Thursday, 24 August 2017

Cancer parents forever

She's six months old and there is absolutely nothing wrong with our baby girl.

But yes, that's Samantha getting her blood drawn, at the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital this week.

Why? The short answer is paranoia. You should not go out and get your healthy infant poked. Unless, of course, the anxiety of having had a child die from cancer is so great you're in constant fear of it happening again.

Samantha has Dominic's great eyelashes, his heart-melting smile, and those pinch-worthy cheeks. But our oncologist said numerous times there is no scientific reason she'd be more likely to also have leukemia like he did. The chances of one family encountering childhood cancer twice would be infinitesimally low.

Still, the few bug bite-looking spots on her scared the crap out of me. And you know what? They went away; they were bug bites.

Trish took Sam to the hospital for a blood test, making doubly sure there was nothing wrong with her. Actually, this was planned before she was even born, our family doctor agreeing to it more for our sanity than anything else. The doctor understands what we've been through, and we're grateful for that.

I didn't go, instead off on a mission to pick up more items for the #Dominicstrong online auction which happens Sept. 29-Oct. 1 via our Facebook group. More on that later.

Trish remembered how hard a time nurses at the Alberta Children's Hospital had getting Dom's first blood draw (The Blood Whisperer, Sept. 17, 2013). So she called ahead to ensure someone was well-trained enough at our local hospital to deal with a blood draw on a six-month-old.

No problem, they said.

They lied.

It took multiple nurses and multiple pokes before the job was done. "Everyone here is new," was the explanation from staff member after staff member. Trish was a mess. I should have come with her, even with my aversion to needles. She wound up talking at length to a supervisor, and we both wish in retrospect we would have just done the blood testing at the Alberta Children's Hospital instead.

I know some folks wonder why we don't raise money for the local hospital instead of the one our son spent two years at getting treated for his cancer. Wouldn't it make more sense to support a local charity versus one 350 kilometres away? Well, the fact is kids in Medicine Hat and southern Alberta wind up in Calgary if they have anything even remotely severe. That's where the specialists are. That's where they get the best care. The way we see it, we are supporting local kids: The ones who need the most help.

Now is the busiest time for our charity work. We're going somewhere every day, either asking for donations or picking them up. Already the online auction has more than 70 confirmed donations - we raised $10,000 in last year's auction and hope to do even better this time around. If you're interested in donating an item, email If you want to get in on the auction make sure you're not just a member of the Facebook group, but that you're getting notifications of new posts there.

Our team set up outside Five Guys fast food restaurant this past Sunday for our latest charity event, where 20 per cent of sales (only if customers mentioned Extra Life) would be donated to the Alberta Children's Hospital. Between that and cash donations, it looks as though the total will be upwards of $850. Thanks to everyone who spread the word and came down.

Next up is the #Dominicstrong Charity Mini Golf Tournament, Sunday, Sept. 10 from 5-7 p.m. at Hooplas in Medicine Hat. You can sign up as an individual ($18) or as a team of four ($70) at Hooplas' website, or stop by their location. We have some great things planned, like special holes and great prizes for the winners. The entire entry fee gets donated to our Extra Life efforts for the Alberta Children's Hospital thanks to Schwab and Co. chartered accountants.

The next couple weeks will be especially tough, as it'll be two years since Dominic died on Sept. 3. But this is how you parent a child who's gone - you do everything you can to ensure they have an impact still. That their loss means something, not just to us but to our community.

We are cancer parents, now and always.


  1. I think I would feel the same anxiety as you do. Praying Sam's blood work all comes back good. I feel her pain, I hate having my blood drawn every three months, between my diabetes and breast cancer (I am in remission) everyone wants a little of my blood.
    Samantha is adorable!

  2. You gave me a bit of a heart attack with that blog title, but so happy to hear she is healthy, happy and the whole family is well!

  3. I can't imagine how complex and scary it must be to parent after the loss of a child. It seems like there would be infinite triggers for anxiety. You and Trish were magnificent parents for Dom through all those heart-rending moments; you've got this cancer parents thing covered! It makes me nuts that the skills required to get blood from a baby are so rare/sporadic. Even at ACH (where my granddaughter was for several months) it took numerous staff and pokes, sometimes, and the anguish and helplessness we felt seems never to go away. Still, we got a healthy baby at the end of it, and we are grateful. Your little Sam is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing her with us. It's lovely to hear about this part of your journey.