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Stories from our Families

 

Catherine
Kameryn
Kylee
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

All across Northern Ontario there are family stories that are full of inspiration, and Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer are proud to have been able to give them assistance on a variety of levels. If you have a story that you or your family would like to share we would love to hear from you.

Contact Us at 705-586-3229 or 1-888-993-9227 or use our contact us form.

Sylvain's Story

It was just after Christmas when we, unexpectedly, found ourselves back in Toronto. Sylvain needed to start radiation, January 1st, 2007. It was early Monday morning, no one was there at Princess Margaret. We knew it was serious, we knew we’d be there for a while. The next day, Tuesday, we met with our social worker from Sick Kids, who set us up with a room at the Ronald McDonald House on Gerrard St. and with an interlink nurse from Sudbury, who would be able to support us in many different ways. She was there for us as the questions arose. She was also able to provide some financial relief. She sent us phone cards, gas vouchers and grocery cards paid for by NOFCC which all a tremendous help were were. With these vouchers, we were able to live comfortably and make ourselves more comfortable while we were away from home. We are very grateful to the NOFCC, and all of its helpful people who provided some relief in very difficult and uncertain times.

Thank you! The NOFCC is an organization which offers some much-needed peace of mind during very stressful times.

Jocelyne Noel, Timmins ON

Nicholas’ Story

September 4th, 2009;

Too late, we often learn of the fragility of life. On June 12, 2006 at approximately 4pm, our lives were shaken, turned upside down…forever changed. I will never forget the moment when the doctor announced that our precious and only child Nicholas, at age 6, had a brainstem tumor. The following moments remain a blur.

After a sleepless night, we found ourselves at Toronto Sick Kids, alone, anxious and worried. Luckily, in little time, the NOFCC came to our help. We will forever be grateful of the support we received by this organization who understands the particular struggles caused by a child’s sickness as well as the geographical challenges of Northern Ontario. The food vouchers, calling cards and fuel cards provided some relief and allowed us to concentrate on our son’s medical needs.

Heartfelt thanks to NOFCC for the indispensable support during the most difficult and trying time of our lives. We remain forever grateful.

Sylvie Petroski & Bill Plouffe

Timmins

Olivia's Story

March 1st, 2010

To you from me;

Hi, my name is Olivia Catarina Moreira and I am almost four years old. A week after my first birthday our Doctor in Sudbury told my Mommy and Daddy, we would have to fly to Toronto right away to meet with a special team of doctors at Sick Children’s Hospital. We left so fast we only had the clothes on our backs and a diaper bag with my food. After many tests they told my Mommy and Daddy that I had cancer. My family cried a lot with this news. The doctors went on to explain that we would have to stay in Toronto for special medical treatment called chemotherapy to help make me all better. My family thought we would be there for only days, but days turned into months.

My daddy took a long-time off work to stay with me. Mommy had just graduated from Nursing, so she put a hold on beginning work. One day we got a call from my Auntie who explained there was an amazing organization called Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer (NOFCC). This is an organization of families who have had or have children with cancer, and they raise money to help out other families. We then became apart of this special group. They first sent us a package to our hotel with a beautiful handmade quilt, books and gift cards for food, phone cards and more. My family was so overwhelmed with happiness and were grateful for this package.

When my chemotherapy treatments ended, I would still have to travel to Toronto. We have continued to visit Sick Kids every three weeks for procedures under anesthesia to help make my tumor smaller for the past three years. The NOFCC has held our hands and our hearts during these difficult times. Every trip, they send us a package full of gift cards, meal tickets for the hospital, parking pass, phone cards and even set us up in a hotel if we need somewhere to stay. My last visit to Toronto the doctors explained I would not have to be placed under anesthesia any longer and my cancer is in remission. Now we only have to travel every three months for check ups.

Our journey with the NOFCC will continue with special events they organize like Sudbury Wolves Hockey games, and Christmas parties. My journey with cancer has taught all of us that life is a precious gift of giving goes along way. My Mommy and Daddy and I will be forever grateful for all the help the NOFCC has given us. What amazing group of people!

