A six-month-old, an artist, and a teacher: Just 3 of the remarkable people who shared their stories of resilience and courage in 2021

The one common thread that runs through every story is the ability to keep moving forward — no matter what.

Emma Jones 4 minute read December 27, 2021
Tanner McCleod rare disease

Tanner McCleod needed a stem cell transplant when he was just six months old. SUPPLIED

It’s one of our most successful series: What It Feels Like, where journalist Emma Jones chronicles the stories of Canadians — in their words — who share their remarkable health journeys. This year, we learned about the groundbreaking treatments that are keeping more people alive and about the hope for medical innovations to improve quality of life. We also met incredible people who are using their health challenges to create a better world for all of us.

Plus, we got a snapshot of how much work there is still to be done to build a healthcare system that is truly accessible, equal and fair. From across Canada, Jones followed the lives of those who had to push back against stigma just to receive treatment, who were sent back to unsafe environments after asking for help, and those who face the possibility that they life-saving treatment will be unaffordable in the future.

Here’s a look back at just a few of these stories of resilience, courage and perseverance.

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My son has sideroblastic anemia

Tanner McCleod was diagnosed with sideroblastic anemia at six months old. Until a match for a life-changing stem cell donation was found, he had to have a blood transfusion every few weeks. Read more

‘I received a phone call from the bone marrow transplant team nurse saying Tanner has an appointment for an MRI in early January… I knew it was the start of something significant for us,’ says Tanner’s mom, Miranda McCleod. SUPPLIED Supplied

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Recovering from drug addiction

Matt Kieselstein was 11 when he realized he could get high from the Ritalin prescribed by his doctor for ADHD. It kicked off almost 30 years of substance abuse — punctuated with periods of sobriety, opiate addiction, countless overdoses and two suicide attempts. Now 42 and more than 900 days sober, Matt is enrolled in the Addiction Studies program at McMaster University. Read more

‘Connection is one of the biggest parts of recovery,’ says Matt Kieselstein, who is now enrolled in the Addiction Studies program at McMaster University. SUPPLIED

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Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease

Manzil Bacchus was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008. Originally told that nothing could be done to stop the progression of the nervous system disorder, Manzil and his wife, Sadia, continued to manage the increasingly worrisome symptoms. Until one snowy day in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manzil checked in for a life-changing brain surgery. Read more

parkinson's disease deep brain stimulation

‘Manzil has his life back, I have my husband back and our kids have their dad back,’ says Manzil Bacchus’ wife, Sadia. SUPPLIED

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Living with endometriosis

Samantha Lyster was a teenager when a gynecologist dismissed frequent abdominal pain as constipation, and told her to eat more vegetables. It took years of research and specialist appointments before she would finally have an reason for her symptoms: endometriosis.

‘It shouldn’t be a special circumstance that you have an advocate that can help you or somebody that can point you in the right direction. You should be believed when you say you’re in pain,’ says Samantha Lyster. Supplied

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Living with HIV

Tiko Kerr did not have any symptoms when he received an HIV positive diagnosis in 1985. He had heard that a virus was threatening the health of his community and, wanting to do his part, decided to get tested. He describes hearing his diagnosis as feeling like it was the end of the world.

Tiko Kerr

Artist Tiko Kerr is part of a new documentary, Undetectable, which explores the lives of HIV survivors. PHOTO CREDIT: Pauli-Ann Carriere Studios

Living with a rare cancer

When Paul Kitchen was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow cancer, he already knew the implications — his mother had passed away from the same disease years earlier. Fortunately for Kitchen, treatments exist now that enable him to live a normal life. Read more

‘I felt that I was really lucky. My mother was diagnosed with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia in the late ’70s and she didn’t have any treatments at all,’ says Paul Kitchen. SUPPLIED

Read more stories in the What It Feels Like series by clicking here.

Got a health story to share? Email Emma Jones at emjones@postmedia.com.

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