Carley’s voice lives on

Despite illness she was determined to be a Queen’s student, even only for one year

Carley singing the national anthem at a Toronto Maple Leafs game.
Credit: 
Supplied

Although a rare cancer took the life of 19-year-old Carley Elle Allison, it could never take away her voice.

A singer, an athlete and a determined fighter against the cancer in her body, Allison’s friends and family say she didn’t let a second diagnosis stop her from anything, including becoming a Queen’s student in the final year of her life.

On June 13, Queen’s Gaels joined Carley’s close friends and family in the eighth annual Ride to Conquer Cancer. They joined as members of Carley’s Angels — the team Carley created.

In the opening ceremony, a recording of Carley singing the National Anthem was played to 4,853 riders and a crowd of supporters. The recording of the teen, who passed away in March this year after a second battle with clear cell sarcoma, came after a tribute to her by her father Mark Allison.

It isn’t the first time Carley’s vocals have made headlines. On Oct. 24, 2014, Carley sang the National Anthem at a Queen’s hockey game in support of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. The event raised nearly $15,000 to support the Cancer Foundation.

 

“Singing was just such a huge part of her life,” her older sister Riley said. “It took her one week to talk [after the tracheotomy], and within hours, she was singing.”

Carley became a part of the Queen’s community after she was declared in remission of her first cancer diagnosis in July of 2013. After taking a year off, Carley accepted her offer to study in the Faculty of Arts and Science in fall 2014.

Queen’s was the right place for Carley, according to Riley. Several of her friends and her boyfriend, Ioannis Servinis, ArtSci ’17 — goes by “John” — were already at Queen’s, she said.

“It was just a beautiful place. She fell in love with the campus, the atmosphere ... she just loved it.”

 About a year before she arrived at Queen’s, Carley found herself in the media spotlight.

In a February 2013 YouTube video, Carley sang One Direction’s “More Than This” just over a week after she had an emergency surgery on her trachea. The video went viral, and as of June 2 it had over 60,000 views.

Riley said Carley received an overwhelming number of supportive messages from strangers — mothers and children alike — after posting the video.  She said she still thinks about the bravery of her sister every day.

“She saw giving up as weak, and that wasn’t her. She was filled with determination. She was a fighter, a force to be reckoned with. She would just go big,” she said.

“If you were at the cottage with her, she would be the one to jump off the highest cliff.”

Carley’s time at Queen’s was difficult. Lyndsay Reddick, a friend of Carley’s since elementary school, said Carley was re-diagnosed about a week before move-in day.

“She just kind of looked at her family and said, ‘I already took a year off, and I’m not letting this stop me. I’m going to university.’ So, they packed up all her stuff and moved her in,” Reddick said.

Carley participated in Frosh Week events to the best of her ability, according to Reddick, and made new friends on her floor. But her health began to deteriorate within the first few weeks of classes. After switching her classes to online correspondent courses, Carley was forced to return home.

 

Since the cancer’s return in August 2014, Carley balanced treatment with classes. She was taking oral chemotherapy while she was at Queen’s, which made her dizzy and nauseous. She battled through it with the support of her boyfriend.

Carley visited Servinis in his residence at Queen’s during her gap year. Servinis said she likely spent more time at Queen’s visiting him than when she was enrolled as a student.

“My floor really got to know her, and my bathroommate and his girlfriend would often go on double dates with us when she was visiting,” Servinis said.

Servinis began dating Carley in May 2013 and remained by her side for almost two years throughout her treatment. 

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” he said. “It’s hard not to be there, when you fall for someone like her.”

 

In Carley’s memory, the Allison family has established a charity in her name — The Carley’s Angels Foundation. The foundation aims to make alternative treatments available to children fighting life-threatening conditions. 

 

The article previously named the Princess Margaret Hospital as the beneficiary of a Queen's hockey game. Although the hospital was once called the Princess Margaret Hospital, the hospital changed its name to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre last year. The article has been altered to reflect the new name.

The Journal regrets the error.

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