For years, “hope” was just a four-letter word to anti-poverty activist Mike Creek.

After working his way up in the hotel industry to head office manager from dishwasher, Creek lost it all in 1993 when he was diagnosed with cancer.

He was just 37.

He clung to employment insurance while enduring nine months of chemotherapy, two surgeries, blood clots, seizures and gaping skin wounds that wouldn’t heal.

When his EI ran out, he washed up on welfare. Within a year, he had lost his downtown apartment, overstayed his welcome with friends and was sleeping in homeless shelters. He ended up in a subsidized apartment in a gloomy Regent Park highrise where a man was murdered the weekend he moved in.

“I was very sick,” Creek recalls. “Basically, I was just waiting to die.”

But he lived. And in late May, he signed the mortgage for his new home in Regent Park’s first condominium complex at One Cole Street, near Dundas and Parliament.

He may be a medical miracle — Creek’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is in remission — but he believes his flight from poverty is no fluke. Instead, it is proof that with the right support, anyone can break poverty’s grip.

“I want my story to be an inspiration,” he says. “I’m an example of how people can escape from poverty.”

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