How Harry Potter gave Kurtis Kelly the strength to get through cancer

Kurtis Kelly's life changed abruptly when he was 14 and went to the doctor complaining about a pain in his leg.

'To me they're actually lifesavers'

Kurtis Kelly has had a lot of support to get through his battle with cancer. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Kurtis Kelly's life changed abruptly when he was 14 and went to the doctor complaining about a pain in his leg.

The pain had been lingering there for months. The doctor ordered X-rays, and the very next day he was sent to the IWK in Halifax. The X-rays showed cancer in a bone in his left leg.

"At that age you don't really understand the full severity of it," said Kelly.

"All you really know is that you're going to go through a really tough time."

That tough time was made easier by the Children's Wish Foundation, which soon after his diagnosis sent him to England to meet the cast of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which was being filmed at the time.

"It was a life-changing experience," he said.

"I know a lot of people only look at those actors as people that made the Harry Potter films, but to me they're actually lifesavers because they gave me the strength to get through a really tough time in my life."

That tough time would last for years. There were painful test procedures, chemotherapy that caused serious mood swings, and complications from surgery.

Long-lasting complications

When he was 19, with complications continuing, he made the difficult decision to have his left leg amputated.

But the trouble did not stop there. One complication he suffered from was seizures, and he had one as he was being fitted for a prosthetic leg. He broke his hip, and has never been able to get comfortable with the prosthetic.

Kurtis Kelly has a tattoo featuring the Canadian Cancer Society daffodil to commemorate his struggle. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

He now uses a wheelchair to get around.

It was a dark time, he remembers, but while he didn't know it at the time he had hit the bottom and was on the path to recovery, both physically and emotionally.

Crucial supports

Kelly credits the support not only of Children's Wish, but of the Canadian Cancer Society and counsellors at the IWK. He recalls in particular the advice of one counsellor.

"Feelings aren't something that are easily controlled, but actions are," he said.

"I started changing my daily routines and getting out of that rut one day at a time. Now I still live by a philosophy to accomplish something at least once a day."

More recently Kelly has become a spokesman for the Canadian Cancer Society, and this Friday will take part in the Relay for Life at Confederation Landing in Charlottetown.

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With files from Island Morning