• Thu. May 19th, 2022

Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Support Group gives a boost to families in need

ByJulie J. Helfer

Jan 18, 2022

A group of volunteers have been overwhelmed with support as a COVID outbreak in the HSC’s children’s cancer ward means patients and parents are currently in isolation, with caregivers unable even to leave the ward for meals.

Naomi Fehr is Chair of the Board of Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Support Group, based in the Morden/Winkler area. The group is made up of “parent volunteers who strive to make a difference in the lives of families affected by childhood cancer,” Fehr said. The group often offers support to parents and caregivers of young cancer patients in a variety of ways

The CK5 (childhood cancer) unit at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Center is currently isolated due to some of the children with COVID, Fehr says. It’s a trying situation, and the reality of the dangers of COVID affecting young cancer patients adds to the stress.

“Families know that staff are doing their best to take care of them,” Fehr says. “This is just the start of isolation, so they still seem to be doing as well as expected. On the cancer front, knowing that children are immunocompromised and the threat of Covid is quite scary.”

Families are required to self-isolate, some for 12 days, and cannot leave their rooms for food. Children receive their meals, but there is currently only a lunch bag provided for the parent, according to Fehr. When a parent on the service contacted the Candlelighters to explain the situation, Fehr said the council was instant and unanimous in their agreement to provide a hot meal each day to parents/guardians on the service. She says the children still get their three meals a day from the hospital.

“I just hung up on the phone with the child life department. The families have just had their second meal (Friday night) and they are incredibly touched. In a way it makes them feel like they matter and they are not alone. I also spent a few minutes of FaceTiming with the mom whose cry for help sparked this initiative. We both had tears. It means so much to them . She kept thanking me over and over.”

Those interested in donating can send an electronic transfer to [email protected] Those sending an e-Transfer should include their email address in the notes section so they can receive a tax receipt. While the donations quickly began to come in, Fehr says the more money they raise, the more they are able to do to help people who are already in the midst of a difficult situation.

She says that in no time the public rallied behind the group to help support parents and carers. “We raised over $25,000. Restaurants reached out. People also offered to help families in other ways. It’s been quite a whirlwind. It’s one thing to believe in what you do, and so much more when hundreds of people (many foreigners) show that they too believe we are doing great things and are excited to be a part of it.”

Monique Stratton of Winnipeg is one of the quarantined parents with her 12-year-old daughter, Makenna, who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. She shared what it was like to hear the news that COVID-19 had reached CK5.

“Since we are dealing with a child who is neutropenic, which means he has had chemotherapy and his white blood cell count is now at 0, and his natural ability to fight infection has completely disappeared and is completely compromised, they are the most sensitive.”

Stratton tearfully expressed his gratitude for the abundance of support from Manitobans and the support Candlelighters gives to his family.

“The support our family has received over the past two months has been amazing. Having people, like Naomi and organizations like Candlelighters, supporting us through the most difficult time of our lives has been incredibly – it’s just an incredible blessing, all around. The support we’ve received from Naomi, even on a personal level, talking to me about the things and feelings I had while being trapped in this room with a sick child has been just very, very heartwarming. We feel completely blessed to have all these additional angels by our side.”