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Collingwood student marks 5 years cancer-free at Relay for Life

Haven Raeburn-Gibson is a 19-year-old student at Collingwood Collegiate Institute and a cancer survivor

Haven Raeburn-Gibson, a student at Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) and cancer survivor, is thankful she was able to participate in the Relay for Life event one more time before she graduates this year.

In 2019, at the same event that she opened up to her fellow students about her cancer journey, which began with a diagnosis just before her Grade 8 graduation from Nottawa Elementary School. 

In 2019, she was wearing a yellow shirt, and after she finished her speech she joined a group of others in the same yellow shirts for the very first lap of Relay for Life — the survivor lap.

Now in her victory lap of high school, she donned her yellow shirt once more, this year officially celebrating five years cancer-free. 

“No cancer journey is the same,” said Raeburn-Gibson. “But, there are so many people who have been personally affected or their friend or someone in their family has been affected. Even in cancer, there is always someone who can empathize with you. You are never alone in your cancer journey”

On March 12, 2017, she underwent surgery at SickKids hospital to remove a malignant Sonic Hedgehog Medulloblastoma, the fastest-growing and most dangerous tumour a kid can have, she said. 

The tumour was on her cerebellum, close to her spine. Her surgery was followed by radiation on her spine and skull and painful chemotherapy. 

She stood in front of her fellow high school students in 2019, and again in 2022 as a cancer survivor. 

This year, along with giving another speech at the Relay for Life opening ceremonies, Raeburn-Gibson served as a volunteer on the committee as the entertainment coordinator.

Along with planning day-of events, she hosted an additional fundraiser at the bowling alley on Monday. Students paid $10 to participate in the event, and $3 from every entry was included in CCI’s donation to the Canadian Cancer Society as part of Relay for Life. 

This fall, Raeburn-Gibson will attend King’s University College for its Disability Studies program. 

“One of the things I’ve always dealt with is using correct terms that people with mental and physical challenges are called,” said Haven Raeburn-Gibson.

She hopes to continue to challenge the limitations placed on people with both mental and physical challenges, saying her “goal is to lower the use of disability and other terms that suggest an inability.” 

“Just because certain things can be more challenging for me or anyone who suffers from a mental or physical challenge, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” she said.