Thomas Cantley knew nothing but the camera. After graduating from Vancouver Film School, he was on the New York fast track, shooting celebrities, filming movies and fashion shows.
So when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, he felt he had no other way to cope with it than to film it all.
"I gave myself that goal, just to keep my mind off of it," the 27-year-old Halifax native says.
Cantley will be in Whistler on Friday, April 1, as part of LUNA's Feeling Nuts? to discuss the film, Ballsy, and to provide education about the disease through a stand-up comedy routine.
"I just want men to be more aware of their bodies and to know about it, but also be proactive. Don't just look at something or listen but actually follow through," he says.
When Cantley was diagnosed last year, the cancer had advanced to stage four. As a hobby while recovering from surgery to remove 127 cancerous lymph nodes, he started researching the disease and its impacts and found that there was very little information available about early warning signs and symptoms, and few support organization for young men suffering from it. The ones that exist are either massive organizations or very small ones run by mothers - none of which are run by men who have been through it themselves.
Cantley started the Ballsy Cancer Society, based in Halifax, to fill that void. Active for only one year, it is now rated number one for testicular cancer awareness through cancer societies around the world.
"I'm there as a phone line," he says. "People call me all the time. A guy just called me who's going through the same process, asking, 'What's going to happen now? What's going to happen to my body?' I'm there for them in that respect."
His goal through his stand-up comedy, through his film and through the cancer society is to educate. Males aged 13 to 27 are the most common age for diagnosis and have a survival rate of 96 per cent survival rate if detected early. Doctors told Cantley he'd had the cancer for over two years and it had progressed far enough that he would have to be monitored for the rest of his life
He went through 27 script revisions for the film Ballsy and will add a final element to it, which he will film this summer. Cantley's original plan was to roll a big white ball across Canada as a media hook for people to take notice, but has now switched gears to something "even crazier," though he says he's unable to divulge all the details at this time.
Cantley is currently harnessing the power of social networking to get one million people to donate one dollar each to help finance the film. He says a bank has offered to match that million, which he will donate to a research program at the University of Alberta that ceased in 1992 but developed two drugs but that can treat testicular cancer without patients having to go through chemotherapy.