Love Olivia Catarina Moreira

Sudbury

Cindy’s Story

August 13th, 2009;

I am honoured to have this opportunity to share my experiences and gratitude of the Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer. Over the past four years our family has been at war with an enemy we are not able to see but have been witness to it’s effects on every aspect of my little boy’s life.

On the night of his sixth birthday he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and transported to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. From that time forward he has had to endure two more recurrences which consisted of two 6 week periods of daily radiation treatments, twelve months of chemotherapy, five surgeries and a permanent shunt placed along with countless hours spent on the road, in waiting rooms, inside MRI scanners and not being able to just be the 9 ear old boy that he wants to be.

The NOFCC stepped in, in the beginning, and provided assistance when we were still too naïve to understand what this all meant. They knew we would need support and were there for us. Although they offered much needed financial help to our family, the emotional support from their many involved families that have traveled the same road was invaluable. In a situation such as your child having cancer, the support of someone who has experienced what you’re going through brings an understanding and comfort that you that you will find no where else. As I now know how little time and energy there is left for anything else, I am so proud and appreciative of all the good work and people involved with NOFCC. I can only hope they are able to continue to receive financial support from the communities and businesses in the North which will allow them to carry on their work for unfortunate families yet to come.

I will be forever grateful for the efforts of the Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer.

Cindy Mokononuk

Espanola

Connor's Story

March 18th, 2010;

Our eight-year-old Connor is an avid hockey player but enjoy all sports. On April 3rd, 2007 Connor played his last game of hockey for the year. The next morning he woke up with stomach pain and couldn’t go to the washroom. We thought he had a bladder infection and took him into the emergency at Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Center.

On April 4th, 2007 Connor was flown out to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital and diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma which had already metastasised from his prostate to his spine, lungs and right femur. Connor has completed 42 days of radiation treatment and 52 weeks of chemotherapy at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital and continues to fight every day.

Connor continues to live everyday like his last. This is not a morbid phrase; rather it truly is something we should all learn from. Connor continues to live life to the fullest by finding a new adventure each and every day whether it is playing baseball in his backyard with his best friends or seeing all the sights we have to see in this great community we have grown to love even more. Connor really makes an effort to do as much as he can while he is home and feeling well as the majority of his time has been spent at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital. We have been very fortunate to have the support of Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer.

If it wasn’t for NOFCC’s support and assistance in thing such paying for the tutoring Connor would not have completed grade one or two. As it stands with NOFCC’s support Connor graduated grade two in 21 days and is enjoying grade three with his friends at Holy Family School. He did not have to be held back. On top of having a teacher come to our home, the organization also assisted us with parking passes, meal vouchers and taxi rides to and from the hospital.

It is one thing to be able to stay in your home community to receive treatment but, as this has never been an option for us, every penny has helped to keep our family together as a unit, which can be very difficult and expensive.

Thank you, Norther Ontario Families of Children with Cancer. You have helped to mitigate the pressure often put on us by finances and helped us to stay focused on what is important, our children’s health and well being.

Kelli Gothard McKinnon

Thunder Bay

Nicky's Story

Everything happened just so fast. 

Sure, our two year old son Nicky looked pale (but he had fair skin), he had dark bruises everywhere (but so does every other two year old boy we knew), he was tired a lot (but he has always really loved his naps). 

It was only when he became lethargic when I thought there might be a chance he was anemic because I know how tired I feel when my iron is low. A simple trip to the doctor’s office for an iron supplement would do the trick and he would be as good as new in no time! A few hours later I was at the hospital being told my son had leukaemia and we would have to leave Sudbury for treatment at Sick Kids in Toronto immediately.

On top of the shock, the absolute devastation, the worry and anxiety, we had to deal with so many other questions; What are his chances? What treatment will he receive? Where will we stay? How long will we be there? How are we going to afford this? No one had answers for me. I had two more little boys at home ages 4 and 1. We didn’t even get to say goodbye to them. The last thing I said to them was “you go get a haircut and we’ll see you when you get home” thinking Nicky and I would only be an hour. Are they going to think Mommy abandoned them? Are they going to think Mommy loves Nicky more than them because she left with him? Oh the heartache. 

