Two words should never have to be used in the same sentence: cancer and children. Unfortunately, we too often see these words paired together. One local parent has turned the pain of his son’s cancer journey into a beautiful tribute, memorializing a vibrant young man who was taken long before his time.
In his recent memoir, “Where There’s Will There’s a Way,” Thomas Canan brings to life the tenacious and loving spirit of his son, Will, whose nearly nine-year battle with cancer ended prematurely in October 2012.
Sports Fan and Player of the Year
Diagnosed at age 6, Will was a devoted baseball fan and was determined to live a whole life’s worth of experiences in just 14 years. As an avid sports fan, he met sports legends Derek Jeter, Justin Morneau, Carlos Gomez and “Big Papi” David Ortiz, among others. He even attended Super Bowl XLV in Irving, Texas.
In spite of aggressive treatments, Will fought hard to keep going, even rescheduling chemotherapy to be at optimal health for RYBA Majors tryouts. For his efforts, he was the first recipient of the first RYBA Player of the Year for sportsmanship, an award that has since been renamed in his honor.
“[Will] tried not to let cancer define his life,” Canan says. “He loved people and he loved animals…the Green Bay Packers, and he was a huge Star Wars fan.”
By the time of his passing, Will was well-known everywhere he went. In 2012, a homegrown movement to paint one fingernail blue in Will’s honor soon reached students in 32 states and seven foreign countries. He was loved by all who knew him, or knew of him.
Olmsted County Relay for Life
Among the many things Will loved, were those who extended themselves to his care and to the cure of cancer. In July 2006, Will was selected as the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” childhood cancer representative, an honor which led to his invitation to ride on the Relay for Life float in the annual Rochesterfest Parade.
Will’s family remains dedicated to the causes that supported him through his illness. His parents founded Brighter Tomorrows, a cancer support group for families actively battling cancer and Tomorrow’s Chapter, a support group for families who’ve lost a child to cancer. Additionally, the proceeds from Canan’s memoir go to support these programs and other charities that support cancer patients and their families.
Nothing can bring back Will or the other beautiful children like him, but we can remember his tenacious spirit by supporting the causes that supported him. This year, Olmsted County will host a Relay for Life Event on July 17-18 at Rochester Community and Technical College. You can get involved and make a contribution to this worthwhile cause in Will’s memory or in memory of another beloved cancer victim by visiting the Relay for Life website at relayforlife.org.
A Facebook group honoring Will Canan’s life and legacy is available for those interested in learning more. Simply search “In Honor of Will Canan” on Facebook and request to join the group. Tom Canan’s memoir, “Where There’s Will There’s a Way,” is available as an e-book from all major online e-book retailers including iBooks, Kindle and Nook.Catherine H. Armstrong holds a B.A. in Journalism/News Communications form the University of Oklahoma. Her first novel, The Edge of Nowhere, will be released in Fall 2015 under the pen name C.H. Armstrong.