Provided By Parents, For Parents.

A Story From Hanna's Dad

Posted on Feb 07, 2012

Dave Munro is president and chairman of Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer (OPACC). Here, he recounts the trials and uncertainty that accompany caring for a child with Cancer - and yet with support from caring individuals everywhere, and organizations like Lainie's Angels, help is only a parent away.

Childhood cancer has had a huge impact on my life for the past sixteen years.  Just over sixteen years ago, on December 18th 1995, my tiny baby girl Hannah was diagnosed with stage iv neuroblastoma (I will not give childhood cancer respect by capitalizing the name), an uncommon, mostly fatal childhood cancer that is the leading cancer in infants.

She was treated with high doses of harsh chemicals known as chemotherapeutic agents. She had numerous surgeries, one to remove the solid neuroblastoma mass, and radiation to the tumor bed. Her treatment concluded with her being the third person, by my reckoning (Docs won’t answer), to receive an autologous (self) stem cell transplant.

So not only have I heard possible the most devastating news a parent could ever hear about their child, “Your child has cancer”, I’ve also heard the words “What we want to do to your child could kill her”. If that doesn’t change your life nothing could.

As I said all of this happened sixteen years ago ... December 18, 1996 the day my life changed forever. In hindsight except for not wanting my little baby to go through the harsh treatment I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned a lot from such a tiny babe.

Childhood cancer treatment has long term effects on those who survive. Depending on the modality of treatment these effects not only leave visible scars and such like amputated limbs or poor balance, they can also leave invisible disabilities such as hearing loss. Through it all our kids keep smiling living life for what it is ... a gift.

This past December 15th my now seventeen year old daughter went to the best Breast Centre in Canada at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto for a surgical procedure to start construction on her right breast. Hannah’s tumor was beside the spine a little below her shoulder blade. The radiation she received prevented her from developing a breast on her right side and she wanted to feel ‘normal’, just like any other seventeen year old.

During her treatment because she lost so much weight her Mom and I decided to allow a ‘G’ tube to be inserted through her abdomen into her stomach so we could continually pump nourishment into her tummy. When she was little she used to joke that she had two belly buttons but now she wasn’t comfortable with it. The Plastics Doc said it would be a simple procedure and would ‘release’ the ‘G’ tube site from her stomach.

Being sensitive to my daughters wishes, she didn’t want me at the hospital, I went to work. Just before noon I received a frantic call from her Mom, she was in tears and asked me to come down to the hospital immediately. She didn’t allude to anything just there were some complications. Off I went.

When I got down there I heard the news. When the Doc was ‘releasing’ the ‘G’ tube site he thought he nicked the bowel ... serious indeed. The surgeries were supposed to be day surgery types but with this setback they wanted to keep her in overnight to observe and at the first chance they could do a CT scan to check if the bowel had been nicked. Thankfully all signs and the CT indicated that he hadn’t nicked it but he did want to err on the side of caution.

An implant was placed in her right chest and over the next few weeks injections would slowly inflate the implant allowing her skin to stretch.

At her second follow up appointment the implant was injected. Her Mom and her came home but Hannah had quite a bit of discomfort and was having a hard time breathing. Eventually her Mom took her back to Women’s College Emergency. It appears that one of the unforeseen long term effects of her treatment was the radiation made her ribs soft and pliable and now the implant was pushing in on her ribs ... and lungs.

As the Dad I only get information from her Mom and since we are no longer together it’s only if I were to call and talk to her Mom (we get along but can’t live together). So far after that latest news I’m not sure what is happening.

Childhood cancer has a huge impact on our society ... Lainies Angels helps families cope on their childhood cancer journey because they know first hand what it does to a family.

Lainie’s Angels is dedicated to providing guidance and peer support to the parents and families of children suffering from cancer and blood disorders. We believe that by sharing your story with us, you’ll help families across the globe learn new ways to cope and to know that they’re not alone.

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