I am always so amazed and inspired when I hear of kiddos in our community that are making our world a better place and helping those in need. If this is your first time reading this series, make sure to check out all of the heart-warming little leader stories here. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and today, I am so honoured to welcome Heather and her family to the blog to share their story!
Take it away, Heather.
Hearing your child has cancer is one of the worst sentences you will ever hear. Fortunately, this is not on the minds of many parents, but for some we are thrust into this unimaginable world without any warning. Our family heard those words in September of 2018. After a summer spent adventuring with no indication that anything was wrong, we had the wind knocked out of us when a trip to the ER for an assumed appendix issue was actually a softball-sized tumor in our daughter Evelyn’s abdomen. Further tests would confirm that Ev had stage 4 neuroblastoma. Our entire world changed in a moment. As shocked and heartbroken as we were, these words never seemed to shake Evelyn or her sister Harper very much. Their bright smiles and cheeky personalities seemed to shine even brighter in all the chaos that cancer brought.
Never one to pass up a dance party, a burpee, or a silly joke, both Evelyn and Harper made every visit to the hospital fun. They walked into every experience with joy. It was early on in our journey with cancer that our family began to see the challenges in our healthcare system and knew we needed to do our best to support the families we were walking beside. With the help of friends, family, and local Calgary businesses, we designed a clothing line and donated the profits to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The clothing line was just the first of many fundraising efforts Evelyn and Harper took on and as parents, we loved watching them love on other people.
One day when making a donation at the hospital, Evelyn got to place a heart on the giving tree in the foundation office. She placed her heart near the bottom of the tree. When I asked her why, she replied that she was a part of the roots. She explained to me that in a forest, the root system of trees is connected and when one tree is sick, the other trees care for it. We were a part of the roots caring for other families in the hospital. Over the course of 18 months, Evelyn underwent surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and two stem cell transplants. She spent hundreds of nights in the hospital. She weathered the uneasy feelings of a future that was uncertain and did it with a fierce bravery incongruent with her age. It was a long journey that ended on February 26, 2020, when our girl passed away, surrounded by her loving family and friends.
When Evelyn passed a giant hole was left behind, but as a family, we knew we needed to continue to share her story. Everyone deserves to know Evelyn. Harper, being a remarkable little sister, took some of her grief energy and alongside two of her and Evelyn’s best friends created the “Life Gave Us Lemons” lemonade stand. These three remarkably brave girls take their lemonade stand to charitable events, parks, etc., and sell their lemonade, donating every cent they make to local charities in Evelyn’s memory.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Our hope is that we will be able to change someone else’s story through the advocacy work we are doing. Childhood cancer only receives 4% of the Canadian Government’s cancer research dollars and this needs to change. Our children deserve better and so we continue to raise awareness. We ask that you share Evelyn’s story in hopes that we can one day increase the research funding so another Mom does not need to share her story of loss alongside the story of her amazing and beautiful little girls. If you would like to stay up to date please follow @happilyheath and @teamevelynfoundation to support us in future projects and fundraising endeavours.
– Heather and Family