When Natalie packed her diaper bag for a trip to the pediatrician to check out a mysterious rash on her daughter’s tummy, she never thought it would be nine months before they returned home again.
She and Reese, then 18 months old, left their ranch in Saskatchewan for what they thought would be a day in Medicine Hat, visiting the doctor, then running errands. Instead, her diligent pediatrician sent Reese for bloodwork and later, she was admitted to the Medicine Hat hospital. Within 48 hours, Reese and her family were at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, meeting with oncologists.
Nearly 70 times a year, a family at the Alberta Children’s Hospital is told their child has cancer. For Reese, it turned out to be a very rare form of Leukemia.
“We were in complete shock, and we were scared, but we knew these people were going to get her – and us – through this,” Natalie says.
To save her life, Reese would need aggressive chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant. Thanks to generous community support, the Alberta Children’s Hospital has nationally recognized expertise in bone marrow and stem cell transplantation.
The chemotherapy was tough on Reese’s little body. She became even sicker, lost weight, and lost her hair. Her final round was so harsh on her system, she developed a serious lung infection that landed her in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with a ventilator to help her breathe.
“It broke our hearts seeing our little girl so sick from this toxic substance meant to save her life,” Natalie says. “We just had to accept that with cancer treatment comes side effects, and we will deal with them later – just please give us later.”
You can help researchers at the Alberta children’s Hospital Research Institute find gentler, more personalized cures for children like Reese.
Thankfully, Reese recovered from the infection and with healthy cells donated from her dad Justin, she was able to have her life saving stem cell transplant. After nine months away from home, the grateful family returned to Saskatchewan that summer.
However, less than a year after going home with her cancer in remission, Reese has returned to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Her cancer is back, and she has started treatment once again.
Despite this setback on her journey, her family has hope because they know they won’t be alone – they know their team of specialists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital will be with them each step of the way.
“And whatever happens down the road, I know Reese can get through anything because she is the strongest girl I know,” Natalie says.
While 70% of children with cancer will survive thanks to standard therapies, most will experience lasting side effects. Sadly, 30% of children will not respond to treatment at all. Fortunately, scientists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute are dedicated to improving outcomes for these children by discovering new cures and minimizing the side effects of current treatments.
“Before Reese was diagnosed, I didn’t even know what oncology meant,” Natalie says. “I hope by people supporting this world-class hospital, and the brilliant minds finding new cures and treatments for children like her, that one day, no parent or child will ever have to know the meaning of that word again.”
You can be part of Reese’s team of researchers and experts dedicated to advancing care for children facing a cancer diagnosis. Together, we can create futures that are healthy, bright and free of side effects – so when a child beats cancer, it is a true victory.
Sign up for our newsletter