September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. For Altona area farmers, Henry and Christy Abrams, it's personal. Last year, one of their three daughters, 10-year-old Rowen, wasn't feeling well and they took her to see a doctor where they ran blood tests to see what was causing her back pain and sore throat.
Abrams said they took some blood to run tests and got the news they never expected.
"In the course of two days, we ended up going back to retest some of that and they did some blood work at that time and to our surprise, it was midnight on our way home from the hospital, we got a call to go straight to Children's (Hospital) because there's something wrong with her. Her blood count. And so, what we thought was strep throat and some sort of a spine injury from a fall that she had, in a matter of a week of diagnosis in children's emergency or CK5 and Winnipeg, they determined it was leukemia that had caused the back pain."
The sore throat puzzled the doctors and specialists, as it was not part of the leukemia.
Once the diagnosis was determined, life changed very quickly for the Abrams family.
"We got the phone call December 21st to come first thing the next morning and begin treatment for leukemia. It was a huge shock to us, as Rowen has always been a healthy kid. She's a gymnast. She loves to flip around, dance and do all these things. She's never had any health issues. Cancer is just a whole new concept to us. Our family, we didn't know much about it other than hearing... we've had some elderly people we know. So, you kind of think that's where it stays. You don't really realize that cancer can come for the kids too."
With Henry and Christy in shock, Rowen also had to come to terms with the news.
"She reacted..." Henry's voice trailed off, " I know who she is. I know the kind of girl she is. She's such a positive, strong kid. She always sees the light and everything and she was devastated because she knew this was going to change a lot of things for her. Mainly, every kid is looking forward to Christmas. Finding out on the 21st of December and starting Christmas Eve and being in the hospital right over that week and knowing you're going to miss everything that you've been looking forward to, especially with the last two years being the way they were not being able to go anywhere. So, it's kind of like that nightmare all over again. And I think that really hit her the hardest."
Abrams said, once the news settled in things changed.
"After that, the fact that she's dealing with a serious illness, and when she came to grips with that, we were in the doctor's office, speaking with the specialist about the game plan. And she just had this determination, 'OK, this is what it is. Let's take it one day at a time.' And that's been our motto. Every day, we remind ourselves and her there's just one day at a time and not to worry about tomorrow. We don't have to worry about what's happening in the next cycle. It's just today. How do you feel today? How are we going to take on the challenge of today, with whatever it is?"
Abrams said Christmas eve, they were just starting treatment and had never heard of Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Support Group. One of the nurses shared about the organization and gave them a basket and gift cards. One for $200 to buy Christmas presents.
"It was everything and more we needed for that moment." Abrams professed.
He realized it was strangers helping strangers and felt very touched by the immediate, tangible way a difference was made in their lives.
He said, through their faith in God, prayers of support, and with a lot of family assistance, they have been able to support Rowen and her two sisters, Presley and Hope, through this difficult time, as well.
Go to the website to learn more about Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Support Group and to buy tickets for the raffle. The draw date is September 30.
You can hear the full interview with Henry and Reporter Robyn Wiebe in this podcast.