We were in Toronto for about 6 weeks. During that time, not only dealing with taking care of an absolutely sick and deteriorating child, all the hospital appointments, all the chemo, all the unknowns, the loneliness, the stress, the heartache, I also had to worry about our financial situation. No one should have to worry about money in a time of crisis. Sure, we had supportive families but the guilt of being a burden on them just added to the 1000lbs of weight I already had on my heart. See, my maternity leave had ended just 8 days before Nicky was diagnosed, and since I hadn’t worked in a year, the government declined my application for the Parents With Critically Ill Children Benefit. I had no sick leave, no stress leave, no vacation time to tie us over until we came up with a plan.
In stepped the NOFCC like a ray of sunshine. I hadn’t even heard of the NOFCC before. Who are they? What do they do? How are they supposed to help us? It soon all became clear. Words cannot describe the relief, the support, the love that was felt by us because of this charity. Not only has the NOFCC helped with the costs of every single visit to Sick Kids and the Northeast Cancer Centre, including parking, accommodations, and Emla patches, they have helped support Nicky’s education with tutors and speech pathologists. They have lifted the spirits of our entire family with summer and Christmas parties meant specifically for past and present cancer patients and their families. They offer support groups and have made a community out of cancer stricken families who would otherwise feel isolated from the rest of the world. 

Their ongoing support has never wavered over the three years during Nicky’s treatment and it still continues now that his treatment is complete. 

Our family will be forever grateful to Dayna and the NOFCC for their financial and emotional support during the hardest journey I pray Nicky will ever have to endure.

With much love and gratitude,
The Steinke Family

Aiden’s Story

Throughout our son Aiden’s treatments in Ottawa at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario beginning in July 2006, the NOFCC provided us with a much needed helping hand in the form of gas cards to get back and forth from Kirkland Lake as well as grocery cards to help us provide healthy meals for our family while we were in the hospital with Aiden. I can’t express how important these monthly donations were to our family.. My husband Aaron left work to stay with us and focus on our son and daughter Chloe who was 5 at the time. Without any household income we were at the mercy of the generosity of others. We were able to use the grocery cards to purchase healthy antioxidant snacks like fresh berries and probiotic yogurts which helped to keep Aiden healthy when his body was so run down from the chemotherapy treatments. Aside from the grocery cards we were beyond grateful to have gas cards so we could come home when Aiden was well enough to visit with family and have some much needed down time to feel the love and support around us. 

We have also been able to take part with NOFCC and Skaters Edge in having Aiden and his little brother Drake outfitted in 2015 with hockey gear! Aiden dreamed of being a hockey player and this program was the last little push we needed to get them outfitted and ready for the ice so his dreams could come true!! Aiden still to this day uses much of the equipment he was given and we are so thankful that this door was opened for us as a family! It is so special watching our boys on the ice and particularity Aiden as he gears up and gets out there regardless of his disabilities as he has neuropathy in his legs and has a permanent urostomy.

When Aiden was 9 years old and received his hockey gear he also was able to make a donation of his own to NOFCC in the form of grocery cards that he asked people to bring to his remission party instead of gifts! It’s nice when things come full circle and we can help another family going through the same thing and I was so proud of Aiden for suggesting this! 

We are so thankful to the NOFCC and everything they have done for us and for other families here in the north who are dealing with having to be displaced due to a childhood cancer! They were instrumental in the treatment and care of our son as we relied on the donations to keep our little family going so we could stay together and focus on what was most important, Aidens life! This year marks Aidens 10th year in remission! Thank you for being a part of that! 

All our love,
The Charbonneau family! 

