*Until the end of the month your donation will be tripled thanks to David and Heather Stinson and Surgenor Automotive Group.
When you learn you’re going to be a parent, you start planning. You know it won’t be easy, but when they tell you to expect the unexpected, no one mentions childhood cancer. The second my son Wyatt arrived in 2016 I knew I would protect him at all costs. It hasn’t been easy, but with the help of family, Wyatt’s beautiful spirit, the team at CHEO and this generous community, his dad and I have come through a situation I could never have imagined, let alone planned for.
We all know children get sick. In June 2017 Wyatt had a fever, he didn’t eat much and was sleeping most of the day. I called Telehealth and was advised to take Wyatt to his pediatrician. On our way I told Wyatt, “it won’t be long baby, when we get home mommy will make you some french fries!” I was so naïve. Once his doctor assessed him, he gently told us that we should head to CHEO.
In CHEO’s Emergency Department the feeling of something being wrong grew and grew inside me as we waited for bloodwork. When the doctors came in, I held my sleeping baby and waited for what they had to say. “His red blood cell count is essentially less than half of what it should be, and his white count is sky high. This could be a pneumonia not acting like a pneumonia or it could be cancer. We will send him for an X-ray to rule that out.” That news, and the diagnosis that followed, stopped my heart: infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia. My 10-month-old son had cancer. An aggressive form. Treatment began immediately.
It’s good that Wyatt was my first born, I had no comparison. I knew it was unusual for your baby to play peek-a-boo in a treatment room. I knew not every child welcomed doctors and nurses like loving relatives and I knew that learning to walk in the corridors of a hospital was not standard. But this was our life and I am grateful for it! CHEO became more than the place where Wyatt was treated - it became his home and our safe haven.
The nurses became family, seeing the team of doctors was a relief, and learning information I never imagined I would need to know became part of our new routine. Holding my son as he fought for his life was traumatizing. The volunteers and staff at CHEO were beyond incredible. They sat with him so I could shower and eat, they provided movies and activities to keep Wyatt busy and they would always ensure we were BOTH taken care of.
The team at CHEO is part of our family and that includes you, the donors who make lifesaving care possible. As the staff at CHEO fought Wyatt’s cancer with everything they had, the tools and equipment provided by donor dollars made a huge difference, and the needs continue. High dose chemo, steroids, morphine, a semi-permanent IV in his little back, was all part of the terrible treatment that kept Wyatt at CHEO for eight long months, but so was laughter and play. From therapy dogs to clowning with Molly Penny, to arts and crafts and Child Life Specialists, it all works together. So much of this balancing act and the focus on family-centered care is funded by donations.
If cancer is the monster then love is the remedy. When I told Wyatt, “you are not done,” I meant it. I hope you never see a child undergo cancer treatment. It is painful and terrifying. That is why my family and I are committed to supporting CHEO, and why I am sharing our story with you. I am thankful for the care Wyatt received, I know that the doctors and nurses saved his life, but I want to do what I can to provide safer and gentler options for young oncology patients.
Cancer research is gaining new ground, finding and testing alternatives to the current treatments available. Donors like you encourage ground-breaking cancer research in CHEO’s clinics and labs by helping doctors and scientists test new therapies using zebra fish, oncolytic viruses and immunotherapies. Your support is also enabling CHEO to conduct genome sequencing for children with rare and difficult-to-treat cancers, offering hope to families with no standard treatment options so they have better prospects for recovery and don’t undergo treatment protocols that are not going to be effective. Your donations in part fuel this work. I believe that one day beating cancer won’t take such a devastating toll on young patients. We will get there with the help of donors like you. Wyatt is truly an old soul, a happy little boy who will not even remember the time when CHEO was his home. But I will remember, and I will keep supporting CHEO to help other families. If you can I hope you will join me by making a donation today. I know first-hand that we are stronger together.
P.S. Please consider becoming a monthly donor. Your gift will help kids like Wyatt each and every day!