“We’ve been in isolation, social distancing, for close to a year. Now with the threat of COVID-19, we’re even more cautious. And yet, in a strange and unexpected way, this pandemic is opening up the world to Mikah in a whole new way.” ~ Lina Dupuis
It was the week of Mikah’s grade-eight final exams when she started running a fever and complaining of a heaviness in her chest. After two visits to emergency, Mikah suddenly found herself in an ambulance, speeding towards the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
“There was an entourage of medical staff waiting for us when we arrived,” recalls Mikah’s mother Lina Dupuis. “I knew in that moment it was serious.”
That evening, on June 23, 2019, Mikah was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
While undergoing harsh cancer treatments, Mikah is also experiencing the rarest of side effects — nerve and muscle weakness and brain swelling. Unable to walk, talk and even swallow, Mikah has endured long periods of recovery and rehabilitation.
“The hardest pill for Mikah has been missing her first year of high school,” says Lina, explaining that in their district, high school begins in grade nine. “There’s the fear and anxiety of starting high school, but there’s also the excitement and independence. Mikah is missing all of that.”
Mikah wants so badly to go to Camp Kindle too, but each time she registers, a major side effect lands her in the hospital. And, just when she was starting to feel better, our spring Teen Camp was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Fortunately, with your support, we are building a vibrant online community to help teens like Mikah and her sister Kya in their isolation.
Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, our exercise specialist Dr. Carolina Chamorro Vina began exploring innovative ways to deliver her PEER exercise program online.
With your generous support, last March, Carolina offered our first-ever online exercise program for teens.
“This program was so good for her,” says Lina. “There was even a little boy participating from his hospital bed. He may not have been able do everything, but he could see this amazing community. No judgement. No staring. Just a big community of kids who get it.”
Mikah and her peers are now rebuilding their strength every Tuesday and Thursday through these virtual exercise classes. They love the sense of community the program offers.
“The research is clear,” says Carolina. “Regular exercise helps mitigate the deconditioning effects of cancer treatments and helps reduce the long-term health problems associated with cancer treatments. It also improves mental and physical well-being.”
While acknowledging that cancer and COVID-19 have brought suffering, Lina is quick to recognize their blessings: “All of these things are opening up for Mikah now. PEER online is giving her something to look forward to every week and a community she can connect with.”
Thank you, Calgary Flames Foundation and other generous donors, for supporting our PEER exercise program.