Schools rally behind Gordon Head teen

Saanich students raise funds for Kiera O’Connor who was diagnosed with nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma

Sixteen-year-old Kiera O’Connor stands in the hall of Gordon Head middle school. Both her current school

Sixteen-year-old Kiera O’Connor stands in the hall of Gordon Head middle school. Both her current school

Kiera O’Connor’s summer was all planned when she finally showed a doctor a stubborn lump in her thigh.

The first doctor she saw referred her for an ultrasound that was going to take six months. But her step-mom had a hunch. She called the ultrasound clinic and was able to get O’Connor in within a week.

They weren’t given the results but the look on the ultrasound clinician’s face said it all, O’Connor said.

“Once the family doctor gave me the results, all I heard was something about [additional] tests and to set up a visit to B.C. Children’s Hospital, and it all became a blur. My whole life’s been a blur since.”

By mid-June, at 15 years of age, O’Connor was diagnosed with nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma.

That was it for her summer plans. O’Connor cancelled out of the two-week school trip to Europe she’d been fundraising for since last year. And she opted out of a summer job working with international exchange students at Saint Michaels University School.  Instead, she started chemotherapy and got used to bunking at Ronald McDonald House.

O’Connor is now 16 and is nearly finished her third and final round of chemotherapy and the results are positive. A PET scan suggested the cancer is shrinking and there is much hope she won’t need further radiation.

“The message I want to share is for kids to listen to their body,” O’Connor said. “The lump didn’t go away, and got worse, and it was already in three lymph nodes by the time I was diagnosed with Stage 1 cancer. If I had waited six months [for an ultrasound] I could very well be Stage 4.”

Though the Gordon Head teen was extremely positive from the start, she wasn’t without her doubts.

After each day of chemo session she’s on a cocktail of meds to help control the extreme nausea and vomiting for seven to nine days after, said her step-mom Lisa. She is usually in bed for five days after as well.

There’s been some bright spots, on her 16th birthday Oak Bay Beach Hotel provided O’Connor with a spa visit, pool visit and lunch.

Even the physical toll of chemotherapy and the cocktails of serious medications that are needed to help a patient through cancer treatment are not enough to keep her spirits down.

And it’s contagious.

O’Connor’s former school, Gordon Head middle, and her current school, Mount Douglas secondary, are both holding a series of fundraisers.

During a recent visit to Gordon Head Kiera felt like a rock star, giving out dozens of hugs while receiving positive well wishes and handmade cards.

This week at Gordon Head is Kaps for Kiera, where students can pay for the right to wear a hat, thereby superseding the school’s no-hat policy. On Thursday, staff and students will provide coffee (by donation) during the morning drop-off. And on Oct. 31, Gordon Head will hold a head-shave assembly at which O’Connor will shave the head of teacher Alex de Medeiros. Her 19-year-old brother Kyle O’Connor is getting the chance to come back to school and shave the head of principal Kevin Luchies (who were recently student and principal at Lambrick Park secondary).

Mount Douglas also held Kaps for Kiera this week, in which students are wearing hats, and passing around a hat to collect money toward the campaign.

There is also a GoFundMe page, which is well over its $2,500 target, and offers a 2016 U.S. Open golf tournament flag signed by winner Dustin Johnson, and a $1,000 home alarm system from Beacon Security Systems.

The money is not for the O’Connor family, rather, O’Connor has asked it be split 50-50 between the B.C. Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Winter blues a concern for Vancouver Islanders during COVID-19 Christmas season

Statistics show British Columbians anticipate worsening mental health

Jason Soukochoff is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, say Victoria police. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man with violent criminal history against elderly

Jason Soukochoff wanted on Canada-wide warrant for parole violations

On Nov. 16, Saanich council received the 2020 Housing Needs Report which provides a summary of the district’s housing market and the anticipated future needs of the municipality. (District of Saanich)
New report highlights need for diverse, affordable housing in Saanich

Saanich Housing Needs Report shows current supply doesn’t meet community needs

Bystanders attend to a cyclist who is knocked to the pavement of Oak Bay Avenue. Witnesses say the cyclist was knocked off their bike in a dooring incident on Oak Bay Avenue at Fell Street at around 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday. 
(Daniel Opden Dries Photo)
UPDATED: VicPD tickets driver for ‘dooring’ cyclist on Oak Bay Avenue

Incident occurred at Oak Bay Avenue and Fell Street

West Shore RCMP pulled over a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee on Nov. 23 after noting that it didn’t appear safe for the road. (West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP pull over vehicle held together by tape and cargo strap

RCMP deemed the vehicle unsafe for the road and had it towed away

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

An excavator was stolen from a rural property south of Nanaimo this month, say police. (Photos submitted)
Excavator stolen from property south of Nanaimo

Bobcat Mini believed to have been stolen between Nov. 12-14, say RCMP

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Most Read