At age 10, in December, 2016, Keira was diagnosed with a brain tumour. We made three separate trips to the Children’s ER that week until the diagnosis was made. The very next day, Keira underwent surgery. Shortly thereafter, she began Keira’s Krusade to help others with cancer. Keira has always been such a compassionate girl, and this journey brought out that trait in her even more.
Keira travelled this road with incredible strength, faith, and humour. January 4th marked the beginning of her chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. It was common for us to carry Keira to and from the car in our frigid -30° Winnipeg weather as she was too ill to walk. Despite all of this, throughout January and February, Keira came armed with a daily joke for the therapists at her radiation treatments. She readily accepted her daily dose of chemo, among numerous other medications, without complaint. Shaving her head was a celebration, not a hardship.
On January 12th, Keira’s 11th birthday was marked by intense nausea, fatigue, and malaise common to those receiving treatment. Nevertheless, we celebrated her birthday with ice cream cake while her sister opened each of her gifts for her. Keira’s closest friends continued to visit and even kept her company by holding her hand and reading to her as she lied on the bathroom floor, too weak to move at the moment.
Over the next few weeks, Keira’s therapies and medication adjustments allowed her to better manage her daily symptoms. She was able to visit St. Charles Catholic School occasionally and spend some time with her friends. Keira’s teacher was incredible, making Keira so comfortable and so welcome each and every time she visited the classroom. At the first visit, she and all the children donned toques so Keira, who wore one herself, would not feel so conspicuous. Her teacher is an amazingly sensitive and empathetic woman. By February 17th, Keira completed her treatment. We had a celebration (pictured here), though we knew her tumour was not gone.
March brought a trip to Disney World, a wonderful occasion courtesy of The Dream Factory. Keira had not felt very well leading up to our departure, but managed to get through the flight. Fortunately, the excitement must have buoyed her emotionally and physically, because she was able to handle fairly busy days and had a blast visiting several Disney Parks, Universal Studios, Sea World, and her highlight: Discovery Cove! We have beautiful memories of Keira and her brother and sister playing in the pool, going on rides, and walking around Diagon Alley. Keira chose Disney as much for her siblings as she did for herself.
When we returned to Winnipeg, Keira had her first round of maintenance chemo. This was intense, and she was quite sick. She improved, but then later in April she began to experience more nausea. She began a round of steroids which helped immensely. A second surgery was scheduled for mid-May. This would provide a biopsy which would further direct Keira’s treatment options. Surgery went very well and we were very optimistic because Keira was now looking at a couple of options to further her treatment.
Two days later, we received the devastating news that Keira’s cancer had spread. Two days after that, we took Keira home. This was only four days after surgery, so we should have been happy. It was less than half the time we had spent in the hospital after the first surgery. However, we had the weight of the recent news hanging over us. We were told that things would change quickly. They did. Two weeks later, Keira was taken to the hospital in an ambulance due to a seizure. We spent a week there, brought Keira home, and a week later, our worst fears were realized.
Cancer, especially childhood brain cancer, is insidious. It is unfathomable and unjust. It afflicts anyone without reason or rationale and, like all childhood cancers, it is not reflective of lifestyle. Pediatric brain cancer does not respond well to treatment. It can come back so much faster the second time. It is not well understood.
We need to create awareness of and support research for pediatric brain cancer to support children faced with this enormous hurdle. Many other childhood cancers are highly treatable and have a better success rate. This was not our news. This was not our reality.
Keira began her charitable approach to fighting cancer many years ago when she and her siblings fundraised for CancerCare MB in honour of their Uncle Michael, who had cancer. We had no idea of the fight Keira would face herself some years later. In the face of this horrific illness, Keira created Keira’s Krusade to reach out and help others. Please help Keira change the future of other children now by supporting Keira’s Krusade.