Last month, a nine-year-old Parksville boy was wrenched from his life of school, friends and play and deposited in a world of hospital rooms, operations and radiation treatments.
His Springwood Elementary School classmates have made sure he hasn’t had to face his ordeal alone.
Kaiden Finley, one of six children of single mother Tasha Finley, was diagnosed with a brain tumour May 7 at Victoria General Hospital and three days later underwent a 12-hour surgery to remove the cancerous growth at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Within two weeks of the surgery, a large care package arrived from Springwood Elementary, containing get-well wishes, games, toys, trading cards, snacks and more — courtesy of fellow students and faculty at the school
“It is amazing; I wasn’t expecting it,” said Tasha. “Kaiden received the basket from school and he was overjoyed. He was in awe they cared that much. Even kids he didn’t know were writing.”
Kaiden’s ordeal began in late March with what appeared to be a simple case of stomach sickness, Tasha said.
But the illness lingered and worsened, impacting his ability to attend school and interact normally with family and friends.
Their initial doctor visit resulted in a diagnosis of acid reflux, she said, but “he went downhill fast.”
Throughout April, Kaiden continued to suffer while his mother continued to seek a solution.
Blood tests suggested some form of virus, Tasha said, and she was told that if his condition worsened Kaiden should be brought to the emergency room.
But after her son lost 20 pounds in a five-week stretch, she instead took him to Victoria for a new round of tests.
On May 7, the family got the bad news — a CT scan revealed Kaiden had a posterior fossa ependymoma, an anaplastic Grade 3 brain tumour. Within three hours he was flown to B.C. Children’s Hospital, and the following day he underwent emergency surgery to place a ventricular drain.
“It hit us like a ton of bricks; it came on so fast,” said Tasha. “He’d been sick since March, and we were thinking it was his stomach. To have a tumor was not what we were expecting. I’m glad I went with my intuition, because they said within two weeks he might not have been with us.”
Tasha has been staying at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, near Children’s Hospital, since Kaiden’s arrival. Her other children, most of whom are still in school, have remained in Parksville with their grandmother.
To help offset the costs associated with Tasha and Kaiden’s forced stay away from home — a home scheduled for demolition, on top of everything else — close friend and sister-in-law Kaitlynn Allenby set up a GoFundMe fundraising account online.
“It’s craziness; it’s pretty unbelievable how everything is happening,” said Allenby. “I think the biggest thing is, you don’t really realize how heavy the financial burden is until ithappens to you.”
The Finleys’ home is one of three properties on Hirst Ave. that are in the midst of a rezoning process by city council, as part of an application for a multi-unit residential development proposal.
When she finally returns home following Kaiden’s six-week regimen of radiation therapy, Tasha will resume home-hunting that was already underway when Kaiden became ill.
Through Tuesday night, June 20, Kaiden’s GoFundMe account had raised $7,024 of a $10,000 goal, with 93 people donating over 16 days. And the contribution of the Springwood students and staff, Tasha said, was priceless.
“He’d gotten quite depressed, because he couldn’t do anything,” Tasha said. “He doesn’t understand how (the tumour) got there. Like, did he do something wrong?
“But he’s a trooper; he’s so strong. I don’t know how he can handle it, but he’s doing it.”
To donate to the family’s fund, visit www.gofundme.com/tmmtdw.