No child should ever have to battle cancer.
But for Sooke’s Lily Leinana, it’s a struggle she faces every day.
The nine-year-old has been hospitalized at B.C. Children’s Hospital since early April after she diagnosed with stage-four Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer associated with impaired immunity and is rapidly fatal if left untreated.
“The week before she was hospitalized, she came boating with us and she was fine. She was always over at our house on play dates and my daughter loves her as a best friend,” said Holly Wilson, whose daughter Niaya has been devastated by her friend’s illness.
The ordeal started a week after the boating adventure when Lily felt ill and her mother Merideth Leinana decided to seek medical advice in the face of what she assumed was no more than the stomach flu.
“We took her to be checked out and before we knew it she was quickly moved to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. She hasn’t been home since,” said Merideth from Lily’s bedside.
“The first few weeks were very rough. They started chemotherapy right away, and it was so hard on her. She’s scared and sick and just wants to go home … but she can’t.”
Merideth and her husband have stayed in Vancouver to help care for Lily while her two sons, 13 and 18, stay with family in Sooke and wanted to express their gratitude to the people of Sooke for the support that’s been offered.
Lily was chosen by the Canadian Cancer Society as a 2019 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock junior rider. A gofundme page was established to help with expenses facing the family as both Meredith and her husband have taken leave from their jobs to be with their daughter (www.gofundme.com/help-lily-so-silly) and even Lily’s friends are involved.
“My daughter made a bunch of donation jars that she put our in various stores and she’s raised quite a bit of money,” said Wilson. “She’s so upset about her friend, and it’s hard because all Lily’s friends want to help but really can’t.”
One of the way’s those friends have expressed their support has been to donate their hair for a wig for Lily.
“They’re bringing it to the hospital when they visit and, even if it can’t be used for Lily, it can be used for another sick child,” said Merideth.
Those hair donations are particularly poignant in light of the fact that it was only a year and a half ago that Lily had donated her own hair for kids with cancer.
“I want to donate my hair for kids with cancer,” she’d said at the time. “I don’t think I’ll miss it.”
The prognosis for Lily is uncertain, but her mother said her courageous little girl is battling the illness and that the last few days have seen improvement.
“She’s just finished the first of six rounds of chemotherapy, and we expect that we’ll be here for six to eight months. At the end of that time, we hope that she comes away cancer free.”