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 5th, 2013 and help the staff at CHEO to help our region’s young oncology patients. Thank you for your support.
2013 McDonald's dream team
March break is known to be a fun time for families. A break from school and some allotted family time. For the Ciarlo family it became a time to join the CHEO family.
Mom Trisha noticed that Isaac’s testicle looked puffy and thought it best to see their doctor. What she didn’t expect was being sent to CHEO’s Emergency department. She learned that the swelling could potentially be a urological emergency. Thankfully, they were told it wasn’t and the swelling would subside in a few days. When it didn’t Trisha trusted her instincts and followed up.
Isaac’s pediatrician did an abdominal exam and noticed he had a large bulge under his rib cage. Isaac’s spleen was extremely enlarged. Another trip to CHEO’s Emergency room, this time with doctor’s suspecting Isaac could have mono or leukemia. Both possibilities when a patient’s spleen is so enlarged.
“Hearing the doctor tell me they were looking for leukemia in my son made my blood run cold,” says Trisha. “I went to the bathroom and my knees buckled. I called my husband Jon immediately and told him he had to come to CHEO. I just kept thinking this can’t be happening to my family. Our family doesn’t have real highs or real lows. We ride the midline so this was just so unexpected.”
It was an ultrasound that confirmed the diagnosis. Isaac had a tumour on his kidney and it was cancer; Wilm’s tumour to be exact. Isaac was admitted that very night and had a series of tests to further confirm the ultrasound results. Not only did he have a tumour on his kidney there were spots on his lungs as well. The kidney tumour was too large to be removed right away so Isaac began chemotherapy treatments on March 22, 2012 to shrink it. In just three treatments the tumour had drastically reduced in size. Doctors proceeded to remove the tumour and Isaac’s kidney. He then needed eight sessions of radiation on his chest and abdomen.
Isaac has only two chemotherapy sessions left and by his seventh birthday on December 21st he will be released from active treatment. The spots on his lungs are believed to be scar tissue and his remaining kidney is functioning perfectly.
“I don’t know what my family would have done without CHEO,” says Trisha. “You expect great things from this place but it’s the other stuff you don’t expect: a nurse to hold you up; a surgeon to look you in the eyes and promise to operate on your son like he is his own; or a nurse to kiss your son on the head and tell him it will be okay. These are the things that make CHEO so special.”
It is never easy for a parent to explain to a child that they have cancer but CHEO’s team is there to help facilitate. For six year old Isaac, mom and dad explained that he had troublemakers inside him that were disobeying the rules and trying to make him sick. They told him he would need to stay in hospital and use medicine to fight. Isaac proved he was up for the challenge and has really been brave throughout his treatments. He has kept his sense of humour and loves to dance and be funny. On Sunday, May 5th he’ll replace his dance moves for biking or walking to help other kids fighting their cancer battles.
Bumps and bruises are certainly the norm for children of all ages but for nine year old Éric Diotte it was a bump that would save his life.
On December 30, 2011, nine year old Éric fell and bumped his head. He was so disoriented he didn’t even know his name. An ambulance ride to CHEO, x-rays and CT scans all determined it was a concussion and he was able to go home under the watchful eyes of his parents.
“On January 1st Éric was still lethargic and vomiting so I took him back to CHEO while my husband Mark stayed at home with our daughter Liz,” recalls Isabelle. “They did a blood test and when the doctor came in and said we had to talk I just knew it would not be good. They suspected our son had leukemia.”
Éric was admitted that day and would stay at CHEO for three months. He underwent a series of tests and a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia was given. Éric would need a bone marrow transplant so he began chemotherapy while the family waited for a bone marrow match. Two rounds of chemotherapy and one month later that glorious call came that a match was found! Thanks to a mother who donated her baby’s cord blood Éric was given a chance to beat cancer!
On April 17th Éric and his family travelled to Montreal where he would spend two months at Sainte Justine Hospital to have his bone marrow transplant. For 10 days Éric had to undergo intense chemotherapy which would essentially bring his immune system to zero before he would receive the new bone marrow. It was a scary time for the family as they waited to see if Éric’s body would accept the new marrow but on June 5th, Éric and his family walked out of Sainte Justine Hospital happy and ready to work through the rest of his treatments at CHEO.
