An inspiration at Relay For Life Youth

At Relay For Life, students take the reins to create a day of walking, fun activities, and bonding time with one another. It’s a movement that inspires the next generation of student leaders to take action to create change.   

After a diagnosis that changed the course of his life, Jakob Bouse now knows just how emotional attending a Relay For Life Youth event can be. He continues to bring participants together to help create a brighter future for anyone impacted by cancer.  

A frightening diagnosis

Jakob in the hospital with his loving family.
Jakob in the hospital with his loving family

When he was 11 years old, Jakob was just another normal kid living in Ottawa. He was going to school, hanging out with friends and enjoyed playing hockey and Ultimate Frisbee.  Over the fall and winter, however, he began to develop some strange symptoms, such as a hand tremor, nausea, headaches, and loss of strength and balance.  These symptoms grew stronger and his family eventually brought him to a neurologist who sent Jakob for an urgent MRI scan in March 2015.  The scan showed a golf-ball sized brain tumour, along with additional complications, so Jakob was rushed to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto for emergency surgery.  

The tumour was clogging the flow of spinal fluid, causing the ventricles to swell and increasing the symptoms,” says Jakob. “And it was in a location where they weren’t able to remove it.

The doctors performed brain surgery on Jakob to create a channel for the spinal fluid to alleviate the pressure and swelling of the ventricles. Although the symptoms improved with the operation, the brain tumour nonetheless remained. His medical team determined the optimal treatment would be a 70-week chemotherapy protocol.   

An outpouring of love and support in high school

Jakob (far right) with a group of Relay For Life Youth participants. 
Jakob (far right) with a group of Relay For Life Youth participants

Soon after Jakob began his 70-week chemotherapy treatment, he was asked to be an ambassador for CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), Candlelighters Simcoe and Make-A-Wish Canada. He wanted to tell his story for other families going through the same thing. “All these organizations supported me and my family so much over the years, so giving back has been incredibly meaningful,” says Jakob.   

High school brought new opportunities for Jakob as well. Entering grade 9 was a period of adjustment, as he was at a new school and wanted to meet new friends. When he learned that Relay For Life Youth was the biggest event of the year and supported a cause very near to his family, he knew he could take his interest in cancer advocacy to new heights.   

This whole journey can be isolating. It can be a very scary thing to face and especially when you’re young, seeing that support and outpouring of love for this cause is incredibly meaningful.

He signed up to be a Team Captain and rallied support through different activities. Then, he stayed until the luminary ceremony, a powerful way of honouring loved ones who have been affected by cancer. To this day, it’s a part of the event that means so much to him. “Every year I try to hold in the tears and it’s yet to work.”  

A new advocacy role and continuing to be inspired by Relay For Life Youth

Jakob, outside, wearing a Relay For Life t-shirt.
Jakob  Bouse

In 2023, Jakob became a Relay For Life Global Hero for Hope. As an ambassador, he visits high schools in Ottawa, as well as Carlton University, to reach out to new, excited participants. He continues to be overwhelmed by the passionate and inspiring advocates that Relay For Life brings together. We look forward to seeing where his leadership takes him next! 

Every single survivor speaker that comes to one of these events and shares their story makes a huge impression. When you’re hearing someone pour their heart out in order to help support this cause and raise funds, it’s impossible not to be inspired.

Relay For Life Youth events at universities will begin in March. Bring your true Relay Spirit! Gather your team and join something unstoppable!