By Guy Djandji
Jacques Eddé was a 24 year-old law student when he was diagnosed with cancer – Hodgkin’s, stage three. He underwent surgery just one week after writing his bar exam for admission to the legal profession, and then from May to October 2008, endured six months of chemotherapy. His life was turned upside down. Several months later, he had a recurrence, necessitating more surgery in 2009. If you think that these struggles left him devastated, demoralized or destroyed, you don’t know Jacques Eddé – he is a fighter and a force of nature!
Today, Jacques is a lawyer with one of Montreal’s most prestigious law firms, enjoying good health and an active, enriching social life. Despite his busy schedule, he is a committed Hope & Cope volunteer, motivated by his desire to guide and accompany young adults coping with cancer. Having undergone similar trials and tribulations, he understands their fears and concerns. “During those nights in my hospital room, I was wracked by anxiety and despair. For me, this psychological distress was even worse than the physical pain of cancer. It’s the worst enemy.”
At the time, his distress was compounded by isolation – none of his peer group had experienced cancer. Determined to reduce the distress of other young adults, once he was in remission, Jacques signed on as a peer mentor with Hope & Cope. In this capacity, he provides a listening ear and also serves as a role model – a cancer survivor who surmounted the many challenges of diagnosis and treatment.
As Jacques explains, he chose volunteering because, “I wanted to do more than sign a cheque and make a donation. I really wanted to contribute my time and share my experiences. Despite everything, I feel lucky and privileged. It’s very rewarding to know that I can help people by reducing their stress. I’ve received a lot – it’s natural for me to give back.”
Jacques contacts patients either by phone or meets them face to face. His excellent listening skills, his availability, and his innate understanding of what they may be going through because he walked a similar path make him an ideal peer mentor for young adult patients. Above all, he is able to reassure them and to answer their questions, from the most personal to the existential. He uses simple language that goes to the heart of the challenge of illness; “It sucks!”
Jacques Eddé radiates the confidence, quiet energy and optimism that were important ingredients to his own healing. “Hope is the best remedy,” he concludes.