One hand pops-up, and then another, and then other. The sea of students filling the gym at Carisbrooke Elementary School are eager to ask questions of the guest speaker visiting their school.
"What were your scariest moments?" asks one student.
"Did you ever give up hope?" asks another.
"What do you like to do for fun?" another student queries.
At the front of the room, perched in his wheelchair, North Vancouver resident Bayan Azizi happily answers each question before quickly moving onto the next question from the excited and engaged crowd of grades four to seven students. Azizi has come to speak to the students about his book titled Me, Myself and my Brain Stem Tumour.
"This is an opportunity for me to inspire the kids. I'm hoping through my experiences they will learn about persevering and never giving-up," explained Azizi.
When Azizi was nine-years-old he was diagnosed with a rare brain stem tumour that left him confined to a wheelchair, subject to seizures, and able to speak in only a whisper.
"It made me standout from others. My balance, walking and speech progressively worsened. I wished I didn't have any of these things and that I was like others my age," said Azizi. "But the other students were accepting and nice. They always accepted me as a friend. They were good friends," he added.
Azizi attended Dorothy Lynas Elementary School and then Argyle Secondary School. Despite his medical condition, which thrust him into three brain surgeries, multiple rounds of chemotherapy and maximum radiation, he never gave-up hope and continued to work hard and thrive at school.
"Bayan was always attracted to learning and very motivated to do well, especially in school. The driving factor was wanting to achieve high at school, and the school was able to support him. We are very appreciative for all of the support they were able to provide him," said Nika Azizi, Bayan Azizi's mom.
In 2007, Azizi walked across the stage with his graduating class at Argyle Secondary. This accomplishment, according to his mom, was testament to his drive and to the support he received at school. Since graduation, Azizi has continued to persevere and succeed. He currently attends Capilano University and works part-time in marketing. He has also written his book.
"At first I just started writing for fun, but then when I started English classes at Capilano University I realized it could be a book. I wrote for a few hours a day for about a year-and-a-half, and then it took just as long to complete the editing and publishing process," explained Azizi.
What makes his story even more impressive is the fact that he wrote the entire book with just one finger because his constrained mobility does not allow him to use his hands. Me, Myself and my Brain Stem Tumour hit store shelves in April 2015.
The students at Carisbrooke Elementary School were able to read all or parts of the book through their school library program.
"The book really resonated with the students because they were hearing this powerful story through the eyes of the child experiencing it," said Mary Ferraby, Teacher-Librarian at Carisbrooke Elementary.
The enthusiasm from the students for the book prompted Ferraby to reach out to Azizi to see if he would come speak with the students. Azizi did not hesitate in accepting the offer. While Carisbrooke Elementary is the first school he has visited, he is hoping to bring his story to more schools.
"It's important to educate children. I want them to come away from meeting me with a clear message to never give up," said Azizi.
His book is available in bookstores across the lower mainland as well as online via Amazon and Indigo.