To say Maria Bruvold and her family have had a tough year is an understatement. Their son Owen, who turns three on July 19, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2013, and they spent the rest of the year in front line treatment, making numerous trips to Vancouver and spending every moment supporting their son.
Owen was in near complete isolation to protect his compromised immune system, and it wasn’t until after they started doing long-term treatment in January that Maria and her husband were given the go ahead by their doctor to get out into the public realm again. They started attending parent support meetings and became involved with the BC Childhood Cancer Parents’ Association’s Family Support Program.
Maria found out about BCCCPA while in Vancouver, but wasn’t immediately aware that there was a specific Island chapter. Through the Family Support Program, the Bruvolds have been able to connect with other families going through the same experiences, and this connection has been vital.
“The biggest thing is, I have friends and family, but once you’ve been through cancer, only other parents who have gone through it too are really going to understand,” said Maria. “We don’t know each other, but we’re kindred spirits.”
Now that Owen’s immune system is strong enough to allow him out in public spaces again, Maria and her husband have been taking every opportunity to expand his world beyond the hospital.
Through the Family Support Program, the Bruvolds have been able to go to Western Speedway, a Royals game and this summer, they’re going on a camping trip for oncology families, sponsored by BCCCPA.
“It’s helped us feel like we’re part of ‘normal’ society again,” she said.
Owen’s long term treatment is set to continue until June 2016, as the treatment for boys with acute lymphoblastic leukemia takes three years. The Bruvolds, like many other families, will have to deal with loss of income and added medical expenses for some time yet. But with the help of the Family Support Program, they won’t have to go it alone.
The Family Support Program hopes to raise $50,000 for this year’s budget to provide emergency services to families, financial aid, on-site support and outdoor recreational activities for patients and their families.
Susan Kerr, Patient Parent Liaison of BCCCPA for Vancouver Island said the program greatly supports families financially as well as emotionally, and said the majority of families going through treatment are hit hard with costs and loss of income. “The program for me is about letting parents be with their kids and not have to worry about fundraising,” she said. “Breathing room is so important, and we’re all breathing the same air.” Currently, the program has raised about a third of the needed funds, she said.
Donations have been coming in, including $5,000 from Coast Capital Savings. The next big fundraiser will be at beautiful Willows Beach on Sept. 6, sponsored by Paddle For Health. Individuals and teams are welcome to collect donations, then come and enjoy a paddle from Willows Beach, past Cattle Point and into Cadboro Bay. According to Paddle for Health’s website, participants don’t need any paddling experience, and boats are provided on a first come, first serve basis.
Maria’s family has also taken advantage of the Comfy Kids Program, which provides a safe and clean car to families who have to travel for treatment. “It uplifts our spirits. To have access to these programs and services makes things so much easier,” she said.
“It helps us to believe in good in the world again.”