Remembering the best compliment ever

Arnold Lim on junior rider Lucas Wetklo and the effect the seven-year-old’s story had on him as he rides the 2017 Tour de Rock.

People say nice things to each other all the time.

In the business of journalism, I’ve gotten a taste of both sides, everything from a “human cockroach” preying on the “misery of others,” to unmentionables I can’t write in this article. But while riding the Tour de Rock this year, I heard the kindest words directed at me in my life.

My story begins with discovering 4-year-old Lucas Wetklo, his father Mike and mother Karen in 2013.

Lucas was a junior rider scheduled to spend time with the riders, escorting the Tour de Rock, but he never made it. His cancer had returned, his family had to cancel, so instead of turning on sirens on a police car, he was undergoing another treatment regime at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

One year later however, Lucas was healthy enough after beating cancer for the second time. I remember him running around with a Tour de Rock hat, a blue t-shirt and a grey jacket, carrying a stuffed toy and hanging out on police motorcycles and the lead police car. I took several photographs of Lucas that day, as I look back over them, he was smiling, playing, tugging at the hearts of the riders and loving life in every single one.

Showing off a bright yellow Tour de Rock logo on his right cheek at a park in Nanaimo, you could hardly tell he suffered from clear cell sarcoma; a cancer attacking his kidney. But despite several rounds of chemotherapy and treatment, the cancer that spread from his kidney and then to his cheekbone, had spread to his brain. It was terminal. Doctors didn’t recommend another bout with chemo, this time his treatment was based not on battling the cancer, but making life comfortable for him. In 2015 at the age of seven he passed away.

READ MORE: Follow the 2017 Tour de Rock

Two years after his passing, his younger brother Owen is following in his footsteps, a junior rider with the Tour de Rock.

Owen is laughing, smiling and riding in the same police car his brother rode and played in three years before, he is almost the splitting image of his brother, one time I almost called him Lucas.

His father Mike is here, just like he was before, smiling, watching over his son. I can barely make eye contact with him because every time I look at him my heart explodes. Being a father of a young son, I am breaking down as we talk. I can barely control myself, and Mike is crying with me. He tells me when he looks at me, he “sees his son.”

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to capture a handful of Lucas’ smiling moments, especially for the family. This is the single most moving compliment I have ever received.

The truth is, despite his kind words, I wish I had never met Mike. Don’t get me wrong, he might be the kindest, most gentle men I have ever met. But I wish he was never involved in the Tour de Rock and his son would never have been a junior rider. My loss, his gain, because it would mean that his son Lucas, who passed away at the age of seven, was still alive.

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