Childhood cancer is rare, yet every year at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) there are approximately 75 new diagnoses. The children, youth and families who are confronted with a cancer diagnosis rely on the staff at CHEO to help them through this difficult journey. This is why the CN Cycle for CHEO, the hospital’s largest pediatric cancer fundraising event, is such an important community event in the national capital region.
The CHEO Foundation would like to thank CN for taking a leadership role in making sure that CHEO is well-equipped and well-prepared to provide world-class oncology care to our precious children and youth. By participating in this event, you will be joining with CN and other members of our community to demonstrate your support for CHEO and the families we serve. Together we can offer hope and make a tremendous difference in so many young lives.
The CN Cycle for CHEO is a fun, non-competitive event that offers a wide range of cycling (15K, 35K, 70K) and walking (2K, 5K) routes for people of all ages and abilities. Our fully-supported urban cycling routes will be closed to traffic and will offer a unique opportunity for individuals, groups and families to safely cycle along Ottawa’s most scenic corridors, including the scenic Sir John A. Macdonald and Aviation Parkways and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rideau Canal with its renowned NCC tulip beds.
All events begin and end at the Canadian War Museum with post-event activities taking place on the adjacent grounds at LeBreton Flats. Each registered participant will be issued their own numbered bib which is their ticket to enjoy complimentary food and beverages, children’s activities and entertainment for people of all ages.
Every year three of CHEO’s oncology patients are chosen to be members of the McDonald’s Dream Team and serve as representatives for all of the kids who are undergoing treatment at CHEO. These three courageous patients will be at the event and you can be there to cheer them on as they cycle or walk on behalf of their friends at CHEO. Their journeys have been difficult but they are all very determined and they will draw strength from your efforts on their behalf.
Please join us on Sunday, May 4th, 2014 and help the staff at CHEO to help our region’s young oncology patients. Thank you for your support.
2014 McDonald's dream team
One day while at school, nine year old Justin Leblanc felt a sharp pain in his leg after bumping it against his desk. It hurt much more than it should have. Then he started to wake at night in excruciating pain, so his parents sought help at their local hospital. But once they noticed that the morphine he was prescribed didn’t help at all, they took him to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
Once at CHEO, an x-ray showed that Justin’s right femur was paper-thin and had a hole in it. Turns out that Justin had Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor. This cancer usually develops in longer bones such as the thigh, upper arm or shin. Undetected, it can spread to neighboring bones and to the lungs, so an aggressive approach was taken to help Justin fight back.
“The medical team gave us two options,” explains his father, Christian Leblanc. “Amputate his leg to stop the cancer from spreading – or try limb-preserving surgery to replace his bone with an implant that will grow with him. His mother and I decided to save his leg.”
Limb preservation, or limb sparing surgery, is a surgical procedure where the cancerous bone is removed and replaced with, in this case, a telescopic metal implant. It took Dr. Joel Werier, his well-respected orthopaedic cancer surgeon, 12 hours to remove the tumour and install the new state-of-the-art implant. In the end, the tumour in his leg bone, as well as half of his femur, were removed.
Ewing's sarcoma can spread quickly and has a tendency to come back, so patients require treatment to the whole body as well as to the site of the initial tumour. Justin therefore had to receive an intensive course of chemotherapy that made him quite ill. He also contracted an infection and had to spend more time in hospital, away from his friends. But he kept his sense of humour and battled the disease as best he could.
“Justin kept a positive attitude through it all, even though he found it frustrating to be unable to walk for a while,” adds Tammy MacAllister, his mother. “He was curious and wanted photos of the implant. He even did a show and tell at school about his cancer and his prosthesis.”
Justin’s prosthesis happens to be a $44,000 top-of-the line extendable implant that was ordered from England. What differentiates it from other styles is that it extends in a non-invasive procedure that doesn’t even require an anesthetic. The extendable implant is telescopic and uses electromagnetic forces to move the magnets located inside the device to gently lengthen it.
A few months after the surgery, Justin came back to CHEO to have the implant elongated. Its impact was instantaneous. “I can feel the difference!” proclaimed Justin as he took a few steps under the watchful eye of his family and Dr. Werier.
Justin’s right leg had just grown by four millimetres…in less than 20 minutes.
Cancer may have robbed Justin of his right leg, but new technology - the first of its kind to be used in Ontario - gave it back to him. That is another ground-breaking thing happening at CHEO, where the entire medical team does all they can to improve the lives of young patients.
To quote a sign Justin made to celebrate the end of his chemo treatment: “I kicked cancer in the butt and I won!”
Eight year old Madison Primeau, nicknamed Maddie by her loved ones, is usually an active and happy girl who loves hockey and being with her family. She has an infectious laugh and a knack for making instant friends. But when this normally healthy girl’s legs gave out while skating, developed a sore neck and started to constantly feel nauseated, her parents sought medical help.
Five months of testing at the local hospital were required to rule out juvenile arthritis, diabetes and allergies but couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with Maddie. Then the day her vision got blurry her parents took her straight to CHEO, where an hour and fifteen minutes later, the specialists came back with a diagnosis: medulloblastoma.
Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumour in children. Symptoms include headaches, nausea and vomiting, lethargy, lack of coordination, double vision, and in some patients, seizures.
