Whitby high schooler competes in OFSSA cross-country finals just two months after beating cancer

Published November 11, 2022 at 3:07 pm

Twenty-eight months after being diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a Grade 10 students stood at the start line for the OFSAA cross-country championships.

It was Dylan Waduck’s 15th birthday.

Two months earlier, on September 2, Waduck was ringing the bell at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, signifying his victory over cancer.

Waduck, an honour student at Sinclair Secondary in Whitby who is passionate about sports, was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was just 12. His mom Gina said the family received incredible support from day one from his school and from the local sports community

“When Dylan came home from the hospital after he was first diagnosed, his hockey and lacrosse teammates organized a big car parade,” said Gina, with Dylan adding that “it really felt like people were behind me and were going to help me get through the long road ahead.”

At the time of his diagnosis he was attending John Dryden Public School. Between countless medical appointments, undergoing chemotherapy treatments and the pandemic he was homeschooled for most of his Grade 8 year.

To ensure he was able to keep up with the rest of his classmates, his homeroom teacher Jason Mottershead routinely came to the Waduck’s home to keep him up to date on the schoolwork.

“I wanted to help him with his homeschooling because he was so driven and so determined to keep up with his work, and I wanted to do anything that I could to support him,” Mottershead explained. Classmates would often relay messages of support as well. “There was a lot of support in the school community for Dylan and he was never far from people’s thoughts.”

When Waduck was ready to return to in-person learning, his mom said he was able to merge seamlessly back into Mottershead’s classroom thanks to that ongoing support.

The Sinclair Secondary School community also stood up for their new student when he entered Grade 9 last year. Staff and students organized an assembly in coordination with the Terry Fox run, where the message was all about perseverance and shirts with the hashtag #DylanStrong were given out to staff and students.

As Waduck’s chemotherapy treatments continued, his passion for sport never wavered. He has continued to play rep hockey and lacrosse. Last year he even competed in the Lake Ontario Secondary School Association (LOSSA) cross country race and made the Sinclair hockey team.

And then he got to ring the bell at SickKids. “I always look at the positives more than the negatives. It’s important to keep things positive all the way through and never stop – to never give up.”

Shortly after finishing cancer treatment Waduck ran the LOSSA Cross Country finals and advanced to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championship race, being one of four Sinclair students to do so. He said making the jump to OFSAA this year was a huge accomplishment for him, especially because he placed second last at the previous LOSSA competition.

“Last year I was in the toughest days of treatment when I ran the LOSSA race and my goal was to only finish. This year my goal was to compete near the middle of the pack, but I did even better and qualified for OFSAA.”

On November 5 he competed against hundreds of students from across Ontario in the OFSAA championship cross country event hosted at Dagmar Ski Resort in Uxbridge. Just before his 5-kilometre race, organizers of the event recognized Waduck and his journey, inspiring his fellow runners.

He placed 207th out of 249 with a run time of 21 minutes and 16 seconds. “Running at OFSAA this year was an achievement itself but running as well as I did was a greater accomplishment. Being able to run after what I’ve been through made me so proud of myself. I have trained hard and thank my cross country coaches for believing in me.”

Gina says their family has learned a lot about perseverance and the importance of community in the last two-plus years. “It’s not anything that anyone would expect to have to be a part of but you’re strong because you have to be, and you just get through it. The support from the sport and school communities and local organizations has really kept us going throughout.”

With beating cancer now checked off his list, Waduck has so many exciting experiences to look forward to. One special event he is eagerly anticipating is a family trip to Disney World. “We didn’t want to travel during treatment,” his mom said, “so Make A Wish was able to grant us a trip for after treatment. We are going to Disney World to celebrate the New Year!”

Dylan Waduck says he and his family have never been to Disney World. “I don’t know what to expect, but I’m really excited.”

With files from the Durham District School Board

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