It started in July with a series of headaches so severe that Mackenzie Rigg knew they couldn’t be written off as an intense migraine.
At first, the 25-year-old Victoria resident was sent home from the clinic. But after the third and fourth migraine, the former UVic Vikes soccer player and 2018-19 team captain kept asking for medical help. On a Friday night, he was referred to Victoria General Hospital for a CT scan.
“Sure enough, they found a growth [in my head] the size of a small orange, so it was not great news,” said Rigg, who was with his family in Kelowna. “I literally walked into emergency and checked myself in. I was in VGH for nine days.”
The @uvicvikes soccer teams are running 270km and fundraising for @BrainTumourFdn in support of recently graduated Vike standout Mackenzie Rigg who was diagnosed this past summer with brain cancer.— UniversityOfVictoria (@uvic) October 26, 2020
👏Over $23,000 raised in the first few days!
Support 👉 https://t.co/1jopek8EIT pic.twitter.com/sNJ0ZvlPJ0
Rigg was diagnosed with Astrocytoma Grade 5. On average, 27 Canadians are diagnosed with a brain tumour each day. It put off his enrolment as a law student at the University of Calgary this fall.
He had two surgeries right away. One was to install a permanent shunt in the back of his head. It releases pressure by draining fluid down to his abdomen. Then he did six weeks of radiation in Vancouver which finished last week, a process that is still weighing on him.
“The side effects are a slow build, so the first couple weeks were a total breeze,” Rigg recalled. “As the radiation builds up the side effects come out.”
Rigg can still hang out and go for walks but is limited in the activity that he can do right now. When COVID started, he and his girlfriend Trinity Kettyls, also a Vikes soccer player, were training for an ultramarathon, planning to conquer the 49-kilometre Juan de Fuca Trail in one shot.
Instead, Kettyls has organized a massive 270-kilometre relay – 50 laps of a 5.4 km loop on Nov. 20 in Gordon Head. Fifty current Vikes have committed to running and the accompanying fundraiser for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada has already hit $46,595.
“It started with a goal of $5,000 then jumped to $10,000 because we reached $5,000 before we launched,” Rigg said. “Then we moved it to $17,000 and then $27,000, so this is the fifth time it’s been bumped.”
The significance of the 270 km relay and the now-surpassed $27,000 goal is to reflect the daily average of Canadians, 27, who are diagnosed with brain tumours.
“This event is aimed to raise awareness for brain cancer, to raise funds for brain tumour research, but most importantly to make Mackenzie feel loved and supported by his Vikes family,” Kettyls said. “He is not fighting this alone. Once a Vike, always a Vike.”
The run will be based out of the open field at James Houlihan Park. It will run south on Gordon Head Road towards Mackenzie Avenue and then turn left. It will then turn left again on to Finnerty Road which meets up with Arbutus Road, and loops back onto Gordon Head Road and Houlihan Park.
“We wanted it near UVic because of the first-year players living in residence and who don’t have cars,” Kettyls said. “And James Houlihan Park is a big open field that we can set up for the day and not bother anyone.”
The plan is for Rigg and Kettyls to run the last lap together at the end.
“The goal is now $50,000 because if we hit that then we can name a grant in my name and direct where the funds will go,” Rigg said.
To donate visit Vikes Kick Cancer at braintumour.ca/events/vikes-kick-cancer.
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