CAF Story | Ruck for the Cure

Video / January 27, 2022


(AN) I did almost hit that wall. You start to question yourself if you want to keep continuing and going on. My little brother Sean Niles, at the age of four months, was diagnosed with infantile acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is a cancer that affects the bone marrow and the blood. After receiving three years of treatment, we were informed by the doctors and nurses that there's nothing else they can do, and they gave him approximately 30 more days to live. Obviously, this was quite devastating for both myself and my family. You have a lot of questions going through your mind about how this isn't fair, how someone so young, so innocent could be taken away from you.

I reached out to the Regional Healthcare team to talk about my idea behind doing Ruck for a Cure. I always knew that the goal was to raise $30,000. The goal was to carry 30 lbs, as that was the number of days my little brother was given to live. I'm very thankful that the Regional Healthcare team, they were very in support of this idea, but almost like it was an act of faith. When I discovered the distance between Canadian Forces Base Borden and the Regional Healthcare Centre, it was 30 km. So, that sort of tied into the theme unintentionally. But again, it almost spoke towards how it was almost meant to be. When I first left 16 Wing for my Ruck for a Cure, the Wing Commander at 16 Wing and the Wing Chief Warrant Officer joined and led me towards the halfway point of base. Wherein the deputy commander, the wing SWOL, took over and brought me to the end of the base. This could get quite difficult, though. I'd say around the 20 km mark is when you start hitting that wall. Once you hit the city of Barrie and going uphill, in your mind, you're going "Can I finish this? Is this something I want to keep doing? It might just be easier to quit." But cancer doesn't stop for anything and neither can I, neither should I. I have responsibility to raise money to finish this journey so that other people can be inspired in some ways to keep going, just as I have to keep going.

As we got towards the Regional Cancer Centre and saw that approaching through over a kilometer away, multiple members from 16 Wing were waiting for me, and more importantly, my little brother was there waiting for me so he could walk with me. Luckily, he is alive and well, happy, healthy, and with us. It was an experimental form of chemotherapy that was being tested in the United States at the time. He did qualify for it. It reduced the percentage of cancer cells and allowed for a successful bone marrow transplant. But I always knew in my heart that I'm lucky that my little brother is still alive, but not everyone out there is as lucky.

The emotional burden, the physical burden of the Ruck was taken away from me. It was amazing. I'm just so happy and thankful that everyone, whether be from 16 Wing, the members of community, or the Regional Healthcare Centre personnel, they were there to support me. I'm so thankful for everything they do, every day. You sort of process that this is a possibility that you're going to be strong, there's no way you're going to cry, but the emotions just take through, and you just do your best not to bawl your eyes out while you continue on.

My name is Lt. Aaron Niles, I'm a Public Affairs Officer at 16 Wing. Despite the fact that Ruck for a Cure is over, I have an innate responsibility to do good in this world, to give back to the community. We should always strive to be nice, but never fail to be kind, because even the smallest acts of kindness can change someone's life forever.

NOTE: Wing SWOL” SWOL is the military abbreviation for senior warrant officer

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