The only thing I wanted for Christmas was for Séanne to get better
The Holidays are dubbed the most wonderful time of the year. Yet, every year hundreds of sick children will spend the festive season at The Children’s, away from the warmth of family and friends. They are too ill to leave the hospital even for a few hours.
Last year, Stephen spent the Holidays at his daughter’s bedside as Séanne battled stage 4 liver cancer. He tell us his and his daughter’s experience.
What was it like to spend the Holidays in hospital at your daughter’s bedside?
Last Christmas is a blur. It is like, it never happened. I remember trying to be jolly for my daughter, but inside I was worried; helpless. I didn’t know if my daughter would survive. The only thing I wanted for Christmas was for Séanne to get better.
We had the added stress of the pandemic. For infection control reasons, only one parent could visit at a time, we couldn’t leave Séanne’s room or visit with other parents. As well, some Childlife services were suspended, like pet therapy and music therapy. These services are up and running now, but at the height of the pandemic, understandably the Hospital was extra cautious.
I remember a friend saying to me: I don’t know how you found the strength to go through this. Frankly, neither do I! But when your kid is sick, you switch to autopilot.
What about your daughter? Did she miss taking a photo with Santa or being at her class party?
No matter how sick they are, kids want to be kids. Whenever Séanne felt well, she wanted to play. It was unbelievable. She would eat something, and then she’d be sick. Ten minutes later, she would start playing again and want to eat something else.
We made sure to decorate her room for the Holidays. There was small tree and lights to make things merry. She was six at the time, so Christmas was a big deal – it still is. We tried our best to make things merry.
Tell me about the bedtime ritual you had with Séanne.
Each night, we’d look up at the sky to find the brightest star and Séanne would make a wish. She would always ask to be healthy. One time, she caught me crying, and she said, "Daddy, why are you crying? Everything is going to be okay." Thinking about this still chokes me up.
What is the Hospital like during the holidays? Does the healthcare team try to make things festive?
I thought The Children’s oncology unit would be dark and dreary, but everyone is terrific. They make the ambience hopeful. They try to give everyone energy and support and to brighten everyone’s day. One quick example, a nurse might drop by with an iced coffee, and you can’t imagine how grateful you are. The Childlife Service is also fantastic. They would offer to play with Séanne so you could get out of the room for 30 minutes. They would bring small gifts and crafts, anything to help her be a kid and not a ‘cancer patient’.
Often, people don't know what to do when their friend's child is seriously ill. What is your advice?
Reach out to them. Let them know you are thinking about them. Your call, text or email would be most welcome and appreciated.
How is Séanne doing today?
She is doing exceptionally well. Her eyes are twinkling again! She's rowdy, loud and even a little bratty. But I don’t care. She’s healthy! I am so grateful!
I’d like ask all Quebecers to add one more item to their gift list. Please, donate to light up The Little Brats Constellations and help put the twinkle back in the eyes of sick children this Holiday season.
You can make a difference in the life of a child, like Séanne.