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)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)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)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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department emergency response vehicle. (PQB News file photo)
Dashwood fire department issues warning to residents to hold off on yard debris burning

Fire chief: ‘Hold off on burning until we get some rain’

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Vandals strike in Parksville, prowler lurks in Nanoose Bay

Oceanside RCMP receive 276 complaints in one-week period

Cheryl Dill visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: Talking jobs, tourism and business with Cheryl Dill in Parksville

Podcast: COVID-19 has far-reaching impacts on Vancouver Island

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read