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The Lamberts moved to Calgary in December of 2014, five months before their lives would change dramatically. Tish and Sean noticed their daughter Rebecca was developing large bruises from tiny bumps. After bloodwork in May of 2015, the Lamberts had a diagnosis they never would have expected: Leukemia. Rebecca was immediately admitted to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, where further tests confirmed she had a cancer known as Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Within a few days, Rebecca had a central line put in so specialists were able to administer her chemotherapies and other medications. She quickly began her first round of chemo, which was two infusions per day for 10 days. It was hard for Tish and Sean to watch and even harder to explain to little Rebecca, who didn’t understand what leukemia was or why she had to stay at the hospital when she didn’t feel sick. Worse yet was trying to help her understand why the medicine, of all things, was making her feel ill. After the first round of chemo, Rebecca was also diagnosed with a blood disorder, which was treated with steroids that made her act like a different person. She was tired, hungry, agitated, feverish and had to be on oxygen.
Rebecca underwent three more rounds of chemotherapy, each followed by a three-week recovery period. It was very isolating because while she was recovering she was very susceptible to illness, so she had very little interaction. After each treatment, specialists would take a sample of her bone marrow to assess how well the therapies were working. The treatment process was hard on the whole family. Tish and her mother-in-law took turns staying with Rebecca throughout the week, though there was little sleep, with frequent bathroom breaks and medications to be administered and Rebecca, awake in pain. Sean would sleep one night at the hospital each weekend, when he could make it work with his job schedule. After the fourth round of chemo, Rebecca’s tests were clear. She was able to go home shortly after her sixth birthday, which she celebrated in hospital. She still had her central line, though, so for the next month her parents had to remain incredibly vigilant to keep it sterile. Finally, the line was removed and Rebecca was allowed to join her Grade 1 class.
Today, Rebecca is an artistic girl who loves reading, animals and wants to be a vet when she grows up! Tish is so grateful for the care her daughter received at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, including the programming – like bingo days– to keep Rebecca entertained. She also says Rebecca asks why she doesn’t get a new toy each week like she did at the hospital.