Hope Kopeck remembers pulling out her eyelashes and making a wish.
After four months of chemotherapy, the six-year old was losing the hair on her head and her eyelashes were slowly falling out in turn as treatments for a mango-sized tumour wrapped around her aorta and spinal column grew inside her.
On this day however, she isn’t concerned with any of that, prancing around in a black-and-white dress and a fluffy pink tiara at Carmie’s Cafe in Cumberland where the Tour de Rock team enjoy dinner. Despite the dearth of hair on her head, she looks like any other six-year old girl – and today she is the star of the show.
High fives, loud fits of laughter and animated bouts of hide-and-go-seek are on the menu for the affable young Royston school first grader, fresh off a trip to Camp Goodtimes where she spent three days with her father in late July.
“She never wanted to leave. It is a memory that Hope will have forever,” her father Jason Kopeck said. “She wants to go back again next year and wants to go every year.”
While Hope weaves her way though the glut of tables, high fiving and laughing with people she has never met, her father, a carpenter in Royston, watches from across the room, remembering a time when her spirit’s weren’t so high.
“Losing her hair was terrible for her and terrible for me… It was so sad to watch (but) she dealt with it,” he said. “We offered to have a wig for her but she didn’t want (it). She was happy to be who she was. She handled it better than I did.”
Eight months after diagnosis, she continues to battle a disease that threatens to take more than just her hair. The tumour, now intertwined with the nerves and blood vessels in her chest, makes surgery risky and chemotherapy isn’t working. Doctors have turned to pills to ebb the growth inside her – but the future is still uncertain.
Hope, sporting a new set of eye lashes and a new tuft of hair, says she hates cancer, but soldiers on starting grade 1 this September despite missing all of kindergarten from her diagnosis in February on. Looking forward to a full year of school and a full head of hair in the horizon, she waits patiently for the day she has enough hair to cut it off and donate it back to other children going through what she did.
Only months ago, Hope was pulling out her eyelashes – today she is very much living up to her name.
This is a story from Arnold Lim from riding in the Tour de Rock in 2013 and is riding again as an alumni rider in 2017. Follow the journey of the 24 riders cycling Vancouver Island with our INTERACTIVE MAP.