The Smith Family Story
On October 1st, 2012, I was working abroad when my wife Diane contacted me with devastating news. Our daughter Emma had been diagnosed with brain cancer and flown to BC Children’s Hospital the same day. I booked flights and joined Diane and our son Charlie at a hotel in Vancouver.
Emma proceeded to have two neurosurgeries and we were sent home to Vancouver Island to allow Emma to recuperate prior to starting a six week treatment of radiation therapy. Knowing that a hotel was not the best option for us during Emma’s treatment, we decided to try out the facilities at Ronald McDonald House BC. We made this decision with some trepidation as we were totally unaware of what to expect.
Our fears were soon put to rest. Emma settled into the House life very easily. She made friends with the other children in the House, and also enjoyed her chats with the House staff and many volunteers. She loved being able to go to the quiet room for a chat or tinker on the piano, or to go to the media room to watch films with other children and parents. Emma also enjoyed showing new children, and some parents, around the House to make them feel at home.
Charlie has also enjoyed his stays at the House. To say he loves it there would be an understatement. He has made many friends there and frequently talks fondly about them. As the House is very safe the children are free to enjoy the many amenities on offer, and their sense of freedom seems to add energy and happiness to the House in a way that only kids can do.
As for us parents, we appreciate that we have a place away from home that we can stay for short or long periods and feel very welcomed. The staff and volunteers are all fantastic. They are very busy with running the current House and preparing for the new House, but will sit down and take time to discuss whatever is on our minds. We especially like the fact that living at the House has greatly reduced our costs, an important factor to consider when, in concentrating on our sick child, we have had to stop working.
In essence, Emma regards Ronald McDonald House BC as her home away from home, and we are grateful that we could stay together as a family during her treatment.
At six years old Chase is a regular kid who loves Lego.
“On June 15th, Chase started showing signs of the flu – he was tired and had lost his appetite. We knew in our hearts that something was wrong. When we saw the look on the doctor’s face it confirmed our worst fears. Chase began to rub my back as he whispered, ‘It’s going to be okay Mommy.’
We spent 42 days in BC Children’s Hospital. The doctors told us that we could leave on one condition: that we stay close. We were immediately concerned as staying at a hotel just wasn’t an option. Only 5 minutes away, Ronald McDonald House was our only hope – otherwise we would be ‘living’ in the hospital.
My son began to shut down emotionally in the hospital. Being at the House with other children and families has given him his spirit and joy for life again,” shares Chase’s mother, Shanna. “I am forever grateful as I don’t know what we would have done without Ronald McDonald House.”
With the support of the House, Chase is able to heal, comforted by the love and support of his family.
When Katie climbed onto the bed in Room 13 and promptly fell asleep, we knew we were ‘home’. Katie had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma four days earlier and we had just gone through our first morning of meetings and tests at BC Children’s Hospital.
We spent most of the next four months at Ronald McDonald House® as Katie underwent five rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. Judy and I took turns staying with Katie on 3B, and then we’d all return to RMH as she recovered between rounds.
We will always remember the sense of relief we felt coming home from a long day at the cancer clinic and discovering that a generous group of volunteers had prepared a family dinner. Or sitting down for a movie and forgetting about cancer for an hour or two. Or sharing the details of our daughter’s day with another parent who knew exactly what we were going through.
RMH really did become a home away from home. Katie made new friends and quickly came to understand that she was not the only kid with cancer. She understood that together she and her new friends would get through it. The smiles on the faces of the children as they headed out trick-or-treating on Halloween was a testament to how the staff, volunteers and “family” at RMH were able to come together and create a few hours of normalcy in a prolonged period of feeling abnormal.
Katie was declared cancer-free on Chinese New Year and is now a happy four-year old who is looking forward to starting kindergarten in the fall.
The summer of 2010 was the time when our world fell apart and we feared for the life of our only child. It also was the time when a group of strangers at RMH came forward with their support and became our friends—friends who helped our Katie get better.
- Eric Kristianson