Abigail's Story

August 20th, 2009;

When you’re a teenager you try to set out your goals in life. Finish high school, go to college, start a career, get married, have a couple of kids, take some trips, retire, enjoy your later life. No where in that plan do people pencil in a spot for their child to fight for her life. No where in that plan do you decide to become “one of those families”. No one ever wishes or expects their child to get cancer. But the unfortunate truth is it happened to us. We became one of those families. Our Abigail was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and began fighting for her life in November 2006. Through all the worries that go through your mind at that moment that the doctor tells you that your child may die, you not only worry about her, you worry about your life. You worry about your other child, you worry about your home, you worry about your pet, you worry about the things that don’t matter at that moment. But time doesn’t stop, and you don’t get the chance to push the pause button. This is why we have become so grateful to the NOFCC. They have helped us so much in our time of need. Whether it was the long distance phone cards that were sent to us to help us keep in touch with our family so far away or the grocery cards to help with our purchases of food the aid that they provided for us helped to ease the mind so that we could focus on getting our daughter better and keeping our family together.

We are forever indebted to the NOFCC.

Thank you so very much,

Christine, Ryan, Abigail & Jacob Hagger

Blind River, ON

Karissa's Story

Surreal

We’ve all witnessed the Hollywood movie productions, the heart touching awareness commercials, the best-selling books. We hear countless stories about the deadly and tragic disease known to all as cancer. However, in spite of all the notable recognition of this illness, I had never envisioned myself in the position where I would be immensely and personally affected by it. I can distinctly recall that night. I can allow my mind to trigger vivid memories of the events that took place. I can regenerate the emotions I felt during the everlasting moments of uncertainty. I possess a strong capability of remembering it all exceedingly well, yet still cannot seem to embrace the truth of reality. It was surreal.

I was awakened by the penetrating sound of weeping and the negative energy of sorrow, immediately recalling my sister who had spent the endless night at the emergency room with my parents. Curiosity and fear rushed over my body, like an ocean wave sweeping over the shore. After slowly approaching the cries, I discovered some of my family members gathered together, sharing in each other’s pain. My eager ten-year-old self attempted to grasp the situation. The astonished look plastered on my face begged for an answer. Within a matter of seconds, the dreadful news flew into the atmosphere “Karissa has Leukemia.” My sight blurred from the instant flood of tears which began to leak down my cheeks.

Karissa was in severely critical condition with an unfortunate chance of survival. She was urgently airlifted to the largest paediatric health sciences centre in Canada, Sick Kids Hospital Toronto. Driven by a mission to provide the ultimate best in family care and clinical advancements, Karissa had the opportunity to commence her life-dependant treatment in a world-renowned health facility. However, not even this overwhelming reassurance could have prepared me for the enormous obstacle our family was about to experience.

Peering into Karissa’s hospital room for the first time, I endured the worst heart break. Exhaustion was written across her face; her hands were pierced with intravenous tubes connecting her to multiple bags of medicine hanging by her bedside. Seeing my little sister, who was always smiling, always laughing, now in this near-death state tortured my stomach. I swiftly turned my head away before she saw the pool of tears that formed once again. I attempted to console myself as I sipped the ice-cold water that a compassionate nurse retrieved for me. Staying strong for Karissa’s well-being was the most challenging circumstance I had to cope with throughout this entire journey.

My family spent the duration of nine months adapting to our new medical environment. The hospital and the faces who occupied it had become familiarized. Karissa’s new hairless look was accepted and adored. Everyday hurdles, such as blood work, were no longer met by the perpetual screaming of a terrified seven-year-old girl. This cancerous disease had its way of tremendously impacting my life and those surrounding me. No, I wasn’t the one chosen to fight and endure the physical hardships, for that I will forever admire my heroic sister. However, I believe on July 12th, 2012 my entire family was diagnosed with this illness. Together we fought this battle, together we persevered the on-going struggle and together we won!

