Greater Victoria rallies behind boy battling cancer

Centennial Park Sunday hosted a fundraiser for Liam and his family

Make every moment count.

That is the mantra that has guided the Comboye family since three-year-old Liam, the oldest of two sons, received a diagnosis of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).

An aggressive form of pediatric brain cancer, it attacks the middle of the brain stem and has a low rate of survival. “They are just enjoying every single moment that they have,” said Lindsay Walper, Liam’s aunt.

She spoke those words in Saanichton’s Centennial Park, mere steps away from a bouncy castle, where children, many not much older than Liam, are jumping up and down, filling the air-filled contraption with shrieks of joy.

They, along with their parents, have come to show their support for Liam and the B.C. Children’s Hospital by participating in another fundraiser for the family that featured all the trappings of a fun afternoon in the park.

A face-painting tent turned toddlers into superheroes, at least for a few hours, on this sunny September afternoon.

Agustin Torres, the Saanich-based realtor who helped organize the event, grilled hot dogs while his helper handed out soda cans and small bags of chips to the 100 or so who came from across the Greater Victoria area.

Parents sat with their children in a nearby patch of grass or made them chase soccer balls on the large field just down the slope from where Games 2U had set up the bouncy castle and an obstacle course. Overall, the event raised $1,773, split equally between B.C. Children’s Hospital and Liam’s family.

But Liam, his mother Cari, father Mike and nine-month-old brother Brody could not come themselves, as Liam’s tumour has doubled in size since July despite chemotherapy.

The knowledge of Liam’s likely future, or rather the knowledge of the possibilities potentially denied, was present throughout. Such thoughts debilitate, raise unanswerable questions and create their own imperatives all at once.

“How can any parent be doing when you are told that your child is dying?” said Walper, when asked about her sister.

“She is not doing very good, to be honest. She is struggling. Reality is very hard. You don’t want to think ahead. You are living in the moment. That’s all you have. You can’t think about the future, because the future doesn’t have him in it at all.”

Tashia Brewer, Cari’s best friend, is also grappling with this reality. She has known Liam’s mother since they were about 11 years old.

“We grew up together, we had our babies together, we got married together,” said Brewer. “We have been through everything together, I mean everything.”

Brewer’s daughter, Lily, is four months older than Liam and they grew up with each other. “They have been together like me and Cari the whole time” she said. “Lily and Liam.”

Brewer said news of Liam’s cancer shocked and angered her. “He doesn’t understand what’s going on,” she said. “It has basically stolen his life away. He is not progressing, he is not learning, he cannot do public things, he cannot go out and play normally like he used to. It has basically taken everything.”

Brewer said her daughter Lily constantly asks about Liam. “Everything that she does, she asks if he is coming. Everything that she does with friends, every park, every place, she asks if Liam is coming. When I tell her that Liam is too sick, she tells me she is sick too. That is where her mentality is.”

Brewer’s 62-year-old mother recently died of cancer and she is not yet prepared to tell Lily the full extent of what lies ahead. This recent, personal history with cancer has inevitably coloured Brewer’s response.

“My mom died of lung and brain cancer less than a year ago, and there is so much research,” she said. “There is no hope in DIPG. As I said to Cari, I would literally lose my mom 10 times over for him to be OK. She had choices. Liam has none.”

 

Cari and Mike Comboye with their son Liam, 3 and son Brody, then five months, in BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver earlier this year. Doctors diagnosed Liam with an aggressive brain tumour.

Emma Pine of Games2U paints the face of four-year-old Keira Mirandette during Sunday’s fundraiser for the B.C. Children’s Hospital and Liam Comboye. The three-year-old recently received a diagnosis of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive brain cancer. Wolfgang Depner / News Staff

The line up for the bouncy castle was study during Sunday’s fundraiser for the B.C. Children’s Hospital and Liam Comboye. The 3-year-old recently received a diagnosis of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive brain cancer. Wolfgang Depner / News Staff

Just Posted

New Topaz Park plans include second Victoria skatepark

Splashpad, pickleball court and fenced off-leash parks being considered

Island Health sends out call to staff supervised consumption service in Victoria

Request for proposals open until January, site to open in late spring 2018

Saanich doubles price to provide fire dispatch services to Esquimalt

District of Saanich says it can no longer afford to subsidize service to smaller municipality

Transit bus loses control near Uptown shopping centre

One person was treated for a minor injury at the scene

High construction costs send Douglas bus lane project $2.2 million higher

But re-tendered bid process by Victoria secures lower bid for Hillside-to-Tolmie stretch

Me Too At Work: Sexual assault and harassment in the B.C. workplace

Introducing an in-depth look at who is affected and what can be done

WATCH: Victoria’s Hanukkah celebrations open at the B.C. legislature

Premier joins local Jewish community to mark first day of Festival of Lights

BC Ferries adds extra sailings for Christmas

More than 175 sailings are being added, including 130 between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island

Vikes make bid to host national men’s basketball championships in 2019

Langford, Bear Mountain join UVic bid for nationals

Bomb detonated in Kamloops neighbourhood

Kamloops RCMP are investigating after an improvised explosive device was detonated Wednesday morning

No More Shootouts: Strong defence will be Canada’s backbone at world juniors

Head coach doesn’t want a situation where a hot goalie or a lucky bounce can determine a team’s fate

Victoria denies potshop on Saanich border

Plans for a pot shop on Saanich’s border have gone up in… Continue reading

Proposed snowmobiles along Sicamous roads concern RCMP

RCMP, ICBC and province not yet on-board with proposed off-road bylaw in the B.C. Interior

Latest big finish leaves WHL Royals short of victory

Victoria plays hockey home and home against Vancouver this Friday and Saturday

Most Read