I am Brooke and my husband’s name is Eric. We have three girls - Charlotte, Lily, and Makinley, or Mak as we like to call her. Mak is our tiny superhero.
Our adventure began on June 11, 2018 – our whole world came crashing down with the birth of little Makinley.
When you hear the words, “you’re pregnant” it is the greatest news a parent can hear, but as you get closer and closer to your delivery date and you’re told something is wrong, your whole world suddenly comes to a halt.
A month before my daughter Makinley was born, at a regularly scheduled ultrasound, we were told that doctors could see an “anomaly” growing on our baby. They did not know what it was at the time but I was quickly referred to McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton and things moved quickly from there. I was going weekly for ultrasounds to monitor the mass growth and check on the baby’s vitals to make sure she was ok. With each visit the mass was showing rapid, steady growth so instead of waiting it was quickly decided that I be induced to get little Mak out of me. The hope was that the mass would stop growing but it didn’t, in fact it continued to grow.
Eventually it was determined that the growth was a Stage 4, moderate Neuroblastoma tumour with lesions on the liver … cancer.
The next course of action was surgery to remove the growth and prevent a dangerous outcome. So when Mak was just one month old, she underwent a 7-hour surgery to remove the tumor – this was the longest and hardest day of my life.
All while this was happening, I still had a whole life back in Waterford, Ontario. My two older children were still in school, getting ready to graduate SK and Grade 8. My husband was still working and trying to keep our other kids’ lives normal while I was over an hour drive away, taking care of our baby. We had to live apart a lot that summer because Mak was so sick in the Hospital and one of us had to be working. Our extended families were a tremendous help so that Dad could come and be there for our baby and relieve me once in awhile, but it was Ronald McDonald House that gave me peace of mind. Even though we were fighting for our daughter’s life we didn’t have to worry about living arrangements, food, entertainment, fun or smiles – the House had it all. I had to stay fairly regularly at the House while Mak was in the Hospital for port surgery, chemo, and removal surgery.
Our family was referred to Ronald McDonald House South Central Ontario (RMHC SCO) and we were checked-in to a room that accommodated all of us.
I was so razor-focused on everything going on regarding Makinley’s treatment in the Hospital, it was so nice to know I had a soft place to land at night, a warm shower to get into, and a hot meal right there for me.
It was rough period of our lives – nearly 18 hours a day were spent at the Hospital, our family was living apart, I was an emotional & guilty wreck, and I was consumed by needing to be over-attentive at Makinley’s side. I wouldn’t eat half the day and live on coffee and I only slept a few hours a night because I wanted to be by my daughter’s side. The kind and empathetic volunteers at RMHC SCO saw my distress & anxiety and always made sure to ask how I was doing, offer snacks for my long days at the Hospital, and sometimes I was offered supper to-go in case I felt hungry during the night. In my moments of wanting to breakdown, there was someone there to catch me and listen - that meant more than anything.
I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to stay while my daughter was in the hospital, how I was going to afford to eat, or how would my kids could see me. RMHC SCO took a huge stress off my plate instantly so I could focus on my daughter’s care.
At the Hospital, I would frequently visit the Ronald McDonald Family Room for a change of scenery – it was a quiet place to eat lunch or grab a much needed coffee and snack. Help was never too far away and was always there when you needed it. Mak was an outpatient for a year, but she never dreaded going to the Hospital because she knew the Ronald McDonald Family Room was around the corner.
Finally, on September 7 2022, our Oncologist told us what we had been longing to hear since Makinley was born – she was cancer free. It was like I could breathe for the first time since she was born.
Now at almost 5 years old, she loves swimming, ballet and soccer. She loves to draw with chalk and blow bubbles and ride her bike. She is our bright, vibrant, spunky, full of life superhero and I cannot imagine our lives without her in it.
When a family can focus on getting their child through their medical treatment and not the logistics, it makes all the difference in the world. RMHC SCO provided peace of mind while we went through the hardest times of our lives and that means more than anyone will ever know.
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