Sarah Fisher starred in the role of a lifetime as her late best friend Carley Allison, a singer and an aspiring Olympic figure skater, in the 2017 film Kiss and Cry.
Carley Allison has a motto: “Always smile.” It’s how this singer and figure skater lived each and every one of her days despite being diagnosed with cancer.
It was in high school when her best friend Sarah Fisher, star of the hit series Degrassi: The Next Generation, was in awe when she spotted her for the first time—onstage, strumming her guitar and belting out a tune at Toronto’s Bayview Glen high school lunch-hour open mic.
The two became best friends after an introduction via a mutual connection.
“A very close friend of mine was friends with Carley’s older sister, Riley, so when Carley came to Bayview Glen (our high school), my friend introduced us, and we became friends very quickly,” Sarah says. “After I graduated, I had decided to take a gap year, this is when Carley and I became really close. Every moment with that girl is memorable!”
At the age of 17 she was diagnosed with clear-cell sarcoma of the trachea—a condition that affects one in 3.5 billion people.
Carley was the second ever recorded case in the history of modern medicine. She required a tracheostomy tube to speak, sing and breathe due to a golf ball-sized tumour lodged in her throat.
For almost a year before her diagnosis, Carley and her family thought the she had asthma. After a visit to the doctor, they discovered that she was breathing through a 2mm trachea due to the obstruction of the tumour. It was also the reason why she was wheezing and that she was not getting any relief from Ventolin.
“The hardest thing I have gone through during this process is realizing that, no matter how much I want to be a normal teenager, sometimes that is impossible,” she says in an interview with Post City Toronto.
Carley’s friend Natasha Puri, entrepreneur, global health advocate and Huffington Post contributor, noticed how cancer affected her friend.
“Carley went from searching prom dresses to treatments that could cure her,” Puri says. “Instead of planning for grad trips and senior events, she was travelling for treatments.”
She spent ten days in the hospital. When she returned home, she also returned to her love of music; posting cover songs on YouTube—tracheostomy tube and all.
The talented singer shared her own rendition of One Direction’s “More Than This.” The video attracted attention from Selena Gomez. She tweeted to Carley her own message of support. It was retweeted 7,554 times and received 5,532 likes. Media outlets picked up Carley’s story whilst more and more people from around the world began offering praise and encouragement to the young YouTube star.
There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
What I admire about Carley was that even though her health was severely compromised by cancer she still found opportunities to help others. She used her platform to create awareness about sarcomas whilst raising thousands of dollars for research and treatment. Right before she was going to have her first chemotherapy session, she donated her hair so that someone else could feel beautiful.
“It was a big step for me to cut all my hair off. I really like my long blonde hair,” she says with a soft laugh in an interview with The Star. “But, you know, I was going to lose it anyways … It was really, really great to have everyone with us.”
In July 2013 she underwent surgery to remove the tumour as well as two inches from her trachea. The surgery was performed by world renowned neck surgeon Patrick Gullane (Order of Canada).
It wasn’t long before she was speaking, singing and figure skating again. Tests showed that Carley was in remission which enabled her to begin attending classes at Queen’s University.
On November 2014, Carley was honoured to sing the national anthem at the Air Canada Centre for the NHL’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” game.
“People were crying. It was pretty moving, one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen,” said Glen Healy, a former hockey player turned broadcaster.
Life is not a race or a competition. People are more than just a collection of cells and atoms. We are human beings with hopes and dreams for the future.
A press release was made Tuesday morning of the following week indicating that Carley had passed away. She was 19 years old.
Much in the same way that Shakespeare immortalised the ones he loved through poetry and storytelling, Carley’s story was immortalised in the 2017 film Kiss and Cry.
“In 2015 I was in a movie called Full Out that the talented, Sean Cisterna had directed and produced, we had such a great time working together and Sean had told me at the premiere in San Diego, California that he was available to work on a new project if I was interested. I knew if I was going to tell a story I wanted to tell one that inspired people and of course, one story stood out. I spoke about it with my mom at the dinner table and she mentioned telling Carley’s story. I spoke with Carley’s remarkable family to see if this was something they were interested in. I then worked on my first pitch with my brother, Hugh Fisher who is an incredible writer, pitched the idea to Sean, and the rest is history.”
Ten months later they began filming with Sarah playing the role of her late best friend. Carley’s parents, Mark and May, and sisters, Riley and Samantha worked with the cast and crew to provide assistance.
“Opening our home to 40 – 50 people for six days was an emotional roller coaster ride for us,” explains Carley’s mother May. “But we knew that Carley would have loved us to share her story. We hope that Kiss and Cry will give people, no matter their challenges, the courage to live boldly.”
After she passed away, the Allison family thought of sending thank you cards to Carley’s friends and the people that supported her during her journey. “So, on screen you will see her real friends at the school, the prom, the party,” notes her older sister Riley.
I asked Sarah “What did you discover about yourself during the making of Kiss and Cry?” She responded with:
“That I believe in magic. Every single day on set was magic. Car was there, and I believe everyone, cast and crew, felt her bright, infectious glow.”
Carley was both an artist and an athlete. She combined both of these elements through her figure skating.
Sarah worked with Riley and Carley’s coaches to, “help me learn how to be graceful on the ice,” she says. “I learned some tricks, but the most important part was that I looked comfortable and confidant on the ice. Our wonderful skate double NAILED it when it came to all of the hard stuff!”
Carley and her boyfriend John saw The Fault In Our Stars. She criticised that movie because the lead character remained beautiful throughout the movie.
A previous guest on my blog Angel Giuffria, Hollywood amputee actress, has spoken about how accurate representation of people with a medical condition in movies is important not just for storytelling but for conveying the true representation of the condition.
The cast and crew of Kiss and Cry had this in mind during the making of the film.
“We had a great Medical Consultant, Lindsay Somers who came on set to help us represent Carley’s condition in the most accurate way possible. It was very important for us to make it as real as we could,” Sarah says.
Sarah had the opportunity of a lifetime to star as her late best friend. “My view on life has changed because of Carley. In so many ways. She was born with that glow, the Carley Allison glow that will forever light up this world.”
Always remember that happiness is the true return on investment, not a mansion or a fast car. Create the life that you want.
You know what is just as rare as the type of cancer Carley was diagnosed with? Being born as a human being! The chances are 400 trillion to one. Look deep within your heart and go in search of what skills, talents and passions you have that you can offer the rest of the world.
Carley’s Angels foundation provides financial assistance to Canadian families with children who require life-saving cancer treatments.
If you loved this article I encourage you to share this with a friend, colleague, or family member who you think would find enormous value from this as well.
Use #dimesfromheaven on social media whenever you find a dime. You can learn more about the initiative here.
Connect with Sarah and Carley’s Angels on social media
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