Langara Cancer Connection co-founder determined to make a difference

Pourya Eslami didn’t always want to be an oncologist.

Having studied international business and management in Amsterdam, his interest in medicine moved him, and then his family from Iran, to Canada two years ago so he could follow that path. His father — a doctor — continues dividing time between Vancouver and Iran treating patients.

Now in his second year studying biology at Langara, 21-year-old Eslami filled out papers to form the Langara Cancer Connection last summer. It initiated with purpose, which was to honour his

Photo -- Owen Munro: Pourya Eslami, a second year Langara biology student, talks about co-founding the Langara Cancer Connection and how it inevitably helped him cope with his mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer last fall.

Photo — Owen Munro: Pourya Eslami, a second year Langara biology student, talks about co-founding the Langara Cancer Connection and how it inevitably helped him cope with his mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer last fall.

grandfather who passed away from colon cancer.

When Eslami speaks, slightly accented and soft-spoken, he does it fondly.

“After my grandfather died of cancer, I don’t think anyone should die from a disease,” he said.

Getting the wheels in motion

Ready to hand in the papers to finalize his application, Eslami was excited about bringing together a group of people affected by cancer. The club was meaningful to him, and it would mean something to others to have a supportive group.

It was there he met Zijun Wang, a brain cancer survivor.

According to Eslami, Wang said, “‘I’m interested and am also a survivor of cancer, so let’s be co-founders.”

He agreed.

It wasn’t just for his grandfather anymore. Eslami notes Wang’s experience beating the disease would be incredibly valuable.

The club, which has approximately 110 members, discuss their experiences and hosts guest speakers to talk about awareness, among other things.

“Our first event was hosting a Terry Fox run on campus, which was in September, after we established the club,” Eslami said.

Shocked with devastating news

Yet nothing prepared Eslami for the news. A week after the club’s foundation, his mother, Mahnaz Nazeranpour, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Furrowing his brow, it’s evident that day is is still fresh in Eslami’s mind.

“I was baffled,” he said. “ I couldn’t digest it in my mind.”

While in the middle of writing exams and involvement with the club, Eslami, broke the news to his family, including his father, who was back in Iran for work.

“I had to keep myself together, at least for [my mom],” he said, adding he relied on the club, Zijun Wang, and support of other friends.  “Zijun was really helpful. She gave me hope, and I transferred that to my mom.”

Paula Porta met Eslami in 2013 and was a huge support for Eslami during that time.

“I think it’s very easy for us to succumb to negativity when life doesn’t really go the way we wished it did,” she said.

After chemotherapy sessions, Nazeranpour is cancer-free, but her recovery hasn’t stopped Eslami from continuing to raise awareness.

Determined to put a stop to cancer

“I think it’s really just a shame that someone dies like that,” he said. “Because cancer is just like other diseases, it has a cause and can be prevented.”

As a future oncologist, Eslami is determined now more than ever to make a difference.

“By cancer awareness, or finding a cure, hopefully we can stop it,” he said. “I want to be a part of a team that is finding a cure.”

Pourya Eslami talks about wanting to find a cure for cancer.

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