For six months post-transplant Éric is in “home isolation. This means no school, very few visitors and even a very specific food regime. Everything he eats has to be homemade or prepackaged. If he leaves his house he always has to wear a mask and the entire family has become very used to disinfecting everything! Two days before Éric’s 10th birthday on October 27th will mark the end of his isolation period and what a wonderful birthday present that will be.
“This whole thing has been so tough on our family but you somehow get through it,” says Isabelle. “Getting the news that your child has cancer is the worst nightmare but there has been so much support from CHEO staff, friends and family and Mark and I are just so thankful to everyone.”
Éric is not finished his treatments just yet but he has been such a strong boy through everything. He knows his treatment, helps the nurses hold tubes and never cries or screams. He just asks that they be gentle and go slow when it’s time for blood work – a very reasonable request from a brave little boy.
Éric will have regular check-ups at CHEO and tests to ensure the cancer is indeed gone. In the meantime the family tries their best to keep life as normal as possible. Éric loves to ride his bike and is excited to be able to participate in the upcoming CN Cycle for CHEO on May 5th, 2013.
Aimee Zeglinski-Spinney is a grateful 14-year-old. She has an amazing family, great friends and a positive outlook on life. She is also extremely grateful to the donor who provided her with a new femur, and to the staff at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) who helped her conquer cancer.
Her CHEO story began two years ago. Back then, Aimee spelt her name the traditional way: ‘Amy.’ That was before cancer. Before what seemed like a simple broken limb, turned into something much bigger and scarier requiring one year of treatment, four surgeries and 22 hospitalizations.
On May 31, 2010, in the middle of a soccer game, Aimee broke her leg running down the field. She was taken to the Emergency department at CHEO where the medical staff confirmed Aimee had broken her femur, the largest bone in the body. Staff ran many tests over several days including a painful bone biopsy that confirmed everyone's greatest fear, osteosarcoma, the same cancer as Terry Fox.
“In one instant, our world as we knew it collapsed,” explains Joie, Aimee’s mother. “We worried that she’d lose her leg, or worse, her life. Our entire focus shifted to Aimee, caring for her, worrying for her, loving her, soothing her.”
Aimee was given a body cast to stabilize the broken leg. She endured round after round of chemo and lost her beautiful golden locks. But that did not dampen Aimee’s spirit. As she underwent chemotherapy at CHEO, she spent her days in hospital baking and doing crafts, clowning around with Hana her med student buddy, child life staff and Molly Penny, the hospital’s therapeutic clown, or watching movies with her siblings Evan and Ella. She looked forward to the good days and rode through the bad.
Aimee endured and learned to deal with severe pain, transfusions, daily needles and toxic drugs. She coped with having her leg cut and scarred from hip to ankle from a donor femur transplanted into her own leg, which then allowed Aimee to keep her leg as the new femur bone fused with her own.
“It was not always easy and she had to cope with a lot of dizziness, nausea and discomfort,” explains Joie. “There were days in the beginning where a person simply walking into her room would cause Aimee to scream in pain, as she felt the vibrations from the floor which transferred to the traction and thus her leg.”
Despite the pain, Aimee kept her gumption and a positive outlook. When things got tough, if someone mentioned the name Justin Bieber, she would perk up and smile. ‘That’s right, I’m a Belieber,” adds Aimee.
“Our interlink nurse, Marilyn, suggested I start a blog to keep our family and friends informed of Aimee’s journey throughout this challenge that life commanded. The blog has been a great tool for us. Aimee herself would post her own updates from time to time,” explains Joie. “But now that she feels like all of this is behind her, she’s ready for us to close the blog. And we will… when we hit the two year mark of her being cancer-free, next February 2013. It will be a way to celebrate the fact that she is alive and well, and that it is time to look to the future.”
Today Aimee feels like she has her life back. She enjoys school at De la Salle high school, and being with family and friends. She is active again with swimming, walking and karate fit lessons. Her body is strong, her legs symmetrical and she has grown taller. In fact, once chemo ended, she just shot up – four shoe sizes in four months! “We couldn't keep up,” says mom. “The stores loved us and Aimee was thrilled with the constant shopping!"
Aimee goes back to CHEO from time to time to have her leg monitored and she has physiotherapy sessions, but other than that, she has started a new chapter in her life, one that she marked by changing the way she spells her name to represent a fresh start, a new chapter in her life. One that is cancer-free. And that, is the story of how she became Aimee.