Taya’s Story

A Day in the Life of Sara Jean

Christopher’s Story

At six years old, Sara Jean knows way more about the ins and outs of a hospital than any child should have to. That’s because she has spent half of her young life in cancer treatment.

 

It started with a hard lump in her forearm. Her parents thought it was bone, her doctor thought it might be a hematoma under the skin, but just days after her 3rd birthday, Sara Jean was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma—a rare form of cancer. After six weeks of radiation, 46 weeks of chemotherapy and a surgery that removed muscle from her forearm, Sara Jean went into remission. But in 2012 they found another lump in the same arm, and she began a new course of treatment. Today, Sara Jean is on maintenance chemotherapy that is likely to continue through the end of the year, but that isn’t holding her back. She plays hockey, loves school and has a repertoire of impressive Ninja moves. Her hair is emblazoned with a bold streak of pink, and at six years old she is a fiery role model to her younger brother and sister.

Taya’s first year of life was the same as any other happy, healthy one year old. At about 16 months old, Taya began to experience bouts of repeated vomiting. Responding to the unexplained sickness, her parents took her to a walk-in medical clinic to be examined; unfortunately, the family’s regular physician was on vacation at the time. The attending physician sent the family home with a diagnosis of the common flu.  With the vomiting persisting, the family visited multiple clinics in the weeks to follow.  Each visit resulted in the same flu diagnosis. With the flu symptoms continuing, Taya was taken to her regular family doctor upon his return from vacation.  Recognizing the severity of the situation, their family doctor immediately sent Taya to Grand River Hospital and, under the care of Dr. Jodi Rosner, Taya was sent for a CT scan. Dr. Rosner delivered the devastating news to the family that there was a mass in Taya’s brain and that she was being immediately transferred to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto for further care.

Once at SickKids, Taya underwent brain surgery in an attempt to remove the tumour. The 8-hour procedure was successful in removing a good portion of the mass however not all of it could be extracted. During the days following surgery, Taya was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive Embryonal brain tumour.  The medical team at SickKids proceeded to fight the tumour with the most aggressive form of cancer treatment that Taya could endure. Although Taya was only 16 months of age, she demonstrated to her parents and all of those around her, a remarkable level of bravery and tolerance having to undergo extremely intrusive brain surgery and cancer treatment. She had to relearn the very basic motor skills, like walking, since these skills were disrupted during surgery.  Throughout all of this, Taya never complained and woke each day with an optimistic, heart-warming smile.

Over the course of a few months, the chemotherapy successfully shrunk the tumour.  The medical team decided that a second surgery would be scheduled to remove the final remnants. To give Taya’s body time to strengthen before the 2nd surgery, the chemotherapy treatment was halted. Unfortunately, during this treatment hiatus her family learnt that the tumour had grown back, and with a vengeance.  It was concluded that nothing further could be done to help Taya as her tumour was just too aggressive.

Taya passed away at 22 months of age, on Dec 25th, 2007, surrounded by loving family and friends. Although this story is one of great loss, Taya’s family has created a legacy of giving in Taya’s memory. Taya’s bravery and continued love and appreciation of life, despite everything she went through, served as inspiration to her family.  She inspired a drive to help others living through same, unthinkable circumstances. Through walk/runs, that have supported fundamental programs and research at both POGO and SickKids, Taya’s loved ones hope to ensure better outcomes for other children with cancer. This year, Taya’s family and friends are proud to be joining the Kitchener Kids with Cancer Run & Walk to continue Taya’s legacy of joy and optimism. Together, they truly strive to provide better outcomes and support for families with children battling cancer.

 

Kitchener Kids With Cancer Run/Walk - Sara's Story
Kitchener Kids With Cancer Run/Walk - Christopher's Story

Christopher was a happy healthy baby who was born with a small lesion on the top of head that everyone thought was a scratch. As time passed he met most of his milestones but was plagued with chest infections and multiple ear infections. He was never sick enough to warrant a trip to the hospital but never well enough to be away from the doctors. We were fortunate enough to have eventually gotten an appointment with Dr. Rosner who immediately admitted him to Grand River hospital thinking he had CF. When that test was negative we were transferred to Sick Kids hospital in Toronto. After numerous tests and a biopsy of the scar on his head, Christopher was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis in his lungs, skin, mastoid and jaw. His liver and spleen were also enlarged.

 

He began a lengthy battle of chemotherapy. He responded well to his first round of chemo and was able to return to GRH POGO satellite centre to finish his treatments. He relapsed shortly after and began round 2. He did very well for almost a year but sadly relapsed and began round 3. He did another year of treatment and did remarkably well and was off chemo for almost 2 years. Sadly he relapsed once more and did one last round of a salvage protocol. Although side effects are still present and Christopher still has some long term lung damage, he is a happy healthy 14 year old. He loves video games, riding his bike and hanging out with his friends and his older sister Julia. He recently graduated grade 8 and is starting high school in the fall. We are so truly thankful for POGO and the staff at GRH and at Sick kids. Being able to do most of the chemo treatments locally allowed us to be closer to home and be a family. It also Alleviated a lot of the financial burden of having to commute out of town for treatment. When this journey began 13 years ago, no one thought we would be here today to be giving back and raising funds for this amazing organization! Help support Chris and all the kids battling cancer in KW!

Kitchener Kids With Cancer Run/Walk - Christopher's Story

5KM RUN / WALK • 10KM RUN IN SUPPORT OF THE PEDIATRIC ONCOLOGY GROUP OF ONTARIO

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