This year’s Lorna Rosenstein Youth Volunteer Leadership Award winner talks candidly about her experience with cancer, her time as a “buddy,” and her future career as a doctor.
Amy Zeglinski-Spinney was only 12 when everything changed.
“The day I broke my leg started with lots of pain at recess. I wanted my friends to smash my leg with their fists so the pain would be different. I remember saying aloud, ‘I wish someone would cut off my leg. It hurts so much.’ Then I broke it playing soccer.”
It’s not common to discover cancer after an accident. Amy went to physio for five months because she had so much pain in her leg, and her parents were concerned. She responded very well to the chemo, so amputation was unnecessary. It might have spread to her lungs if they’d waited any longer.
“I was very lucky that I broke it when I did because I would have just continued to ignore the pain.”
This experience made Amy look at life differently.
“Sometimes I forget, and I don’t think about it. Then something will remind me, and I’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to be grateful for today. I need to be grateful for tomorrow’”.
Amy was on the receiving end of a fantastic program with a buddy visiting her.
“I forgot I was a kid with cancer in the hospital and was so flattered that this gorgeous and intelligent medical student wanted to come and chat with me and make cookies. That was very humbling. I want to be someone like her, giving back and helping kids. That was a turning point. I realized I had to survive cancer, and this is what I will dedicate my life to. I don’t want to waste a day. I must repay this favour.”
Just because she had cancer, Amy wasn’t idle. She made bracelets to raise money. She credits it for helping her to survive.
“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had that project. It was a welcome distraction, and I felt I was doing something; even if I hadn’t made it past treatment, I would have helped others”.
Not only has Amy mentored her buddy who had the same kind of cancer as she had, but now she runs the program. She has done an incredible 360 hours of volunteer work in the past year.
“Being able to be a buddy myself gave me lots of strength.”
How did it feel to win the Lorna Rosenstein Youth Volunteer Leadership Award?
“It felt very humbling. When I got the call, my jaw dropped. It still hasn’t fully sunk in. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Now, Amy is halfway through medical school. She’s unsure what to specialize in, but one program has caught her attention.
“At the moment, I’m most excited about oncology, the rotation where I’ll be back to the same hospital where I received treatment, and the patients are little kids with cancer. Even if I never pursue this career, talking to these kids and bonding will be wonderful.”
What kind of volunteer work is Amy up to now?
“I’m working on research projects around cancer. I’m also a peer supporter, which means if any of my peers in medical school are having trouble – if they want to vent or have any mental health issues – I’m someone they can reach out to and chat.”
Amy’s other project is with the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation. It’s online tutoring sessions for grade 5 kids. She puts on presentations about skin cancer and prevention with questions and videos.
“I like to talk to kids. We see them all raising their hands. It’s so beneficial for the kids. We’re going to run the program at the Ottawa chapter.”
Amy Zeglinski-Spinney is the third youth volunteer to receive the Lorna Rosenstein Youth Volunteer Leadership Award in as many years. From a pool of 11 applicants, Amy was selected from a group of five finalists who each exhibited leadership in unique volunteer leadership. Amy’s extraordinary commitment to volunteerism began at a young age, creating her own projects, participating in established programs and eventually leading volunteer programs. Amy continues to create volunteer run programs and exhibits a commitment to volunteerism while achieving excellence in her academics and juggling multiple jobs. Volunteerism is a core value for Amy, as it was for Lorna Rosenstein, giving back to her community and improving the lives of others. Congratulations to Amy for her achievements.
Find out more about the Lorna Rosenstein Youth Volunteer Leadership Award, visit our award information page.