I’m filled with extreme gratitude to finally announce that Karissa took her last dosage of chemo the spring of 2015. After undertaking three years of intense therapy, she has returned to her happy and healthy self, continuing to live through her childhood with a newly found sense of courage and maturity. Presently focusing on the positive outcomes of such a traumatic experience has strengthened my faith. Being exposed to the medical world has opened new doors of opportunity towards a broad selection of career paths. The outpouring of support from astounding charities and facilities has ignited the burning desire in my heart to give back. This turning point revealed to me the important purpose of family and helped me develop an inspiring perspective towards our precious gift of life. I’ve learnt we must savour every moment, never take things for granted and cherish our loved ones, because the fate that lies within tomorrow is unknown. 

Makayla Kruk

Karissa’s Journey – My Experience

You watch movies and read books about people getting cancer; you hear stories about it happening to people and their family. You never fully understand the extent of what they feel until you are the one experiencing it yourself. On July 12, 2012, I got woken up at 5:30 am to hear the words I never even imagined would come out of my mother’s mouth, “Karissa has leukaemia”. When I found out my 7 year old sister had leukaemia, I didn’t know what else to do but scream “No!” at the top of my lungs. I crawled onto my mother’s lap. She was sitting in the lazy-boy holding my youngest sister. So many thoughts passed through my mind all at once, so many feelings were overwhelming me. I was angry, upset, sad, scared, but empowered to do anything I could to keep my sister happy and get her back to health.

When my family found out Karissa had cancer, everything changed. I mean everything; starting with the life we were living to the perspective life. Little things that once meant so much, were nothing now. The big things that matter most were family, friends and being thankful every day for our own health. All of this became very clear incredible fast, especially when I found out I was within hours of losing my little sister Karissa. Through this experience I realized that every chance you have, you need to tell your friends and family that you love them, no matter what. This is more important than holding grudges regardless of the situation is. I also felt that maybe God had made me such a strong person for exactly this moment in time, when I have to be the rock that my family needs; at those moments when my little sister is looking up at me, not only in love but because she needs to see how strong I am so that she can continue to be strong.

Being positive and staying strong became very important because Karissa could always feel the energy that people gave off. Negative energy brings anyone down, but it is way more noticeable when someone is sick and weak – positive energy is vital to any family member’s health. We would play games with Karissa if she was feeling up to it. If she wasn’t feeling energetic, we would put on whatever movie she wanted to watch. Overall, Karissa’s favourite thing to do, on a good day, was leave the four walls surrounding her that she called her room, adventuring off to Marnie’s lounge where she would play video games, make crafts and mingle with the rest of our siblings.

“Living in the Moment” has never been so real and relevant. Having to watch my little sister deal with pain, fear, frustration, confusion, sadness and stress was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Sitting on the bed beside her one day as the nurse was preparing her for blood work, Karissa starts crying and screaming for mom. Mom has dealt with this everyday now and was telling Karissa she needs to stop and calm down, because she knows it’s going to be okay and it only lasts a few seconds. Karissa then starts calling my name and asking me for help. As I fought back tears I told her she could do it, because there’s no such thing as “I can’t”. Then I had to turn my fave away because I couldn’t fight the tears, they came pouring down my face as I sat there wishing I could be the one in her place. Every day I would wake up in hopes that it was all over, and she didn’t have to deal with any of this anymore, or that it was all just a dream. It wasn’t a dream, it was real and it was actually happening, all I could do was pray and keep telling myself she was going to be okay and all this pain, frustration and fear was just temporary.

Almost every day of Karissa’s journey has been a new experience and battle for her. My family and I have had to continually adapt to whatever medical situation was taking place, having to wait for results and answers to questions that even sometimes the doctors couldn’t even tell us. In those moments is when we learned to just trust in God, even when it’s the hardest thing to do. He already knows that plan! Through Karissa’s experience I learned not only about leukaemia and the treatment, but I learned about life. What about life? Family, love and how strong everyone is together with the love and grace of God. Karissa has finished her final treatment, but her journey has not come to an end. She still has to go for blood work, bone marrow test, and over all checkups. Through this experience our family has become a team, and I feel we have all learned that life is precious. We need to live passionately, on the edge, and in the moment. You can’t change the past and the future is unpredictable, live now because the present is a gift.

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