Finding SAVTI Support

The road to recovery can be long and hard, even after the cancer is long gone. Read Jamie's inspiring story about his own journey and success through SAVTI's support.

My name is Jamie Irvine and I was diagnosed with AML when I was 11 years old. I have now been in remission for over 16 years. It has been a challenging journey for me, with two unsuccessful bone marrow transplants and an experimental treatment.

Because of my treatment, I spent three years in and out of hospital. During that time I missed the majority of grades 6-8.These absences meant that in high school I was placed in the Special Education class, and was allowed to have a reduced course schedule. I could write tests in a quiet room and have extra time to complete them. High school was also challenging because it was when I started to develop late effects.

I developed cataracts a few months into grade nine. They hindered my sight and made it challenging for me to see simple things, such as bus numbers. Despite many delays I eventually received my surgery towards the end of my grade 9 career. During this time, it also became apparent that I had significantly stunted growth. My identical twin brother would continually get large growth spurts, and all I could manage was a few inches here and there. Of course this was a blow to my self-confidence, since it seemed like just another thing to add to all of the other challenges that I was facing.

High school was not only a late effects fiasco, but it revealed some of the effects that the radiation would have on my school work. Combined with the amount of school I missed during treatment, high school was an academic challenge. The subjects I had the most difficulties with were math and English. I failed grades 9-11 math and English the first time I took each course. This was devastating for me at the time since I had never failed before and I did not want to be left behind by my friends and brother. All of these difficulties caused me to stay for two extra years to complete my high school requirements. Despite all these setbacks, I was able to get into college and later university. Throughout my post-secondary education, I received accommodations to support my disabilities.

There were a number of factors that helped drive me to pursue post-secondary education. My parents were encouraging, they both wanted the best for me and for me to achieve my full potential. I was also encouraged by my brother, whose successful college career was something that I wanted too. I also pushed myself to go to school because of my desire to help others that had gone through situations similar to my own.

I found university more engaging, and easier to deal with compared to high school. I think a large part of that was because I was attending school for something I was interested in, social work. Even though I graduated university with honours, a part of me still had my doubts. Following graduation I started job searching and met a roadblock. Struggling to find a job in combination with my past of avoiding my own personal problems dealt a huge blow to my level of self-confidence. Soon, I started to avoid applying to jobs that I was more than qualified for. I started to believe that I was unqualified for any job.

A couple of years ago, I reached out for help during a yearly checkup with my RN. At that meeting she put me in contact with a therapist and referred me to an academic and vocational counsellor at SAVTI. During my first meeting, my counsellor and I talked about my background, career goals and what type of help I wanted. In that session I asked for help with my cover letter/resume writing, and assistance in finding someone to teach me a database program used by a variety of non-profits called Raiser’s Edge.

With this extra help I slowly started to apply for more jobs, sending my SAVTI counsellor my cover letter/resume to review before submitting it. In the past I had relied on my parents to review my cover letter/resume, and although they said I had done a good job, I still had my doubts. SAVTI’s support was outstanding. My counsellor was another person outside of my own family telling me that, “yes, I was more than qualified for this job.” As result of my own efforts and with the support from the people at SAVTI, I recently was hired on by a well-known non-profit agency. Boosted by this success, I will continue to build my skills and professional experiences, and work towards fulfilling my career goals.


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