Life’s work of talented Shuswap 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)
Luke Stalker-Switzer and his best bud, Ryder. (Luke Stalker-Switzer photo)Luke Stalker-Switzer and his best bud, Ryder. (Luke Stalker-Switzer photo)
Life’s work of talented Shuswap sculptor leads to leukemia

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.

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

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kelowna OK Tire closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The business will remain closed until May 11

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Coronavirus 3D illustration. (CDC photo)
Two South Okanagan businesses closed due to COVID-19

The businesses are listed on the Interior Health website

Most Read