On Aug. 25, Erin Abbott-Haines’ worst nightmare came true.
That was the day her four-year-old son Roane was diagnosed with cancer.
For the past few weeks, Roane complained about headaches and dizziness. After ruling out a number of things that could cause him to be sick, Abbott-Haines took Roane to the doctor, who ordered a blood test. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature white blood cells.
“You know in the movies when you see a person collapse to the ground, I’ve never done that before and I can’t imagine many reasons to do that in my life. After collapsing, I was being held up by my husband and kept thinking ‘How can this be happening to us? How can this be happening to him’?” said Abbott-Haines, an Esquimalt resident and stay-at-home mother. “It’s truly my worst nightmare.”
It was an especially heartbreaking diagnosis for Abbott-Haines, who battled the same form of cancer two decades ago when she was just 13 years old.
As a child, Abbott-Haines had a number of flu-like symptoms leading up to her diagnosis. She had leg and stomach pain, bruised easily and found it difficult to walk. After being diagnosed, she received intense treatment over a two-and-a-half-year period during which she lost her hair, but survived.
However, the treatments have had long-term effects on Abbott-Haines’ body, many problems she continues to deal with today. Earlier this year, she had reconstructive surgery on her ankle and her right ankle will need to be replaced in the future.
Now, Abbott-Haines is reliving a part of her past she hoped to never repeat.
A day after Roane’s diagnosis, Abbott-Haines packed up the family — her husband Andrew, their two-year-old son Kaylo and their cat — and were on their way to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for treatment.
Roane, who Abbott-Haines describes as a “sweet and sensitive boy with a wild side to him,” will receive the same treatment that his mother received 20 years ago, which will involved travelling back and forth between Vancouver and Victoria over the next three years.
Despite being a childhood cancer survivor, Abbott-Haines admits she’s worried about the long-term affects the treatment will have on her son, both physically and mentally.
“I know it’s going to be a really rough go and there’s going to be a lot of stuff to work through, but I don’t want it to harden him,” she said. “I hope he stays just as sensitive.”
Since news broke of Roane’s diagnosis, the community has rallied to help the young family.
More than $17,000 has been raised through an online fundraising campaign to help with the family’s travel expenses, extra child care, food and unexpected medical expenses.
“I don’t know how we would be doing this without our community. Because of the GoFundMe page, I can stay until at least Christmas. That means I can breathe again,” Abbott-Haines said, adding more resources are needed to be redistributed to childhood cancer.
“Everyone thinks it can’t happen to them. Even I thought it couldn’t happen to me again. Rates of leukaemia are rising and although cure rates are rising too, it has to get better. Right now we’re saving lives but we’re also disabling kids in order to save them. There has to be a better option. I have to believe there’s a better option. (Childhood cancer) is a problem that needs to be dealt with.”
To donate to the campaign visit GoFundMe and search Roane’s Medical Fund by Erin Orion.