Ty’s courage

It was simply a sore throat… swollen glands…  possibly mono.  How on earth did three visits to the walk-in clinic over Christmas break and two visits to Alberta Children’s Hospital over a sore throat become cancer?  How was it our vibrant, energetic, active, healthy 13-year-old boy Ty’s blood stream was 90% cancer cells? It was acute myeloid leukemia (AML)—not a good kind of leukemia. January 19, 2009 at 1:47 pm our childhood cancer journey began.

Ty, his mom, and grandpa Bill.

That same evening at 8:59 pm, Ty was admitted. Our family hospital separation began. Ty’s little sister (Tanaya) and his stepdad stayed at home, while Ty and I moved into the hospital. Medical staff warned us it would be a long, difficult journey. Ty underwent the protocol for AML, where the high-dose chemo took him to the brink of death several times over the next 6 months. The intensity of the chemo destroyed his immune system, presenting an ongoing threat of infection thus keeping him mostly in isolation and with few days out of the hospital. School was attended in his hospital room, friends were estranged.

Tanaya and Ty at the hospital.

On July 31, 2009, he was discharged – cancer-free. June 4, 2010, after feeling ill, a visit to the oncology unit confirmed our worst fear – the cancer had returned. This time holding a bigger threat. Once again remission would have to be achieved and because the intense chemo did not work, a bone marrow transplant was the only option. Finding a donor would be difficult, because Ty was of mixed race (dad black – mom white) the chances of finding a 100% match were less than 5%. By God’s grace, matches were found and a dual cord blood transplant was received September 17, 2010. The transplant was successful! 

Unfortunately, in March 2011 graft vs host disease (GVHD) began attacking: skin, eyes, mouth and lungs. Everything that could go wrong seemed to. He had infection after infection bacterial and viral, fevers often, making hospital stays long and frequent. Outbreaks of the GVHD produced deep painful crevasses in his hands and feet. Two life threatening visits to the intensive care unit resulted in unanswered testing and “perplexed” doctors. During the third visit to the intensive care unit, September 10, 2012 at 4:18 am, Jesus took Ty home. Seven days later would mark two years cancer-free, after that date, the chances of relapse was next to none.

Ty at home!

Ty shared a hope for two things:

  1. First – That the gold ribbon, for the battle against childhood cancer, be as readily recognized as the pink;
  2. Second – That no child would suffer the way he did. 

The few opportunities he had to raise awareness, he embraced with passion. Speaking at a bone marrow drive, he left the audience with the challenge: “If I do this and little kids have to do it, you can do it!”

The only exposure Ty had with camp was in 2009 and his experience was not what I had envisioned.  Ty had been discharged from only three days prior, the expectation for change, independence and fun was just too much too soon. “Mummy,” he later told me, “we have been in a 10’ x 10’ room together for almost 8 months, you just can’t leave me like that.” He had missed the natural separation teenagers experience. Although physically he was 14, mentally he was not.

Ty making glazed apples.

The Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta holds so much more for families than just camp. Families in the unit continue to be Blessed with supper every Wednesday with fresh warm pizza. Kids cancer parents volunteer their time to serve, to encourage and to bring HOPE. Wednesday was one day of the week that I did not have to worry about dinner, one night in the week we could all eat together as a family, one night in the week… I just knew.

Ty was blessed when we received a call from Kids Cancer Care, inviting him to attend a helicopter learn and fly. We were both surprized and thrilled to learn he actually got to take over the controls and fly! He spent a day attending a PGA tournament held in Banff. The kids got instruction at the course driving range by some big-time names in golf and later personally met several of the players.

Ty meeting Jerome Iginla. Score!

I actually am the one who has been the most involved and received the most from Kids Cancer Care.  From pizza night while in hospital to Bereaved Camp 10 years later, Kids Cancer Care has been a lifeline for me. I have received an enormous amount of support and encouragement from Kids Cancer Care over the 11 years being involved. I have attended Bereaved Camp since it started six years ago, it’s a weekend when families who have lost a child are surrounded with others who have lived the same experience. We bond, we grieve, we celebrate and we heal together. Time to Remember was put in place to celebrate our kids who have gone to Heaven. Every September for the past 7 years Kids Cancer Care invites families to join for a “Time to Remember.” They put an amazing amount of thought and energy into this special evening remembering our kids. Most recently I got involved with the foundation on my bicycle. I went from a couch potato to riding 78 km in a day, raising money for this incredible organization. 

In 2009, I became a member of a club I would wish upon no one; however, I have met the most incredible selfless people through this journey. Kids Cancer Care, which was started due to the horrific disease of childhood cancer, has become an amazing support to so many families in so many ways. 

Ty at the hospital.

I don’t know why God allows cancer. I especially don’t understand why He allows kids to get cancer.  However, I believe in His promises. I trust He does the best for all His children whom He loves dearly.   He blessed us with this amazing organization who give and continue to give, an organization who directly supports families affected by childhood cancer everyday—thanks to the generous supporters in our community.

2legit2quit (it’s Ty face book “about”)

Ty with his father
Ty and Tanaya.