By Their Side Every Step of the Way

Brianna, 19, can now say that she has weathered a storm. Optimistic by nature, she has never been defeated by the disease or the difficult treatments. Even though she knows she is not immune to another storm, she prefers to focus on the blue skies ahead.

Brianna is a CEGEP student with short hair and a shy smile. In the short term, she wants to get her driver’s license and get a job. That will come when the pandemic is no longer a threat. She knows how to wait.

Let’s Face it, and Let’s do it!

Brianna and her family’s life took an unexpected turn in 2018 when she developed flu-like symptoms. An X-ray revealed she had pneumonia, but also a cancerous mass lodged in her rib cage. She was admitted to Sainte-Justine Hospital and underwent immediate surgery. For a year, she was on medication and closely monitored. She carried on with her life as a teenager without worrying too much.

In August 2019, the cancer, a neuroblastoma, struck again. The news of a recurrence is just as upsetting as a first diagnosis, confides her mother Julia. “It’s always a shock. You’re in the dark, you don’t know how to react, you don’t know what day it is. Fortunately, the hospital and Leucan quickly took us under their wing.”

This time, Brianna had to undergo chemotherapy. “When she had a recurrence and heard the word cancer and knew she had to have chemo, it was a big shock for her. She cried,” says her mother. Brianna has always been an optimistic go-getter. She quickly pulled herself together. She said to herself, “This is happening to me right now, I have no choice. I have no control, so we’ll deal with it.” Every time the doctors offered her a new option, she went for it “Alright, let’s do it!”

Support all the Way to School

Leucan was by their side every step of the way. “We were immediately taken care of by Leucan. They offered us a welcome kit and explained all the services we could receive. It really surprised me. We had telephone support, literature. The custom-made t-shirts were very helpful to Brianna. It was helpful to know that we had someone to talk to if we needed to, that we had support and information.”

Their counselor, Chrystelle, also went over to Brianna’s school to inform her teachers and classmates. “They understood the situation and why she had missed so many classes. They had a better understanding, more compassion and empathy.”

Brianna particularly appreciated Leucan’s massage therapy sessions. “It was mostly for the well-being,” she says. Her parents also took advantage of the service. “Before each session, the massage therapist asked us questions, wanted to know how we were doing, what had happened in the last week. It was a form of psychosocial support. We were really stressed out, so it helped a lot.”

Like a Roller Coaster Ride

Neuroblastoma usually affects children at a very young age. This type of cancer isn’t as well known in older children. As a result, the doctors had to adjust the protocol because of Brianna’s age. “The hardest part was not knowing what the next step or the next treatment would be… We didn’t know what to expect from one appointment to the next. It was like a roller coaster of emotions for us.”

Financial worries also added another layer of stress. Julia had to take a leave of absence from work. “We don’t plan for that. When it happens all at once and you have to make decisions quickly, the financial stress is there. We had to miss a lot of work days. With COVID, my husband lost his job in the restaurant business. The financial help from Leucan was most welcome. It allowed us to put bread on the table.”

Julia also salutes Leucan’s investment in research. “Leucan is a really important service for families, but funding research is just as important. We fully appreciate this, since Brianna’s case is rare. Without research, we would not have a solution.”

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