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Cougars Against Cancer Interview

Cougars Against Cancer is a youth-led platform that aims to “provide students with the scope to learn about the disease, network with youth passionate about cancer awareness, and explore opportunities to help cancer patients and survivors in their own communities.” 

Cougars Against Cancer will be hosting a webinar every day from October 5th to 9th at 4:30-5:30pm EST which will offer academic advice for those interested in oncology and health science, in addition to gaining perspective on social issues surrounding the disease. Follow their Instagram to get first sign-up details.

The following article is an interview with Sherilyn, Shaoni, Debbie, and Emiliethe Cougars Against Cancer team.

Why did you get involved?

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, with nearly 1 in 2 Canadians expected to experience cancer in their lifetime. As co-founders, we realized that there was a lack of cancer awareness initiatives that also provided youth with opportunities to make a change in our community, so we established Cougars Against Cancer to fill that gap. Through interactive events like webinars, fundraisers for charities, trivias, and scientific updates, we hope to connect students to convenient resources to broaden their horizons in the world of cancer and oncology.

Who is your team?

Hello! I’m Sherilyn and I’m a grade 11 student. In my spare time, I love playing music, being outdoors, and getting involved in my community! As a kid, I spent several of my summers doing fundraisers for cancer, and it makes me happy knowing I’m making an impact. Now that I’m older, I hope to expand this reach and provide these opportunities for everyone. 

Hi! My name is Shaoni Chakraborty, and I am a grade 12 student. Since my childhood, I have always been very involved in my Indian community. Through fundraising, I realized my interest in supporting others, and decided to join this team to fulfill my goal of helping others. When I’m not busy with school, I love to play piano, dance and spend time with my friends and family! I’m looking forward to working with other members, so we can work towards a communal goal.

Hi! My name is Debbie and I’m a grade 11 student from Ottawa, Ontario. Through awareness initiatives like Relay for Life, Daffodil Month, and Breast Cancer Month, I’ve come to realize the true prevalence of cancer in our day-to-day lives and just how quickly the disease could turn a patient’s life upside down. With Cougars Against Cancer, I hope to use my privileges to reiterate this awareness myself, and create opportunities in which students everywhere can learn and get involved. In my spare time, I love drawing, painting, playing music, and I also dance competitively outside of school.

Hello! My name is Emilie Zhang, and I am a grade 12 student at Colonel By Secondary School in Ottawa, Ontario. I personally know someone who was diagnosed with cancer and going through the experience has not been an easy journey. I also know that almost everyone is acquainted with someone who has been affected by cancer. Since this disease has affected so many people's lives, it is incredibly important to dedicate our time to help others. In grade 9, I attended the Relay for Life event at school and I organized fundraisers for the Canadian Cancer Society, where we raised thousands of dollars. At that time, I realized how great of a positive impact we can make if we come together to achieve a common goal. Thus, with Cougars Against Cancer, I hope I can raise more awareness about cancer and show my support. By educating the youth and also my community, I really believe that we can make a positive impact with our organization. I look forward to working with everyone while aiming to make a positive difference in the community.

Describe the event you’re doing

Our first virtual event is a week-long webinar event geared towards high school students interested in health science, specifically fields such as oncology and cancer treatment. Students will have the chance to network with their fellow attendees and the speakers, as well as gain professional insight by asking any questions during a Q&A session. Furthermore, we hope they can take away not only academic advice, but a newfound perspective of life by hearing the experiences of various cancer survivors. 

When is it?

The webinars will take place from October 5th to 9th at 4:30-5:30pm EST every day. There will be two different speakers each day, each with a different topic. Make sure to attend every session to gain the full experience!

Who are your speakers?

We have speakers from all over Canada as well as the US, covering a variety of topics. Many are oncologists and other medical professionals at various stages in their journey, whether they’re still in school, training, or already working as a doctor or researcher. The path into health science is a long one, and we hope students can acquire first-hand advice about the challenges along the way and how to effectively prepare for them. Some of our speakers are cancer survivors with their own inspiring story to tell. Through this platform, they can share their experiences and raise awareness for rare, lesser known cancers and other related social issues. Lastly, we have a speaker whose topic focuses specifically on black communities in STEM, fostering an open and supportive discussion. 

How do people sign up?

A week before the event, we will send out a google form for people to reserve a spot at our webinars. Keep on the lookout on our instagram @cougarsagainstcancer for details coming very soon! Sign up fast—there are limited spots available and you don’t want to miss out on this amazing opportunity!

What are some other ways people who want to support cancer patients/research can?

Today, there are several organizations around the community that fundraise for cancer research and support cancer patients. As a student-led organization, along with fundraising, we wanted to include an educational component for students as well. Oncology is an extremely interesting field, with different research and studies being accomplished everyday around the world. Our organization is focused on providing students with other ways that they can support cancer patients/research through learning and knowledge. By educating ourselves of new technologies, research and medications that are being created, we start to learn more about the multiple paths that cancer research is taking. We hope to encourage students to become more active in finding this knowledge, so that they too can contribute to the fight against cancer.

Almost everyone knows someone with cancer, be it a family member, a neighbour, a co-worker, or a friend. Accordingly, it’s important to understand the disease and how to best support those affected by it. Check out @cougarsagainstcancer on Instagram to learn more.

Article Author: Linda Duong

Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Stephanie Sahadeo