Vice Chairperson: Leslie Maerov
Treasurer: Debbie Watt
Secretary: Shannon Whieldon
Vancouver Island Liaison: Please Email Info@bcccpa.org
Medical Advisory Staff: Dr. Paul Rogers MB, FRCP (Lond), FRCPC, MBA
Dave & Suzanne Dunbar
The Dunbar Family (Dave, Suzanne, Kayla, Marissa & Quinn) were surprised and shocked to learn that Quinn’s long “sickness” during the summer of 2002 was in fact Cancer. In Sept. ’02 Quinn was diagnosed (at 6.1/2 years old) with a brain tumour – Medulloblastoma. After surgery, Chemotherapy followed, along with 31 doses of radiation to the head and spine ending on Christmas Eve ’02. Then, a month later (before starting a year of Chemo) an MRI revealed four new tumours in his spine. After 6 months of “heavy” Chemo, the Oncology Team decided that a “Stem Cell Rescue” would be best. On July 22/03 at Children’s, Quinn rec’d approx. 6 months of Chemo in 6 days , was then moved to the transplant room, injected with his own blood stem cells, and was finally discharged on Aug. 22/03 – a month later. For insurance, Quinn rec’d another 13 radiation doses to his spine in December of ’03.
What followed was a tense two years of constant medical follow ups and MRI’s … but, no Cancer. Then the devastating news that Quinn’s cancer returned (in Oct. ’05), as a new brain tumour and a spinal tumour showed up on the MRI checkup. Since then it has been a non-stop battle with Chemotherapy, sickness, specialized radiation treatment in the USA. and the constant search for a cure. Throughout all of this, Quinn (now 12.1/2 yrs old and a Grade 7 student) has remained very bright and cheery – a model student for his teachers and a model patient for his doctors and nurses. It was only through the great help of family, friends, church, Quinn’s elementary school and many unnamed others that have kept this journey from becoming unbearable. It was during the two years where we thought we had cancer beat that we discovered BCCCPA. We decided to get involved, as we saw many families without the kind of support that we rec’d. Also due to the fact that we were shocked by the costs that families incur, and what our medical system didn’t cover. (We understand why some families lose their cars, their homes and sometimes their marriages – financial pressure is the last thing they need when they have a child, sick with Cancer!)
Shannon Whieldon is an Obstetrical nurse at Langley Memorial Hospital. With a background in athletics, having taught aerobics for the YMCA for years, water aerobics in Thailand and competing on the National Parachuting-Giant Slalom ski team, she enjoyed the outdoors and the unique situations her skydiving students never failed to provide. After 10 years as an Industrial First Aid attendant and computer operator she found her passion to be in preventative health. Switching careers she has enjoyed a great variety in her 20 years of nursing having worked in rehabilitation medicine, pediatrics, surgery, neonatal intensive care, emergency, psychiatry, and oncology. Always, seeking new adventures and challenges, she was blessed with a child, the most fun, yet most demanding job of her life.
Brendan Whieldon was a little dynamo from the moment he was born. Travelling to 13 countries and having made 60 flights before the age of 4, he was an athlete on the move. He’s flown over geysers in New Zealand and snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. He rode away the second his grandfather took the training wheels off his bike and has never looked back. Diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma at age 4, he was doing jumps and skiing through the trees, ten days after major abdominal surgery to remove his tumour. Despite induction chemotherapy and transplant, the metastatic Neuroblastoma cells had never completely cleared from Brendan’s bone marrow. 45 radiation treatments and over 120 rounds of chemotherapy could not slow him down, so after 8.5 years of fighting cancer, at the magical age of 13 his body cleared his cancer and healed his kidneys leaving him to embark on his teenage years, cancer free, with a whole lot of living left to do. Brendan is best known for his fearless pursuit of adventure and attention to detail in his artistic and musical talents.
