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Calgary’s 'living books' aren’t scared to talk about cancer

Living Library event at the Calgary Central Public Library on Saturday

Mary Beth Eckersley and Dr. Nigel Brockston will be sharing their cancer survival stories at the Living Library event Saturday.

Jeremy Simes / for Metro

Mary Beth Eckersley and Dr. Nigel Brockston will be sharing their cancer survival stories at the Living Library event Saturday.

Dr. Nigel Brockston never thought he’d become a doctor, until he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his jaw at the age of 18 — he wanted to learn as much as he could to survive the disease.

Brockston — who now specializes in cancer research — isn’t afraid to talk about his battle with cancer, nor is Mary Beth Eckersley, who underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in mid-August.

Both of them will be sharing their stories at the Living Library event at the Central Public Library Saturday, where 17 people — from researchers to those currently struggling with cancer — will act as “human books,” speaking about their journeys and care giving techniques.

Attendees will be able to “borrow” a living book, engaging with it for 20 minutes at a time.

Brockston and Eckersley met at a cancer fundraising event a few years ago and have since become close: Brockston would take the time to always visit Eckersley during her chemotherapy sessions.

“That was amazing,” Eckersley said. “You lose touch with some people when you have cancer, because they can’t deal with it.”

He said he just wanted to be there — he knows how great it is to have friends sit in during chemo.

“I was very fortunate to have friends just be there, after they got home from the bar,” laughed Brockston, who was planning to become a marine biologist at the time.

Not everyone’s battle with cancer ends well, he added. But, everyone — even those who’ve lost their loved ones — have something to add to the conversation.

“I think talking about it is progress in itself,” he said. “We have to keep the conversation going and make it more normal.”

Eckersley — who now volunteers her time as an aqua-fit instructor for cancer patients — said she can never learn enough about cancer.

“It’s perfect when one person can learn something new,” she said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”

The event will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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