Last February, Meghan was a typical little 5-year-old girl enjoying kindergarten, playing soccer and attending ballet classes in her hometown of Red Deer. But over the course of a couple weeks, she started feeling unwell and suffering from nosebleeds. After a particularly persistent one, Susan received advice from HealthLink to take their daughter to their local emergency department to get it stopped. Expecting to receive a diagnosis of mono, Susan was crushed when the doctor informed her that blood work revealed Meghan had leukemia.
In shock, she called Mark to pack a bag for her as they were being sent via ambulance to the Alberta Children’s Hospital immediately. While Dad, Mark and big brother, Ryan made the drive through a snowstorm to Calgary, family rushed to support them from Yellowknife and Newfoundland. When Meghan arrived at the hospital, she was ushered directly to Unit 1 where the family was just as quickly ushered into this startling new life filled with unfamiliar procedures including blood transfusions, spinal taps and a surgery to insert a central line. When Meghan learned the medicine she had to take would make her lose her hair, she wasn’t entirely concerned but was grateful her mom shaved her head in solidarity when the time came.
After a ten-day hospital stay at the beginning of treatment, Meghan has been managing quite well at home with weekly trips to Calgary for chemo every Friday. With infection prevention already a priority for cancer patients, COVID only heightened the family’s isolation. Those were difficult days as they adjusted to the new routine without the physical support of their friends and community.
The highlight of the weekly trips to the hospital for Meghan would involve any time she gets to spend with her Child Life Therapist, Shannon. Medical play has helped Meghan gain understanding and coping strategies to deal with the myriad of pokes, tests and medications she must endure. These skills will come in handy as Meghan still has a year and a half of treatment to go – she’s scheduled to finish in June 2022.
Treatment has put her cancer in remission, however it’s been heartbreaking for Mark and Susan to watch the effects of these powerful medications on their daughter. Hand tremors and memory struggles make school work more difficult, while overwhelming fatigue leads to long naps in the afternoon with troubles sleeping at night…also complicated by PTSD-like effects of all that she’s gone through.
But for now, Mark and Susan are so grateful that their spunky little girl maintains her sweet smile in the midst of this and they all look forward to the day she can return to the soccer field and ballet classes.
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