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Adam Coules (left) with the love of his life, Nicole (right). (Photo: The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation)
Adam Coules was 22-years-old when he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Coules had earned a black belt in Jiu Jitsu by age 13, coached junior hockey, and maintained an active and healthy lifestyle. The Coules family had raised a bright and ambitious young man.
Looking every bit the picture of health, Coules was studying business in university and beginning an internship at a prestigious accounting firm. He was also very much in love with his girlfriend, Nicole.
But Coules and his loved ones experienced something terrifying right before the holiday season. Coules had a seizure.
Rushed to the emergency room at Toronto General Hospital for initial care, Coules was transferred to Toronto Western Hospital for further investigation. His medical team identified a large tumour in his brain that required immediate surgery for removal.
Following the procedure, Coules was referred to the Gerry & Nancy Pencer Brain Tumor Centre at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
It was confirmed that he had cancer.
Despite the challenges of facing cancer at such a young age, Coules continued with his university education and finished his internship. His colleagues nicknamed him "Wolverine" for his unstoppable attitude and bravery.
"We do see a number of young people, but there aren't very many patients like Adam," said Maureen Daniels, Clinical Coordinator of the Pencer Brain Tumor Centre. Daniels is one of the many valued staff members who supported Coules and his family during his battle with the disease.
"Adam was a tall, strapping young guy who had a glow about him. He had this very positive attitude," Daniels added.
This year, Coules' family is dedicating a Dove from The Princess Margaret's annual
Doves of Hope campaign in his honour. Thankful for the compassionate care they received, they have chosen to give back by supporting the highest priorities driving Personalized Cancer Medicine through the annual program.
The paper Dove featured in the campaign is the same type of Dove that Coules and Nicole hung on their holiday tree before he passed away last year at age 28.
"Nicole told me that Adam would come a couple of hours before his appointment, and sit in our quiet space [at the Pencer Centre]. Sometimes he would come just to have a conversation with one of us," said Daniels.
"Our whole program is meant to provide a full range of support. Not just the important medical piece, but the psychosocial aspect as well. And I think Adam—like he did with everything—did a good job of making use of those supports to help himself."
Through an intensive schedule of radiation therapy at The Princess Margaret's comprehensive cancer program, Coules found that the cancer treatment was working. His tumour stabilized and he was able to live life freely again.
Having maintained an outstanding 4.0 grade point average during his cancer treatment, Coules graduated with moving success. With his cancer in remission, Coules took the opportunity to travel with Nicole before pursuing his dream of becoming a pastry chef.
Coules attended Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts School before landing his dream job at an upscale restaurant in Toronto as a pastry chef.
On the first day of his new job, however, Coules had another seizure.
With the likelihood of another seizure, it was not safe for him to work in a kitchen. He returned to accounting and braced himself for several rounds of chemotherapy.
"It's hard when you're faced with [cancer] as a young person," said Daniels. "You don't have a lot of life experience, and there's a lot of remorse over the fact that what you had planned isn't likely to roll out the way you expected it would. But Adam was never like that. He would say, 'Well okay, let's get on with things and do what we have to do.'"
Knowing the preciousness of life, Coules surprised Nicole with a romantic proposal as soon as he was cleared to leave the hospital. Their wedding date was set for October 2012.
By August 2012, however, Coules' condition worsened and he required hospitalization. His family was then told that their son only had weeks to live.
Putting aside their heartbreak, the Coules family did their best to rally around him. His palliative care nurses hung photos of Coules in his prime, before the cancer treatments caused hair loss and weight gain. They wanted to know him and to acknowledge Coules as his real, vibrant self. Being treated with such dignity was exceptionally meaningful to Coules and his family.
On August 31, 2012, Coules passed away surrounded by his loved ones.
Honouring Adam's legacy
"Adam's story is not about 'poor Adam'. Rather, it's 'look at this remarkable young guy who we got to share, for not a very long time, but for a very special time," said Daniels.
"He and his family have done an amazing job of carrying on with his legacy. They have been generous and dignified—really just wanting to make something positive out of their own terrible tragedy."
This year, Coules' family will be dedicating their dove in memory of their beloved son, brother, fiancé and friend. Last year, nearly 12,000 doves were hung in the atrium of The Princess Margaret.
By raising funds and awareness through the
Doves of Hope campaign, Coule's family wishes to give others hope for the full life that their loved one could not have.
Doves can be picked up at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation kiosk in the main lobby of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Or, you can create an online Dove tribute page. To create a Dove page or give a Dove donation, go to
The annual Doves of Hope dedication ceremony will be held on December 11, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. in the Princess Margaret atrium. All are welcome to join.