Shaan Hirani is a 15-year-old, grade-nine student with a bright future ahead of him. A scholarship recipient for the highest academic mark in 2021 and 2022, Shaan excels academically. He also shines athletically. He loves sports — especially hockey. He plays defense on the Northstars AA Quadrant Gold Team and plays on his junior high school basketball and badminton teams. In the summer, Shaan loves to camp, play soccer and bike, but what he loves most is trying new cuisine — from Japanese to Korean to spicy specialty pickles. Feed him and he’ll be there.
What may seem like an idyllic life to onlookers misses the deeper reality of Shaan’s life. His younger sister Sofia is a cancer survivor and while the high-dose radiation irradicated the cancer, it also changed her forever. Sofia lives with the lasting fallout of treatment-related side effects. She has issues with her speech, hearing, balance, motor skills, and cognition.
With only a two-year age difference, Shaan and Sofia have always been close, and he misses the sister he once knew. Their youngest sister Sonya was only two when Sofia was diagnosed, so it’s different for her. She doesn’t remember Sofia any other way. But Shaan remembers, and as the 2023 Kids Cancer Care spokeskid, he’s stepping up to share his sister’s cancer journey and his family’s long road to healing and recovery.
Despite ongoing challenges with speech, hearing and balance, Sofia is the family’s social butterfly. She loves to stay busy with her PEER exercise class through Kids Cancer Care, dance class at Bloom for kids with physical disabilities, and adaptive multi-sport class at the University of Calgary. Sofia may be quiet and soft-spoken but her presence in a room is always felt. Her smile is infectious, her determination is inspirational, and her love of others is unconditional.
Sonya is now ten and in grade five. As with her older siblings, Sonya loves to stay active. She plays ringette for the NorthWest U12A team and dances with Prestige Dance. She also enjoys cooking, basketball, badminton and art.
Although the Hirani kids lead busy active lives with school and extracurricular activities, they make time for each other to nourish their special bond. Shaan and Sonya play an active role in their sister’s daily care, giving Sofia her morning and evening medications, reading to her and playing games with her. Shaan is currently teaching Sofia how to play floor hockey.