) – so what better than to combine the two and become a paediatric oncologist. So, 11 year later, and a LOT of hard work, and a few twists and turns along the way, I achieved my dream and emerged as a Paediatric HAematologist/Oncologist. Although I do a lot of other things too (including teaching and education, administration and leadership, and research), being with the kids, dealing with their problems and helping their families through these illnesses, is the most fun part of the job. Fun, humour and clowning around is never far away – childhood is a time of laughter, exploration and discovery. Why take away a child’s innocence and childhood just because they are dealing with some crummy disease and rotten treatments. If they love coming to see me, that makes everything so much better. And I’m not afraid to put my money where my mouth is and do something like a charity headshave, or event? Why not? It’s part of the rich tapestry of life.

I see both sides of the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation: We all participate in the fundraising, and the events and the struggle to raise the money that is so desperately needed. And as a Paediatric Haematologist/Oncologist, I see where that money is widely spent – to improve the quality of life and care for our kids and families, to plough into medical research to devise better treatments, but also to learn where cancers come from – after all, prevention is better than cure.

As I said to a mother, not too long ago, as she had just been told her child had leukaemia “This must seem to be the worst day of life. But I’m here to try and make it better for you.”

I wish I never have to say those words again. That’s why I’m riding.

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