Life’s work of talented B.C. sculptor leads to leukemia

  • Jun. 18, 2019 6:30 p.m.
Luke Stalker-Switzer refines the sculpture of Chucky’s face, main antagonist in the Child’s Play thriller/slasher film series. (Photo contributed)
The Baron Afanas (actor Doug Jones) from the hit series, What We Do In the Shadows. Sculpt/design by Luke Stalker-Switzer, concept by Todd Masters, and many artists of the MFX crew helped bring this ancient vampire some life. (Masters FX photo)
Luke Stalker-Switzer lies on the floor ready to puppeteer during test footage for the film Skyscraper. (Masters FX photo)

Barb Brouwer, Contributor

Artist Luke Stalker-Switzer is no longer letting his work get under his skin.

Two years ago, the talented 31-year-old was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a type of cancer for which there is no cure, but for which remission is a possibility.

As a sculptor working in the television and movie industry for more than a decade, Stalker-Switzer experienced daily exposure to products containing benzene.

“They call CML the worker’s cancer and one of the leading causes is benzene. It’s in plastics, resins, industrial solvents and it’s something I was always around,” he said, calling it shocking that many dangerous chemicals whose side effects are often ignored or unknown are used daily.

“To a certain degree, I knew there were dangers. I always wore a respirator but didn’t wear gloves because I didn’t want to lose my (sense of) touch. But people need to know it can get through your skin.”

Stalker-Switzer knew something was serious when his doctor called him at night two years ago and told him to come to his office the next day, only to call back near midnight and tell him to go to the ER right away.

“I was more scared I had MS because my dad has primary progressive MS and I watched him lose his ability to do art,” said the 2006 Salmon Arm Secondary grad who now lives in the Lower Mainland.

READ MORE: Face to Face

READ MORE: Challenging perspectives of reality

READ MORE: Shuswap karate instructor doubles for Hollywood’s big stars

Despite being in pain most of the time, and feeling weak and nauseated from the chemo drugs, Switzer-Stalker continued to work.

Self-employed as owner and operator of Creature Vault, he was concerned about losing his job with Masters FX, a company that produces character effects for film, television and other media.

But owner Todd Masters assured him the company would find work for him when his illness prevented him from going to the studio.

Ever the optimist, Stalker-Switzer said he looked at his illness as an opportunity to learn a new skill set and used the time to study digital design and digital sculpting.

READ MORE: 2017 – Riverdale star recounts working with Meghan Markle in B.C.

READ MORE: Kelowna actress sues over facial injury

Meanwhile, determined do what he could to ensure safety and good health among his employees, Masters implemented changes in the Burnaby studio. They included switching to an organic and environmentally friendly chemical that meets the company’s requirements.

While he’s feeling well right now and taking baby steps to get back to playing and coaching basketball, Stalker-Switzer may be on chemo drugs for the rest of his life.

Back in the studio, he said it was hard to learn his art was making him sick. So now he wears a powered respirator and protective covering, including gloves.

“It’s a small price to pay for doing something I love,” he said, excited his work will be featured in Child’s Play, the latest thriller/slasher film featuring the character Chucky, a movie “loaded with special effects that really bring a toy to life” and opens in theatres on June 21.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Single parent resource centre continues operations in partially-condemned building

Victoria’s 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre moves back into heritage home

Townhouses on the rise in popularity in Greater Victoria

A report finds 152 townhouse units in the construction pipeline and coming onto market in 2020.

Annual Oak Bay Collector Car Festival expects 15,000 spectators

July 28 show features a pair of super cars that won prestigious awards at the Detroit Autorama show

‘More animals could have a chance:’ Victoria Humane Society in desperate need of a home

Animal rescue currently has 163 animals in foster and volunteer homes

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read