Lee Hayes Scholarship

Lee was born in Duncan on January 5, 1979. He grew up as the youngest of three in his family in the Cowichan Valley. As a little boy, he was a wild and crazy bike rider and earned his share of cuts and bruises tearing up the driveway with his brother and sister. He built tree forts, rafts and birdhouses. Lee loved the water and when not ‘building’ on land, was in or on the water running a dinghy or being pulled behind a powerboat. He was a beaver, cub and briefly, to use Lee’s words, “a piano playing person”. He loved computer games, videos, music, and sleepovers with his friends.

In junior high school years, Lee played on school and community sports teams: swimming, field hockey, soccer and rugby. Though he skied well as a child, snowboarding was one of his favourite sports from his early teen years onwards. In the pool, he earned his Bronze Cross and went on to complete his life guard designation. He sailed in the summer sailing programs and completed his Silver Sails Level IV in Laser class sailing. In high school, Lee started to row with his local rowing club. He won many medals including a novice provincial title in his first year, and provincial gold and sixth place in national Championship Competition as part of a lightweight crew in his last year. He also worked part time doing filing and mail deliveries after school at his Dad’s accounting office. In later years, he worked at a farm market, first doing stocking, then taking orders and doing truck deliveries. During these years, he found out about being a team player and leader while working with many types of people. He was happy at work and was liked by staff and clients of all ages.

Lee was always a keen and dedicated student. He knew how to work. He never found school easy and worked hard at it. He didn’t enjoy reading. From an early age, he would apply himself more diligently than anyone else he knew, often with a great deal of worry about the outcome. The year that he graduated from high school, he applied for all of the scholarships and bursaries that he was eligible for. Unfortunately, though he was on the honour role, his grades were not high enough for the scholarships and he was not seen as needy enough for the bursaries. For this reason financial need was not one of the criteria that Lee wanted as a basis for receiving this award.

Lee’s acceptance into UVic and later into commerce, were occasions for celebration with his girlfriend and his family. He loved what he was doing. His favourite area was finance and he hoped to work in this field for his coop placements, and as a financial planner when he had completed his degree. In fact, in a first year business class, he was offered a job with a financial planning group following his mock interview. He had had a fair amount of exposure to business culture while growing up.

Lee got sick on February 20, 2000. Some minor problems with his breathing took him to a walk-in clinic before going up to Mt. Washington for a few days over reading break. He was diagnosed on February 23, 2000 at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria when some fluid from his lung was found to contain cancer cells. Within 3 days his diagnosis was defined as Burkett’s Lymphoma/Leukemia and he was undergoing chemotherapy on the leukemia ward at Vancouver General Hospital. Over the next 8 weeks, Lee underwent the whole course of treatments, was briefly in remission from his cancer and on the bone marrow transplant list. The transplant was days away when his cancer returned. He could have chosen to prolong his life by opting for more chemotherapy—pushing for a quick remission, then transplant. But the chemotherapy drugs were not working well by then and may have offered him time that he would have felt too unwell to enjoy. He was offered ongoing therapy in Vancouver General Hospital, but he knew that he might live a little longer, but would die in that hospital. He was told that if he decided to stop any further chemotherapy, he might have up to 2 weeks to live. This was his choice. He wanted to come home.

He lived for 12 days and died on April 25, 2000. He was 21 years and 4 months old. During his illness and throughout the many harrowing experiences of cancer treatment—not withstanding the nausea and vomiting—Lee did not lose hope, his sense of humour or his integrity. During his illness he had decided to do everything that he possibly could to make it work. When he chose to come home to die, he kept to this plan. In those last 2 weeks at home, he never complained, expressed self-pity or asked the impossible questions of “why?” or “Why me?” He made it easy for all of his family and friends. He felt so well, laughed, was gracious, welcoming and funny. He told his sister that he was going to prove the doctors wrong and live longer than they said. The sun shone every day as family and friends lived with Lee or came and went, called or just dropped by for a farewell hug. People waited to visit or came back again and again to lie in his friends’ arms. There could never be a more loyal or giving friend than Lee. Even through this, and as had always been Lee’s way, was his acceptance of the task at hand and his plan to do his very best with it.

This information about Lee’s life and death show a little of how Lee dealt with things. His acceptance of his lot and his ability to work towards a good outcome even under impossible circumstances help to demonstrate what a very special person he was. For this reason and above all else, this award should be given in the spirit of Lee: to a caring, striving, decent, hardworking student who weighs the honour of receiving it on equal terms with its monetary reward.

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