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Tribute to Aaron

Aaron fought cancer for seven years, but he never lived like he had cancer. He didn’t let it stop him from building a life or doing the things he loved. He was an example — more than anyone else I’ve ever known — of living every day to the fullest.

It’s one of the reasons I loved him so much and never considered a life without him, even though we had just started dating when Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2009.
Not What We Thought
Aaron had been fooling around with some friends and thought maybe he’d cracked a rib. But before we knew it, he was headed in for biopsies of a liver tumour. There were the words “PEComa tumour,” then a revolutionary 12-hour surgery by a team of highly skilled surgeons at The Princess Margaret to remove the tumour and reconstruct Aaron’s liver.
It was a long, painful ordeal for Aaron, who had to overcome a number of complications. But eight months later, with a suitcase full of medications to help him manage, Aaron and I were off on a four-month trip to Thailand and then Australia.
That was life with Aaron. Always fun, always an adventure.
Aaron’s Quiet Courage
It’s incredible how many people never even realized Aaron had cancer. He fought so quietly and so courageously. He wanted so much to live a “normal” life. He even completed medicial school during his years of treatment.
But I knew that life for Aaron was anything but normal. I saw the awful pain that tumour after tumour caused, the way his plans got derailed when he had to go back to the hospital for treatments. I knew the incredible strength of will it took to do all he did.
After Aaron’s first tumour, we had hope that his surgery and treatment might be the end of his ordeal. But after about a year, that hope vanished. Aaron’s cancer just kept coming back. Tumours would flare up in his legs, his head, his bones.
I know Aaron’s doctors fought as hard as he did. But there was simply no way to stop Aaron’s cancer. They couldn’t prevent the next tumour nor could they predict where it would strike.
On the very same day we got the happiest news of our lives — that we were expecting a baby — we had to confront a terrifying reality. The doctor told us that Aaron’s scans had “lit up like a Christmas tree.” Tumours were taking over his body.
The Greatest Joy
Despite everything, it really seemed like Aaron was unstoppable.
Aaron was immensely proud of becoming a doctor, and I could see how much he loved seeing patients. But there was one achievement that I know topped every other one in Aaron’s book: the birth of our beautiful Georgia.
I’ve never seen him prouder or happier than when he was showing off his baby girl. And in the 18 short months they had together, Aaron packed in as much as he could. He took her skateboarding, surfing, cycling, and swimming. They even practiced hockey! And, after her first word — “dada” — he taught her to say, “Go Leafs Go!” and “Let’s Go Blue Jays!”
Saying Goodbye
When Aaron realized how little time he had left, I think saying goodbye to his little girl was hardest of all. He wrote her a book to say all the things he’d never get to say in person — to tell her to smile, work hard, be a good friend. It still breaks my heart to read it.
At the end, things went so fast for Aaron. The tumour was back in his liver.
I don’t think Aaron ever believed cancer would get the best of him. Forever optimistic and determined, he always thought there would be more time — more years with his two best girls, his legions of friends, and the family he loved so much.
But Aaron lost his battle on December 20, 2016, just a few days before our daughter’s second Christmas.
Surrounded by people who loved him, he took his last breath. Me, his baby girl, his mom and dad, his brothers and sister — we were all there.
It was the hardest, most awful moment of my life.
From Heartbreak to Hope
I loved Aaron so much.
He was my hero, and I hope you’ll help me honour him — and all those who courageously face cancer — by dedicating your dove, along with a holiday gift, to support The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
Aaron always saw a brighter future on the horizon. As the best man at weddings, he’d say, “May the happiest days of your past be the saddest days of your future.”
I believe that The Princess Margaret — one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world — is our best hope for conquering cancer, and for honouring the courage optimism, perseverance, and hope Aaron and so many others have demonstrated.
Your holiday gift and your Dove will help build a brighter future for all those faced with cancer. Please join me in bringing Aaron’s legacy of courage, perseverance, and hope to cancer patients and their families this season.
Together, we can Let Hope Fly!
Jennifer Higgins
Aaron’s wife
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Doves of Hope