Hillcrest elementary student Tiernan Dowling is in BC Children's Hospital after pain led to a diagnosis of multiple cancer tumours and lesions in his body last week.

Family ‘overwhelmed’ by community support for cancer-stricken son

Community rallies for eight-year-old boy stricken with cancer in Saanich

A Saanich family is thanking residents after a crowdfunding campaign for their son’s cancer treatment exceeded its fundraising goal, and expectations, in a matter of days.

Michelle and Kai Dowling started a GoFundMe campaign on March 10, six days after their eight-year-old son Tiernan was diagnosed with cancer. In less than a week, they received nearly  $50,000, their fundraising goal, from more than 500 people in Saanich and beyond.

“It’s been amazing and heartwarming – we’ve been overwhelmed by all the support from everybody,” said Michelle. “Complete strangers, friends, family, my son’s school. Everyone’s been very, very supportive.”

The outpouring of support has been a welcome dose of good news since Tiernan received his diagnosis. Earlier this month, the Hillcrest Elementary student told his parents of pain he had felt in his legs, but they said the first doctor they saw believed it was a soft tissue injury from playing soccer.

“He’d actually been having some leg pain before the day we went to the hospital,” said Michelle. “By Friday, it was quite bad so we took him to the hospital and that’s when they sent us to Children’s.”

Doctors at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver conducted x-rays and an MRI, as well as blood tests, skeletal scans and ultrasounds. They soon realized Tiernan’s condition was more serious than they had initially thought, finding multiple bone lesions in his legs, pelvis, arms and spinal cord, and masses in the right side of his chest and on his adrenal gland.

“It’s pretty widespread, it looks like,” said Michelle. “They still haven’t figured out what type of cancer he has. We’re hoping to know from the biopsy results what type of cancer it is – we’ve ruled a couple of them out, and hopefully, he can start chemo this week.”

Michelle and Kai have each taken leaves of absence from their work to be with Tiernan, which has put a burden on their income. Travelling between Victoria and Vancouver and “living in two cities at once,” as Michelle put it, is putting a further strain on their finances.

The Dowlings have been moved by their friends and family who have reached out to them. From his hospital bed, Tiernan has Skyped with some of his friends, and everyone has made an effort to make him feel better.

“I’ve got a few friends that actually work at B.C. Children’s, so they pop in and they’re always there for a hug and cup of coffee or tea,” said Michelle. “All those little things are making this whole experience just a little bit better.

“We’re thankful and we’re hoping we can find a curative treatment for him. We’re still waiting for some answers, which is the toughest part. Every day feels like an eternity.”

While the crowdfunding goal has been met, the campaign is still open to donations. To donate, go to gofundme.com.





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