Islay Mei Gordon

Islay Mei Gordon

CANCER AND FAMILIES-PART 1: ‘The diagnosis was terrifying’

A labour Day backyard barbecue a year ago is one Alicen Chow will never forget.

A labour Day backyard barbecue a year ago is one Alicen Chow will never forget.

Her daughter, Islay Mei Gordon, was playing with other children and fell from a tree. It didn’t appear to be a big deal at the time, but it would soon spiral the young family into a fight for life.

Soon after the fall, Islay began to limp and complain of a sore back. A trip to the doctor identified nothing out of the ordinary.

As the weeks passed, Islay started getting more peculiar aches and pains. She developed an odd rash on her shoulder and the pains in her knees and back were continuing to get worse, and when she woke up in the morning she was often so stiff she could hardly get out of bed.

Finally after weeks consulting with doctors and other health professionals, it was discovered Islay had leukemia.

“[The diagnosis] was terrifying,” Chow said. “I think we probably thought it was a death sentence at the time.”

Islay was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver to begin cancer treatment.

The first 24 hours were a whirlwind of activity as Islay underwent treatment. For the family, it opened an unexpected new world of learning medical terminology and understanding the cancer.

“You quickly move from ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ to being inundated with information. You really don’t get a chance to catch your breath,” Chow said.

Islay faced the first days with a lot of courage for a six year old as doctors and nurses poked and prodded her in the early stages of the cancer treatment.

Chow was surprised how well Islay held up.

“The moment we got [at the hospital] they made it really easy. They treat children with remarkable respect,” Chow said. “They made it as easy as they could and she did really well.”

Anne Correlli, a pediatric oncology nurse at Victoria General Hospital, said family is so important when a child is dealing with cancer.

The family is considered a part of the health team.

“We try to build that trust with the families so they trust themselves and so when they are here and looking at numbers on the machine that we can reinforce with them it’s not just about the numbers but what they see in their child,” Correlli said.

After a few weeks at B.C. Children’s Hospital, Islay returned home and began taking day treatment at Victoria General Hospital.

Islay has been in remission since mid-January and returned to Grade 1 at Keating elementary school in September.

The hardship of dealing with cancer is not just the disease, but how it changes family life.

Chow said her family was lucky they didn’t have to spend more time in Vancouver, so they didn’t face a lot of financial hardships.

Still, there were incidents that came up where they had to ask groups like Make-a-Wish and the B.C. Childhood Cancer Parents’ Association for help.

Chow, who is in the public service, now works two to three days a week at home. Her husband, Coll Gordon, has returned to his small law practice.

Chow said she doubts her family life will ever be the same.

“The biggest change is you develop this new normal, but it does quickly become part of your everyday routine.” she said.

“Everything changed. There’s no going back. The sense of invincibility is gone.”

•••

Over the next three issues, the Victoria News will look at the effect childhood cancer has on a family, from the devastating diagnosis to the financial and emotional hardships that follow. We also take a look at where families can get help, and the special relationships that form between health–care professionals and families.

Today

Alicen Chow and Coll Gordon  were taken aback when their six-year-old daughter Islay Mei Gordon was diagnosed with leukemia a year ago. A year of medical procedures and tests followed.

Oct. 24

Five-year-old Melia Christenson was a happy, rambunctious little girl. Her first symptoms of cancer was a tummy ache. The diagnosis later revealed Wilms’ Tumour.

Oct. 29

Anne Carrelli is a pediatric oncology nurse at Victoria General Hospital. She’s part of a team of nurses, doctors and social workers who treat children with cancer. “You can’t help but get invested in every family because kids are kids – and they just want to get better,” Carrelli says.

 

 

Just Posted

Saanich Volunteer Services Society volunteers head out to deliver this week’s meals to local seniors. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
VIDEO: Weekly meal deliveries help brighten the day for Saanich seniors

Seniors are delivered nutritional meals by a group of volunteers every Wednesday

O.K. Industries is building a quarry next to Capital Regional District land, as shown in this map from the rezoning applicaiton. (Photo courtesy District of Highlands)
Millstream Quarry wins again in court against Highlands community’s appeal

Judges rule province not obligated to investigate climate change before issuing permit

GardenWorks nursery in Oak Bay at its home until August. (Black Press Media file photo)
GardenWorks puts down new roots in Oak Bay this summer

Nursery shifts down The Avenue to fill former fitness studio space

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New residential school healing centre to be built near Duncan

$5-million Indigenous treatment centre will help survivors of residential schools heal

Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Vancouver Island lottery players win $1 million and $500,000 in Lotto Max draw

$1 million ticket sold in Campbell River, $500,000 ticket sold in Nanaimo

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

Most Read