Ian and Michelle, City of Kawartha Lakes residents and parents to two young children, weren’t prepared for the heart-breaking news.
They were left speechless and in shock as doctors informed them that that their four-year-old daughter, Summer, had hepatoblastoma, a rare, “one in a million” form of liver cancer. Experts explained that Summer had a large tumour that was dangerously close to the major blood vessels in her liver.
All Ian and Michelle could do was focus on what mattered most: getting Summer better and keeping their family together during this incredibly difficult time. When doctors told them that Summer needed immediate cancer treatment in Toronto — a long distance from home — it added yet another layer of uncertainty and fear.
They found themselves in a wild juggling act of uprooting the family, arranging childcare for their son, asking for a leave from work, and handling growing travel costs — all while trying to save their love and strength to support Summer.
It’s difficult for Ian and Michelle to describe what it was like to watch their child go through a medical crisis. “It’s a heavy burden that no child, no family should bear,” says Ian.
“The trip to Toronto for her initial treatment wasn’t easy for our family,” explains Michelle. “We’d hit the road at 4:45 a.m. to beat the traffic, but waking our little one so early was tough. She often felt nauseous during the drive, so we kept sickness bags handy. Our son stayed with his grandma when we had to stay in Toronto. It was heartbreaking to be separated from him.”
It was a huge relief for the family when they were told Summer could continue her lifesaving treatment at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC).
“Getting her care closer to home made the challenges of her disease a little easier,” says Ian. “It was a glimmer of light in our darkest hour. We were even able to be together for Christmas last year.”
Spending as much time at PRHC as they did, Ian and Michelle saw the incredible amount of equipment that’s required to provide cancer care — and patient care of all kinds — under one roof.
“What we didn’t know then was how much of it was funded by donors,” Michelle says.
Since government funding covers only part of the hospital’s costs and doesn’t fund new equipment, PRHC relies on community donations to fund the technology needed to save lives. Everything from diagnostic imaging tools like CT scanners and MRI machines, to the equipment found in the Cardiac Cath Lab, operating rooms, and the Emergency Department — even the special chair Summer sat in while receiving her chemotherapy.
What surprised Ian and Michelle even more, was how many people rely on PRHC for those critical services. The hospital serves a population of 600,000 people, across the city and county of Peterborough, Northumberland County, east Durham, the Haliburton Highlands, Lindsay, and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
“We’ll never be able to express how truly thankful we are for donors’ past support of PRHC — they helped the experts save her life,” Michelle says. Those wonderful healthcare providers are another reason the family is grateful for Summer’s care being delivered at PRHC.
“They treated us like extended family,” Ian says.
Today, Summer is happy and healthy, in remission, and doing all the things a five-year-old should be doing: dancing, gymnastics, and making her wish list for Santa. Ian and Michelle take each day as it comes, cherishing every moment with their family and being mindful of how precious their time together is.
Getting expert, compassionate care close to home had such an impact on Summer’s family, that they want to ensure it remains a possibility for others from across the region.
“We decided to become donors,” says Ian. “We wanted to do something to help. To say thank you for the extraordinary care Summer received, while making things more bearable for other families like ours.”
That’s why, at this time of year especially, Foundation ambassadors like Ian and Michelle are asking others to reflect on the importance of family and community and decide to help more patients get the care they need, where and when they need it most — right here — by donating to the PRHC Foundation.
Donors can spread additional good cheer this holiday season by including a special tribute message to honour a PRHC doctor, nurse, staff member or a whole team along with their donation. The notes of thanks and best wishes will be forwarded to the hardworking healthcare workers recognized. They’ll also be shared more widely with the hospital, patient and donor community through social media, email, and a display in the hospital cafeteria.
You can make a tribute donation and send a message online or by phone at 705-876-5000.
This branded editorial was supplied by the Peterborough Regional Health Centre Foundation. If your organization or business is interested in a branded editorial, contact us.