St. John's NL
ST. JOHN'S HONOURED HERO
Canada Day weekend 2018 - we noticed our 2 1/2 year old daughter Amelia limping as she chased her older brothers around the campsite. As the weekend progressed, she walked less and less and so we immediately arranged a doctor visit upon our arrival back in town. The night before we brought her in she had a slight fever of 99 F that came and went with medication, and a little prickly purple rash on her legs. Then, when we were literally in the doctor’s waiting room, she looked up at me with blood oozing from her gums.
Once the doctor heard the symptoms, she sent us straight to Janeway Emerge where we were shocked to learn all signs and tests were pointing towards blood cancer. Amelia was admitted and the next day we received confirmation that she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. We spent the next 2 weeks in the hospital with her, during which time she received 11 blood and platelet transfusions, started chemotherapy, underwent surgery to install the port in her chest through which she receives most of her treatments and spent 5 days in ICU covered in wires due to complications. Then she was discharged to continue the rest of her treatment as an outpatient through the Janeway’s Medical Daycare Unit.
After the intensification period of her treatment was done, blood tests indicated there was “no evidence of disease”. Remission! The first hurdle - phase 1 of her treatment - was done!
She still had several phases of her treatment protocol ahead of her and so, over the last 18+ months, Amelia has received chemotherapy via IV’s, lumbar punctures and even orally at home in addition to steroids and antibiotics. During the first 5 phases, chemo was administered in hospital anywhere from once every 10 days to 4 out of 5 days and sometimes daily at home. In her current (and last!) phase, which started in April 2019, she receives chemo orally at home every day and once every 3 months via IV and lumbar puncture at the Janeway. This will continue until her final treatment in September 2020.
We cannot be more proud of our little fighter! Today she is an active 4 year old. She loves to go camping, chase after her brothers, ride her bike and play with her dolls and Paw Patrol figures. Her hair is growing back. She’s gaining weight and growing again. Her speech returned to normal and she is always singing something! She loves to dance and is so excited for her upcoming dance recital, she practices for it daily. She is happy and full of life! She tells me “I’m beating cancer!”.
As her parents, the most difficult thing was to face the diagnosis she had received, and to tell our boys that their little sister had Leukemia. Giving her medication at home was hard at first… so was leaving the relative safety of the hospital to care for her at home. I asked Amelia what the worst part of cancer treatment is: she immediately answered when her port is accessed. Even after almost 2 years of treatments, she still finds this scary and it never seems to get easy for her.
We all agree though that we treasure the friendships we have made through Medical Daycare and the Janeway. I have great memories of watching Amelia and her chemo friends playing hide and seek, colouring together and chasing each other in the halls.
Last year we walked in Light the Night for the first time. It was magical to be among so many men, women and children - fighters, survivors and supporters - and to literally light up the night sky in recognition of all blood cancer patients go through, to celebrate and honour them. We aim to attend Light the Night and fundraise for it annually to help give back to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada so that they can continue to offer support for families like ours and fund research for advancements in blood cancer treatments. We have a growing team ready to walk again in St. John’s in October - See you there!
Veronica Vardy – Amelia's Mom