Cancer-free for five years, Trey Elkins, now 22, is using his invaluable time to give back.
As if beating bone cancer and then lung cancer before his 18th birthday wasn’t enough, Airdrie’s own Trey Elkins is now saving lives … literally.
“I think subconsciously I chose to be an EMT because I love the hospital but my time as a patient at the ACH (Alberta Children’s Hospital) made me want the freedom to come and go as I please,” Elkins says.
Since his cancer was first diagnosed in 2009 when he was 15, Elkins has fought for his life on multiple occasions. After the original diagnosis of osteosarcoma (the most common form of bone cancer, found predominantly in children and young adults), Elkins had a six-month remission, but then received more devastating news – he had relapsed and the cancer had moved to his lungs. His 50 per cent survival rate over the next five years dropped to 30 per cent. Surgery was performed to remove the cancerous tissue from his lungs, but he was warned that this type of cancer takes on a pattern and would likely return despite surgery and chemotherapy.
“But then one year went by, then two years went by, and my five-year anniversary was this past January. We had a big party!” Elkins says.
Now, having finished SAIT’s emergency medical technology (EMT) program, Elkins is a registered EMT. This fall he went back to SAIT to specialize in critical care.
“Critical care guys work on STARS, they work downtown Calgary where it gets messy and they work in remote areas. They are the highest trained guys out there,” Elkins says. “I realized that I wanted to do more than be on an ambulance, I wanted to be a frontline worker and I think these next two years are going to help me do just that.”
In the last five years, Elkins has been a huge voice for the Children’s Hospital Foundation (CHF) and earlier this year he became an official ambassador for the foundation, speaking at events and to individuals about his experiences with cancer and how he persevered.
“Whether I’m speaking with a kid [who] is down on himself about losing his hair in the hospital or whether I’m visiting my cousin who was broken up with her boyfriend, I always tell people that there is always someone who is in a worse situation than you are. There is always somebody that is worse off,” he says.
Elkins credits these interactions with providing his articulate communication skills – skills, he says, which have helped him save lives.
“There was one call recently where there was a [young] suicidal girl. I was able to talk with her and find out that she had an interest in medicine,” he said. “When we dropped her off I went up to the attending physician in the ER and said this girl is interested in being a cardiologist when she is older … why don’t we set her up so she can shadow a cardiologist for the day?
“When we first met with this girl she was completely shut down,” he adds, “and I was able to get her to open. That’s what I really love and cherish about my job.”