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Jesse Fishman is a 17-year-old hockey player, currently playing for the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League. Jesse’s life was changed forever last February when his mother was diagnosed with stage 3b colon cancer at the age of 45. Jesse has joined forces with Colorectal Cancer Canada with the goal of reducing the misconceptions around colorectal cancer, and raising awareness about early-age onset colorectal cancer and the importance of screening. We sat down with Jesse recently to learn more about him, and what he hopes to accomplish as a CCC Ambassador. Enjoy!
First, as one of Colorectal Cancer Canada’s newest Ambassadors, we will start by giving you the floor to introduce yourself and a bit about your background!
My name is Jesse Fishman, I am 17 years old, and I grew up in Thornhill, Ontario. I have two older brothers by the names of Mark and Aton. Mark is 22 and he studies Urban Planning at Queen’s University. Eitan studies at Western for Medical sciences. My Mom’s name is Aneta and she is an elementary school principal, and my Dad, Igor, is a real estate broker. I just graduated grade 12 and I am enrolled at Wilfred Laurier University to study Kinesiology this fall, where I will be studying part-time while playing hockey. I play on the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL, and I just finished my 16-year-old rookie season, which was pretty fun yet challenging, but ultimately a great experience! It prepared me for this upcoming season which is important as my NHL draft is taking place next summer. Aside from hockey, I enjoy fishing, playing basketball, spending time with my brothers and my family, and that’s a bit of background about myself!
As a young man with a very busy schedule, why did you decide to become involved with Colorectal Cancer Canada?
The reason why I decided to become involved as an Ambassador at CCC is ultimately because the cause hits close to home. My Mom was diagnosed with stage 3b colorectal cancer in February of 2019. She was 45 years old. She had no history of health issues, nothing at all. At the time when she was diagnosed, I was in the middle of my OHL draft year, which is a big tournament called the OHL Cup. It was a super stressful time already. It was actually on the day of my birthday that I found out that she was diagnosed. Everything hit me really hard at that point. It hit our whole family really hard, and we just didn’t know what to expect.
It’s actually an interesting story, as we say that my Dad saved my Mom’s life. She had no symptoms, and she insisted that there was nothing wrong with her. My Dad booked her a screening appointment where she went in without thinking anything was wrong, and they saw a polyp which ultimately ended up being cancerous. If she had waited any longer, who knows where she would be now. She had to go through many chemo and radiation treatments, and she was lucky that her life was saved. We are all so lucky for that.
On top of that, my grandfather who recently passed away was battling mesothelioma. My Mom went through this [cancer], my grandfather went through this. I really want to educate myself and be able to educate others to make a difference.
What do you hope to achieve in your role as an Ambassador with CCC?
My main goal is ultimately to raise awareness. I want to advocate for people to get screened, and not only those over the age of 50. Because early-age onset colorectal cancer is on the rise, I want to become more educated myself. While educating others that colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the world, and not only is it one of the most diagnosed, it can also be very preventable. People don’t realize that it is preventable, because screening is readily available. It’s a small thing to do, with a lot of potential reward; being able to avoid losing a loved one. I want to raise awareness and raise funds to support cancer research and in the end, it’s all working toward the goal to end the stigma around colorectal cancer being an ‘old man’s disease’, which it’s not. Numbers have shown that people under the age of 50 are being diagnosed more and more.
As a young person, how do you think we can best reach the younger generations to raise awareness about colorectal cancer, and particularly early age onset colorectal cancer?
That’s a great question! The main thing that I want to do to reach young people is to use my platform as a hockey player, and hopefully soon to be a public figure who young people may look up to. I play for the Kitchener Rangers now, with quite a large fan base. We get about 7000-8000 people at every home game. I’m in the process of working with the team to create a plan to raise awareness of colorectal cancer through fundraising, catchy slogans, public appearances, etc. to get the word out there. We want to focus on how important it is for the younger generations to be aware of cancer prevention strategies such as living a healthier lifestyle, screening as often as you can, and these can ultimately save lives. I want to use my platform to educate others, especially young people, about early age onset colorectal cancer, and the prevention of this horrible disease.
As you know, recently a light has been shone on the issue of early age onset colorectal cancer by the tragic death of Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman, who passed away at the age of 43. Why do you think that now more than ever, is the time to awaken Canadians to the reality of colorectal cancer, and how it is not an ‘old man’s disease’?
As we mentioned, colorectal cancer has been appearing in young people more than ever. This is shown through statistics, and unfortunately was the case for Chadwick Boseman, who was going through treatments and battling cancer. It didn’t stop him from living his life to the fullest and that he is going to be seen as a hero who inspired many people, including myself. Here’s a quote from Chadwick that I found inspiring: “The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose”. I feel that my purpose with CCC is to use my platform as a hockey player to raise awareness and ultimately make a difference. As I said, the numbers show that colorectal cancer is not only an ‘old man’s disease’ and younger people are getting diagnosed more and more, that’s something you can’t talk about enough. You have to keep the conversation going. The more people hear about it and know more about it, the more likely cases could be prevented. Screening is the number one most important thing to prevent this disease. Canadians need to start taking initiative and listening to experts regarding the early age onset of colorectal cancer in Canada.
We are so excited to have you join forces with us to raise awareness about colorectal cancer in Canada. Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with us today?
I would like to say how thankful and excited I am to partner and join forces with CCC. It doesn’t only give myself, but it also gives many other Canadians a chance to raise awareness and be more educated on what is the third most diagnosed form of cancer in the world, which isn’t talked about enough. There has to be way more awareness because it is preventable. I am super excited, and super happy to be able to potentially make a difference. Who knows – I have a big goal of making and playing in the NHL, and it’s definitely a cause that I want to carry with me, and I want to teach the younger generation about. I experienced it first hand, and it’s an issue that not many people speak up about. I am willing to be open about it and talk to others about it, and ultimately raise as much awareness as possible.
We are so thankful to join forces with such an inspiring young person like Jesse. We look forward to cheering you on this upcoming hockey season, and we can’t wait to see the difference that you will make as a CCC Ambassador. Welcome, Jesse!
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