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Dancer Overcomes Cancer and Vows to Help Others

Dancer Overcomes Cancer and Vows to Help Others

(February 1, 2000)

Lance Relland has the grades, the test scores and the lifelong doctoring dream to fit into the competitive Biomedical Sciences Program at the University of California, Riverside. What sets him apart is a life story that includes professional ballet and a diagnosis of a life-threatening cancer.

Relland, soft-spoken and meticulous, was a promising dancer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school in Manitoba, Canada when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease that is usually fatal.

Since his cancer diagnosis and successful treatment in the U.S., Relland has spoken on behalf of a host of causes that raise money for experimental cancer treatments, or encourage bone marrow typing and registry, especially for people who have aboriginal ancestors.

His is a story that includes early accomplishments, a fierce and ongoing legal battle over health care with the Alberta Health system, a year-long episode of radiation treatments and a bone marrow transplant from a brother, and a decision to become a doctor and help others battle illness.

His story also contains irony, because Relland now believes that his initial diagnosis may have been based on the wrong bone marrow sample. "I'm not sure we'll ever know for sure," he said.

A celebrity in Edmonton, Canada, Relland keeps newspaper articles that trumpet his acceptance to UCR's accelerated Biomed program, a partnership with UCLA that offers a medical degree in seven years instead of eight.

True to form, Relland, 20, wants to get through even faster, making up the time he lost during his cancer treatments. A look at his three-page r?um?shows that he is capable of the extraordinary.

At 13, he launched a successful non-profit foundation that is still providing arts outreach programs to underprivileged youth. He is fluent in English, French and Czech. He was named best male line-dancer in a Nashville competition and was Canada's national champion in the Red River Jig, a dance of his father's Cree ancestors. He sang in the chorus of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, backing up Donny Osmond; and he excelled in both school and ballet.

"He's just one of those unusual ones you come across once in a while, said Jean Sherwood, Relland's guidance counselor at the Minnesota high school where he finished high school during his treatment. "I fully expect him to be someone famous someday."

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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