When I was in my second year at university, I had to give a speech for my public speaking class on a topic close to my heart. I chose BC Children's Hospital. My family had gone through a crazy, emotional, life-changing journey a few years earlier and the doctors and nurses at Children's had been there for us through it all. Little did I know that my speech was going to have the effect it did on my classmates. People were tearing up and really invested in what I had to say. Turns out that most people in my class had experienced or knew someone who had been treated at Children's and I know that is an accurate representation of our province. That is why when asked to pick a local charity for the month of September, I chose to support something close to my hear, BC Children's Hospital Foundation.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month which is where this story gets even closer to home for me. Friends of mine, Andrew and Chelsey, had a young daughter battling brain cancer who passed away at just over 2 and a half years old in September of 2013. Lilee-Jean's story is as unique and touching as Lilee was herself and if you can remember back to 2013, you might remember some of this. I share this story with you now because the world is kind of crazy and unhinged (more so than usual) and I want you to take a second and look up from your phone when you are done reading this and take a grateful look around you.
In October of 2011, when Lilee-Jean was just 10 months old, she was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer more commonly found in older men. Lilee underwent surgeries and treatments and even though these were successful, another tumour was found. With only 3-6 months left to live, Andrew and Chelsey made it their mission to make these last month's of Lilee's life remarkable.
Thanks to the support of friends, family and social media, the Love For Lilee movement took shape and fundraiser after fundraiser was held so that Andrew and Chelsey could spend the last few months of Lilee's life with her making every moment count. Even Nickleback - yes, Nickleback - got involved and donated $100,000 to Children's Hospital in honour of Lilee. Chelsey called it Dancing in the Rain and this enabled Lilee to see Cinderella at Disneyland, experience the smells of Hawaii, have Christmas in August, and have a princess themed half-birthday party the summer she passed away amongst many other things.
The sad thing is that many kids face the same outcome as Lilee but their parent's are unable to give them this kind of final farewell. This is where you and I come in. Love for Lilee is still going strong and fundraisers are held throughout the year in support of various charities to be able to raise awareness for paediatric cancer and to give families that are currently going through this tough time some relief. It is also important to educate ourselves and our children on what other families are going through at any given moment and a reminder to each of us what is truly important in our lives.
Chelsey has written a children's book titled The Ordinary Girl based on Lilee's life. It is a story of a young girl diagnosed with a life changing disease and the magical journey she goes on. The book can be found at this link for purchase and I highly recommend it - https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/chelsey-j-whittle/the-ordinary-girl/paperback/product-1pyny5md.html.
If you want to know more about Lilee, her journey, and how a mother deals with the grief, check out Chelsey's blog titled The Chelsey Diaries - https://thechelseydiaries.com/. Have your tissues handy and be prepared to cry. It gets me every time.
If you want to support BC Children's Hospital Foundation, donations can be made through their website https://www.bcchf.ca/. You can make a one time donation or consider becoming a monthly donor.