In March, 1998, our son, Andrew, complained of numbness on the front of his leg. He was 15, and his brother Richard was 17. After a number of routine visits to doctors, he was diagnosed with an astrocytoma tumour in his spinal cord, a rarity altogether, particularly in a juvenile, and generally a benign type of tumour. He had surgery in June to remove the tumour, which initially was thought to be benign, but after a thorough biopsy was found to be malignant. Andrew went through 26 radiation treatments and then chemotherapy and appeared to be recovering his strength. Then suddenly in December he rapidly lost his strength and underwent another operation to remove cystic fluid in his spine, but the tumour continued to grow. He stayed on chemo, consisting of injections and pills through the first half of the year, all the while becoming progressively paralyzed starting from his legs and then up his body. Despite his unwavering spirit and determination, Andrew died in September, 1999, at age 17 having spent his last two birthdays in the hospital.
During treatments for Andrew’s illness at BC Children’s we became aware of how many families were struggling, not only with the emotional impact of having a child with cancer but with the worry of trying to make ends meet because of the financial toll of taking care of their sick child over a long period of time. We lived near the hospital, Cecilia had flexible work hours, and we did not have younger children to take care of so we were better able than most families to bear the financial burden.
After Andrew died, to honour his memory, we began fundraising to help families who were struggling financially. We worked closely with the social workers at the hospital who helped steer the money to families in need. We subsequently joined forces with the BC Childhood Cancer Parents Association, a group of wonderful, like minded people, whose main goal is to provide financial and emotional support to families who have a child with cancer.
On October 27, 2004 our 13 year old son Nathan was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer called Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Our world as we knew it with two healthy boys was turned upside down. With not a great prognosis we went full on with treatment. After a liver and bone marrow biopsy, MRI, CT’s, many rounds of chemotherapy and a Chemoembolization as well as alternative choices Nathan was not getting better. I remember thinking “Could this be his last Christmas?”…an unimaginable thought.
Nathan was an avid reader and “devoured” books, one right after another. His idea of chilling time was to play his gameboy or play on the computer. He had a wicked sense of humour as he would “laugh out loud” when watching a funny TV show. The Saturday prior to his being diagnosed with a liver tumour he tested and received his purple belt in Tai-kwon-do. He also loved to “hang out” with his friends and brother Kyle.
April 23, 2005 My husband Rob and myself made the agonizing decision for our family to go to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, (still hoping for a miracle), for end-of-life care. Our beautiful son Nathan died three weeks later on May 15, 2005 at Canuck Place with his Mom, Dad and brother Kyle at his side.
With a broken heart but understanding the “emotional rollercoaster” and the financial burden of taking care of a child with cancer I joined BCCCPA (British Columbia Childhood Cancer Parents Association) to help other families. Touched by the support we had from family, friends and co-workers I felt a strong need to give back and what better way of honoring our beloved son Nathan.
Though I’m one of two Directors on the Board that has not gone through cancer treatment with a child, I have seen firsthand how a family is affected by their child’s diagnosis of cancer, and the battle they undertook to find a cure. My good friends of 30 years and fellow Board Members Dave and Suzanne lost their son Quinn to cancer after a 7 year battle.
I saw how cancer affects a family not only emotionally but also financially. Knowing how important an organization like BCCCPA is to Dave and Suzanne and the families that BCCCPA supports, I decided to join the Board in 2014. There is an amazing group of dedicated people on this Board that work tirelessly to make a difference, and I’m honored to be working with them.
Tara, her husband (Len) and their children are long time friends of Dave and Suzanne Dunbar (and their 3 children). The Fong’s started to support BCCCPA’s fundraising efforts after discovering Quinn Dunbar was diagnosed with cancer (in 2002) – and, after learning of the many medical costs that are not covered through BC Medical or Extended Medical insurance and the hardship this was placing on families like Dave and Suzanne’s.
Tara joined the BCCCPA Board in 2014 wanting to offer her time, and with a desire to support and further develop the organization so it can continue to help families in need, fund childhood cancer research, and to hopefully make a small difference for other BC parents and children. Tara feels fortunate to not have lived the trauma and heartache of having a child sick with cancer (hopes she never has to), and considers it an honor to work with the BCCCPA Board.