This month, August 2021, we celebrate an amazing milestone in our organization with the story of a miraculous and brave little boy.
The Tennant Family is the 100th family we have provided financial support to while their son, Oliver, is in hospital. Before we get into thanking all our amazing donors and people who have made this happen, we want to share Oliver’s story. His family is the reason why we do what we do and we could not be more humbled.
At just 15 weeks old, Oliver was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, cancer that develops from immature nerve cells, commonly found in and around the adrenal glands.
Oliver’s mother, Kristy Mondor, wanted to share their story and her advice on appreciating all of life’s precious moments.*
(*Story has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
“It was a day like any other. We woke up and went about our usual routine in the morning, making coffee, changing and feeding Oliver. For the most part, the beginning of that day was off to a good start. What happened later on was sudden and shocking.
Later that afternoon, Oliver had a fever. We tried to cool him down but nothing worked so we got on the phone and called 811 who told us to go to the emergency room. When Oliver was admitted, they completed blood tests and found that he had low hemoglobin levels. We were transferred to the Stollery Children’s Hospital here in Edmonton, Alberta at around 11:30 p.m. after six hours in their local ER.
After another three-hour wait to be admitted, it was early in the morning the next day when we were finally in the pediatric ward in Oliver’s room. This room was where, in the next couple of days, our lives were about to change.
Over the span of these next few days, Oliver underwent IVs for antibiotics and Tylenol to help with his fever. Because of COVID-19, he had to be placed in an isolation room where every time the doctors or nurses entered they would have to smock up and wear all the PPE required by Alberta Health Services.
After further tests, we were told the Oncology doctors would be by to see Oliver and that he was going to be transferred to the Oncology ward for further testing and assessment.
They braced us for the upcoming tests, thinking that Oliver had Neuroblastoma because the tests indicated that he had two tumours on his adrenal glands above his kidneys. The one had grown to be bigger than his heart and almost the size of his liver. There were other spots on his kidneys and a lesion in his groin they are watching.
The following week consisted of a blood transfusion, CT scan, and MIBG scan which was followed by a biopsy to determine exactly what the tumour was. On the same day of his biopsy, while under sedation, the doctors placed a Broviac Catheter in his chest that is a built-in IV that remains in his chest for transfusions of blood, medications and treatment as well as taking blood as to not have to poke Oliver so much throughout his journey. Post Operation Oliver was given heavy pain meds to help with the pain, but otherwise, was in good health and was released the next day.
The following week we noticed three lumps appear on his head. We called the oncology department to let them know at which time they told us to come in. Oliver’s biopsy had come back and they also wanted to examine the bumps that had appeared on his head. That day, June 4, 2021, we received Oliver’s diagnosis. He was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at just 15 weeks old.
We were admitted on June 7, waiting to see if Oliver would have to undergo intensive chemotherapy or to stay for more observation and tests. While there, the doctors found Oliver’s hemoglobin levels were low again and that he would possibly need another blood transfusion. They suspect the neuroblastoma was in his bone marrow causing him not to be able to produce enough red blood cells to make blood for his body.
In the meantime, we are being shown what to do in case of an emergency with his Broviac and how to flush it with a solution and with a type of drug that prevents clotting and how to change the dressings that cover the broviac to prevent infection.
On June 9, we were told that Oliver would undergo four chemotherapy treatments right away, a treatment lasting at least six months if they didn’t find the presence of the MYCN Gene. Unfortunately, the doctors have confirmed that Oliver has the MYCN amplification. This puts Oliver in the high-risk category. As per the high-risk treatment protocol, he will be receiving higher/longer doses of chemotherapy.
In July we will be going to a hospital in Calgary for a few days to harvest some of his stem cells. After his fourth cycle of chemotherapy, around October, they will run some scans to monitor the progress and he will be transferred to the hospital in Calgary for a few months.
There he will receive a combination of radiation and high-dose chemotherapy and surgery when permitted. After each cycle, they will give him some of his stem cells back to help his body maintain a healthy level of blood cells so he is able to stay relatively healthy and continue the treatment.
All in all, we have learned to just take it one step at a time throughout Oliver’s journey. Trying to stay strong and hopefully for the best possible outcome while juggling the stresses of normal life and balancing a relationship on top of it can be very difficult to manage, so don’t forget your “I love yous” and apologize for getting mad at the little things when tensions are high. Live every moment like it’s your last and make as many memories as you can with the time you have because life is so precious and short you really have to take advantage of it.
After his treatment is finished and he is in remission, he will be in remission for the rest of his life. Although his battle with neuroblastoma will now be for a minimum of one year, his fight will be forever.”
We want to share a huge thank you with Kristy, Liam, and Oliver for allowing us to take a peek into Oliver’s journey. We now consider them part of our own family, and they have our love and support with them throughout Oliver’s treatments and beyond.
Finally, we want to thank all the incredible people and families we have met over the last six years. You have all helped us get to where we are today and will continue to be there as we help our next 100 families.