Leah was diagnosed on June 27, 2018 at just 3 years old, about 2 months shy of her 4th birthday. This was going to be a very special year for our family, as her Dad and I were getting married on July 28th. Leah was going to be our flower girl and was so excited to wear her princess dress, but everything changed on this day forever.
We will never forget how we felt when hearing those words "your child has cancer". It’s hard to even describe the pain you feel at that moment - it’s like nothing else. Looking over and seeing her laying sleeping on her bed so peaceful and innocent she had no idea what she was about to endure. The treatment started the next day, as well as surgery to have her port inserted for her chemo treatments. We were admitted for two weeks, while she received daily treatments and monitoring.
Over the next few months we watched our happy, care free little girl turn into someone else. She gained almost 9 pounds in one month due to the steroids. She stopped smiling, playing, was depressed and it hurt for her to walk. On top of that, we had a hard time trying to control her nausea from the chemo she was receiving. We were just doing everything we could to keep our baby comfortable and loved. As that is all that you can do. You adapt to a "new normal" which means isolation from friends and family because she is so vulnerable to germs and infection. Making sure you have a hospital bag backed and ready at the door in the case a fever strikes. A normal trip to the grocery store now involved a lot of hand sanitizer, Leah wearing a mask and having to sit in the stroller. I stopped working when Leah got diagnosed to care for her. It is not an experience that we would wish upon anyone, and it’s one that alters you and your family forever.
I will say to other families who are starting this journey that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. It’s hard to imagine now if you are just starting out, but you can do it and get through it, and these kids are so resilient and strong. We have had our share of problems along the way, many hospital admissions, infections, and so on, but we were able to get through it all. The best thing you can try to do is stay positive and lean on family and friends.
Our baby girl is now 6 years old and was able to ring the bell at CHEO this year. We always looked at that bell in the waiting room, in its glass enclosure, and when Leah finally got to open it up and ring that bell it was the best feeling ever. She is the happiest little girl despite all she has been though and is so happy to have her energy back and just be a kid again. Leah became a big sister this past year, as we welcomed a little boy to our family. She loves him more than anything and loves that he looks up to her. We now hope that this is going to be a distant memory one day and just a short period of her life that made her, and our entire family, that much stronger.
Leah’s Mom, Ashleigh
Team Captain, Walk for Princess Leah