By Angela Cowan/News Staff
To say Maria Bruvold and her family have had a tough year is an understatement.
Their son Owen, who turns three tomorrow (July 19), was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2013, and they spent the rest of that year in front-line treatment, making numerous trips to Vancouver from their home in Langford and spending every moment supporting their son.
Owen was in near complete isolation to protect his compromised immune system. It wasn’t until after he began receiving long-term treatment in January that Bruvold and her husband were given the go-ahead by their doctor to get out into the public realm again. They started attending parent support meetings and became involved with the B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents’ Association’s Family Support Program.
Bruvold found out about BCCCPA while in Vancouver, but she wasn’t immediately aware there was an Island chapter. Through the program, she and her husband have been able to connect with other families going through the same experiences, and this connection has been vital.
“The biggest thing is, I have friends and family, but once you’ve been through cancer, only other parents who have gone through it too are really going to understand,” Bruvold said. “We don’t know each other, but we’re kindred spirits.”
Now that Owen’s immune system is strong enough to allow him out in public spaces again, his parents have been taking every opportunity to expand his world beyond the hospital.
Through the Family Support Program, the Bruvolds have gone to Western Speedway, a Victoria Royals hockey game and this summer they’re going on a camping trip for oncology families, sponsored by BCCCPA.
“It’s helped us feel like we’re part of ‘normal’ society again,” she said.
Owen’s long-term treatment is set to continue until June 2016, as the treatment for boys with acute lymphoblastic leukemia is three full years. The Bruvolds, like many other families, will have to deal with loss of income and added medical expenses for some time yet. But with the help of the Family Support Program, they won’t have to go it alone.
The program hopes to raise $50,000 for this year’s budget to provide emergency services to families, financial aid, on-site support and outdoor recreational activities for patients and their families.
Susan Kerr, patient parent liaison on the Island for the association, said the program greatly supports families financially as well as emotionally, noting the majority of families going through treatment are hit hard with costs and loss of income.
“The program for me is about letting parents be with their kids and not have to worry about fundraising,” she said. “Breathing room is so important, and we’re all breathing the same air.”
Coast Capital Savings’ recent donation of $5,000 is a big step toward reaching their goal.
“It was a natural step for us to help,” said Hollie Coulter, chief customer experience officer at the West Shore branch, who presented the donation last week.
The Bruvolds have also taken advantage of the Comfy Kids Program, which provides a safe and clean car to families who have to travel for treatment. “It uplifts our spirits. To have access to these programs and services makes things so much easier,” she said.
“It helps us to believe in good in the world again.”
For more information about the association, visit bcccpa.org.