Life’s work of talented B.C. sculptor leads to leukemia

  • Jun. 18, 2019 6:30 p.m.
Luke Stalker-Switzer refines the sculpture of Chucky’s face, main antagonist in the Child’s Play thriller/slasher film series. (Photo contributed)
The Baron Afanas (actor Doug Jones) from the hit series, What We Do In the Shadows. Sculpt/design by Luke Stalker-Switzer, concept by Todd Masters, and many artists of the MFX crew helped bring this ancient vampire some life. (Masters FX photo)
Luke Stalker-Switzer lies on the floor ready to puppeteer during test footage for the film Skyscraper. (Masters FX photo)

Barb Brouwer, Contributor

Artist Luke Stalker-Switzer is no longer letting his work get under his skin.

Two years ago, the talented 31-year-old was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a type of cancer for which there is no cure, but for which remission is a possibility.

As a sculptor working in the television and movie industry for more than a decade, Stalker-Switzer experienced daily exposure to products containing benzene.

“They call CML the worker’s cancer and one of the leading causes is benzene. It’s in plastics, resins, industrial solvents and it’s something I was always around,” he said, calling it shocking that many dangerous chemicals whose side effects are often ignored or unknown are used daily.

“To a certain degree, I knew there were dangers. I always wore a respirator but didn’t wear gloves because I didn’t want to lose my (sense of) touch. But people need to know it can get through your skin.”

Stalker-Switzer knew something was serious when his doctor called him at night two years ago and told him to come to his office the next day, only to call back near midnight and tell him to go to the ER right away.

“I was more scared I had MS because my dad has primary progressive MS and I watched him lose his ability to do art,” said the 2006 Salmon Arm Secondary grad who now lives in the Lower Mainland.

READ MORE: Face to Face

READ MORE: Challenging perspectives of reality

READ MORE: Shuswap karate instructor doubles for Hollywood’s big stars

Despite being in pain most of the time, and feeling weak and nauseated from the chemo drugs, Switzer-Stalker continued to work.

Self-employed as owner and operator of Creature Vault, he was concerned about losing his job with Masters FX, a company that produces character effects for film, television and other media.

But owner Todd Masters assured him the company would find work for him when his illness prevented him from going to the studio.

Ever the optimist, Stalker-Switzer said he looked at his illness as an opportunity to learn a new skill set and used the time to study digital design and digital sculpting.

READ MORE: 2017 – Riverdale star recounts working with Meghan Markle in B.C.

READ MORE: Kelowna actress sues over facial injury

Meanwhile, determined do what he could to ensure safety and good health among his employees, Masters implemented changes in the Burnaby studio. They included switching to an organic and environmentally friendly chemical that meets the company’s requirements.

While he’s feeling well right now and taking baby steps to get back to playing and coaching basketball, Stalker-Switzer may be on chemo drugs for the rest of his life.

Back in the studio, he said it was hard to learn his art was making him sick. So now he wears a powered respirator and protective covering, including gloves.

“It’s a small price to pay for doing something I love,” he said, excited his work will be featured in Child’s Play, the latest thriller/slasher film featuring the character Chucky, a movie “loaded with special effects that really bring a toy to life” and opens in theatres on June 21.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Prince Rupert’s ferry issue is a North Coast issue, MLA Rice

Prince Rupert not alone in fight to save ferry to Ketchikan: Alaskan Rep. Ortiz

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

Power restored to 120,000 customers after northern B.C. transmission failure

Lightning is suspected to be the cause of the outage, says BC Hydro

Nuxalk Nation installs traditional stop signs

The signs are intended to encourage daily use of the language

Malakai Andy sets sail to Junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers hockey team

Andy is from the Nuxalk Nation and Williams Lake Indian Band

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Most Read