In the middle of strenuous cancer treatment, Connor Morcom and his mom Lee-Ann have found a surprising paradox: leaving home, family and friends in Kelowna for treatment of Connor’s brain cancer at BC Children’s has been disruptive. But in the midst of this difficult ordeal, they’ve experienced some of the most rewarding times of their lives.
“Even though all this sucks, the past 10 months have been some of the best,” says Lee-Ann.
“We've met some amazing families that are struggling thru these trenches with us. We have met amazing doctors and nurses and hospital staff.”
Considering the devastating diagnosis, the support and camaraderie is more than welcome.
Last year, Lee-Ann and Darren noticed that Connor had consistent problems with his eyesight. Though he was fitted with glasses, Lee-Ann and Darren weren't convinced the problem began and ended with his vision. Eventually, an ophthalmologist agreed, and sent Connor for a CT scan at Kelowna General Hospital. In Vancouver, a craniotomy determined Connor had medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer that starts at the base of the skull and can spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord.
“It's just scary that when you are given a cancer diagnosis, and then you have to tell an eight-year-old that life as we know it has to change for them, as well as for their sibling,” Lee-Ann says.
By February of 2016, Connor and Lee-Ann moved to Vancouver’s Ronald McDonald House, for Connor’s 31 rounds of intense radiation to his brain and spine over six weeks at nearby BC Children’s Hospital. After a break and respite back in the Okanagan, they returned for his maintenance phase: six months of chemotherapy, or six 28-day rounds that had them spend three days every cycle in the hospital and returning for bi-weekly follow-up appointments.
“At just eight years old, Connor has had to endure more than 25 blood or platelet transfusions,” says Lee-Ann.
The pain of separation from dad Darren and Connor’s older brother Aiden was intense for the pair. “My husband had to miss out on our daily activities here and I missed out on our older son's life--his soccer, school, hockey, and I missed just being with him, to tuck him in at night.”
Connor has braved his constant ordeals with a positive outlook. He keeps up with his schooling at BC Children’s and he and Lee-Ann take frequent breaks and take part in events and activities at BC Children’s—everything from professional sports games, trick-or-treating on Halloween, and parties on Valentine’s Day--thanks to their relationships with Child Life specialists.
Lee-Ann says the family has a special place in their hearts for Child Life specialists working in oncology at BC Children’s.
“You get to love your doctors and nurses, but when we see the people from Child Life, they always have smiles for us. They want to help Connor pass the time through his treatments and appointments with games and activities.”