Last July, Maddie underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumour that had lodged itself in her brainstem. Surgery done by experienced neurosurgeons who use modern techniques, can entirely remove most tumors, as was the case with Maddie. A very skilled neurosurgeon surgically removed Maddie’s tumor in a 15 ½ hour-long operation.
His name is Dr. Michael Vassilyadi.
“He’s our Greek god,” explains Denis Primeau, Madison’s father. “I am not exaggerating. I know many other families feel the same. He literally saved my daughter’s life and to this day, if he sees us in the hallway at CHEO, he’ll come by to ask how we are doing. He’s a good man!”
Maddie’s treatment protocol also involved radiation and chemotherapy. There were lumbar punctures, countless tests and procedures, and time away from home and her two little brothers Owen and Noah.
“The past year has been quite the ride,” continues Denis. “Maddie faced a lot of hardship but she was a trooper. She is done with her treatment and will be closely followed for years to come. Thankfully, we only live an hour away.”
Madison has now completed her treatment and is receiving care for residual issues like her feeding tube and chemotherapy side effects, but she is back at school and on the ice, playing for the local Novice team back home.
“We will forever be thankful for Dr. Vassilyadi and the team at CHEO,” adds Shelley, Maddie’s mother.
With aggressive treatment, as was the case for Maddie, over 80 percent of patients with medulloblastoma can eventually be cancer-free. Thanks to the skilled staff at CHEO, Maddie can look forward to a lifetime filled with infectious laughter and new friends.
In January of 2013 Michael was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Our lives were shattered. Even today, more than a year later, we still struggle to accept it. It still doesn't seem real. Michael, the brightest and bravest seven year old you will ever meet, has helped us not only get through it, but become a stronger family because of it. Michael is our hero.
Michael was born with Down Syndrome and Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. Because of these early challenges CHEO has been a part of Michael's life right from the beginning. Our family, like many others, didn't realize how lucky we were to have access to a world class organization like CHEO. It wasn't until the worst year of our lives that we came to truly appreciate it.
This latest chapter of Michael's CHEO story started on the ski slopes last winter. It was after his second downhill ski lesson that Michael started to complain about some pain in his side. Initially we thought it was just a muscle pull. Doctor's visits and x-rays revealed nothing of any concern. It wasn't until a late night visit to CHEO when the pain became too much to bear that our lives changed forever.
Blood work and testing brought news that no parent can ever prepare for. Our child had cancer.
Michael had to be admitted and start chemotherapy immediately if he was going to survive. In the early going everything was a terrifying tear-filled blur. We were trying to digest the news that our son was grievously ill. We were struggling with medical terms we didn't understand. We waited for a full diagnosis that was still weeks away. We were trying to understand treatment options that initially seemed more frightening then the actual disease. Horrible side effects to the treatment were laid out in front of us. We had to stay strong for Michael and we had to comfort our daughter Maeve. The silver lining in these dark clouds was the immediate outpouring of love and support from a large close knit family and incredible friends. This too was something we may have taken for granted but never will again.
When the initial shock wore off we came to realize that given the circumstances Michael couldn't be in a better place than CHEO. Michael is a boy who craves social interaction more than most. Having to spend a month with limited access to family and friends during this initial phase of his treatment seemed especially cruel. If it wasn't for the incredible staff of 4 North the situation would have been unbearable. Not enough can be said about the nurses, doctors and staff that work there. They are exceptional people with boundless compassion. Unfortunately, part of their job entails watching children endure pain and discomfort. It takes a special kind of person to handle that stress with poise.
Michael can talk your ear off but they always made time for him as busy as they were. Michael spent his days swooning over Karen, trash talking Noah and asking Kate out on dates (she willingly obliged and even brought Michael's favourite snack, cheezies). The entire staff gave us unbelievable support during this most hectic time. Interlink nurse Marilyn provided us with invaluable service but more importantly she understood that this was impacting our whole family. She was a great comfort to Maeve.
The rest of that winter passed with our family getting used to what would be our new normal. We soon came to realize that our lives would never be the same again. Poor Michael's confusing new life involved nauseating doses of chemotherapy administered through his chest port or by way of a lumbar puncture and having to put up with doctors poking and prodding him.
Michael spent countless hours driving up and down the 417 to CHEO, hours that should have been spent on his backyard rink skating with his sister. It was during this dark time that we were once again able to find some light among a new group of outstanding professionals, the staff of the Medical Day Unit. Michael quickly charmed his way into their hearts and they found their way into ours. They are truly exceptional people. Michael loves them all but always looks for a few of his favourites: Nicole, Lisa, Geneviève, Brennah, Michèle (Mimi), Sue and Deanna. But everyone knows that his absolute favourite was, and is, Chantal.
The happy news that Chantal will be his nurse makes him forget why he's there in the first place. It was also during this time that we were fortunate to meet Dr. Bassal (Michael's primary physician), a great doctor and an even better person who continues to ease and educate our minds.
Spring into summer brought new challenges as the treatment changed and intensified. Once again Michael was hospitalized, two weeks at a time for a month in total. The hospitalization was necessary in case his condition worsened as his immune system became compromised. A summer usually spent camping, swimming and fishing was spent stuck inside a room in 4 East fighting off infection and enduring blood transfusions. Michael, always smiling and ready with a hug, complained next to never. Few brought out bigger smiles than Mollypenny the Clown who always made Michael, and even us, feel like there was no place she'd rather be than sitting beside him with a "handbag" full of laughs.