Atlantic Canada Region, Halifax
Local Staff Contacts
Halifax, NS B3J 1V7
TNT is truly an unforgettable experience, made even more meaningful by an honoured patient - a local blood cancer patient or survivor whose courage provides motivation and inspiration - a special partner whose challenge is greater than your own.
||Ryan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on New Years Eve, 2011, he was 4 years old. He was in preschool that year and had missed a lot of time due to being sick. I think the toughest day was when he missed his preschool Christmas concert, but no one suspected just how sick Ryan was. Although he was sick quite often it wasn't any different then when his three siblings got sick. So although there were many visits to doctors, it wasn't until late December that a doctor decided to get a blood test done. We knew almost immediately that Ryan had some type of cancer. He was sent to the IWK by ambulance and that was when his whole life changed.
Ryan is the youngest of four children and enjoyed being home and playing with his siblings. The first night he spent at the IWK he cried continuously for his older brother Alex. At his age he couldn't understand why we had to stay away from home. After this night something changed in Ryan because he no longer cried for home. He never cried because he had cancer. He found the courage and strength to deal with his treatments and the many painful tests that he would need to cure him.
Ryan had side effects from his treatments. Two of the worst side effects were leg and arm pain and loss of appetite. Because of the severe pain in his legs there were a lot of things that Ryan couldn't do. Some days just the act of getting out of bed was extremely painful and he would have to be carried everywhere because walking was so painful for him. Ryan had to have a feeding tube put in because of his loss of appetite and keeping any weight on was always a challenge.
When September came we had to decide if Ryan would start school. It seemed almost impossible with everything he was going through but Ryan wanted to go to school and we didn't want the fact that he had cancer to hold him back if he wanted to go. School is very challenging for Ryan, it is so tiring for him. He finds learning hard and just learning his ABC's was a challenge for him.
When Ryan saw that his older sister and brother were joining hockey Ryan wanted to join hockey too. We weren't sure if it was a good idea but we wanted to at least let him try. Skating was painful for Ryan due to the leg pain he was already experiencing but he would go out and skate for as long as he could. By December he was staying out for the whole practice most nights.
Ryan truly believes the words, 'What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger.' He likes to sing the song and was brave enough recently to stand up in front of his whole school and sing it. He knows he has to be strong and the boy he is today is very different then the boy who cried all night, his first night at the IWK. Ryan has 2 more years of treatments to go through and he faces challenges everyday. But he is an inspiration to a lot of people because of his strength and courage.
||My name is Melissa MacIntosh and I am a survivor of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. On March 31, 1993 when I was only 3 ½ years old, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. Most of what I remember is what I?ve been told by my parents, because I was so young, I don?t have many memories of being so sick. But I also don?t have many childhood memories of not being sick in the hospital or being a ?normal? kid. I remember asking my mom many times, ?why can?t I be a normal kid.?
The frequent hospital visits and long stays at the IWK Children?s Hospital, divided my family down the middle. My mother would stay at the hospital with me, while my father stayed at home in Antigonish with my older sister. We each were without a parent and my parent?s without each other.
I began treatment right away, and the leukemia had gone into remission quickly, but then I relapsed in July 1994. I was then started on some tougher chemotherapy drugs and on September 14th, 1994 I began radiation treatment.
The radiation and tough chemotherapy have many unpleasant side effects on the body, two of which are nausea and loss of appetite. My nausea was to the point that I couldn?t keep much food down, so they had to put a feeding tube in my stomach.
My mom has told me that the roughest part of my chemotherapy was just before Christmas in 1994; my white blood cell count went way down and stayed at zero for 18 days.
After I relapsed in 1994, I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis, which was caused by all the medications and lack of eating. The Osteoporosis collapsed a few of my vertebrae in my lower back. I remember wearing a back brace for a period of time to help correct the damage.
In December 1995, I was rushed to the IWK children?s hospital from Antigonish because I had a grand mal seizure. The seizure was caused by a chicken pox virus in my brain. I was unconscious for several hours and the doctors weren?t sure if I would wake up.
After my grand mal seizure I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. I can vaguely remember just sitting in front of the television at times and out of nowhere I would be having a seizure. I would just sit there staring into space and nonresponsive. It was kind of like the world around me would pause for a few moments. My older sister became quite aware of when I was having a seizure, and would alert my mom right away. I was on medication for the epilepsy until around 2001 and then I was taken off medication and no longer considered to be Epileptic.
On September 27, 1996 the Leukemia went into remission for a second and final time.
Throughout my grade school years and into Jr. High and High school, I had some difficulties learning. I learned material a little slower than other kids and some teachers assumed I just couldn?t do the work so I wasn?t given the chance. A lot of the time I would hear, ?You can?t do it.?
My parents never limited me to what I could or couldn?t do after the cancer was cured. They encouraged me to try and do the things I wanted to do. When I was 12 years old I wanted to take Tae Kwon Do lessons, they were hesitant at first, but then agreed.
Those who know me and my story know that I wear my scars with pride. I use to want to hide them or make them go away. But now, I show them off because they are apart of me and without them I wouldn?t be here today. I have 3 on my chest and 2 on my stomach. When I go to the beach, I am not afraid to wear a bikini or when I go out with friends, I will wear a v-neck cut dress.
I am now 23 years old and I have been in remission and cancer free for 16 years. I can do anything anyone else can do and sometimes more. Doctors didn?t think I would be able to walk because of the pain that the leukemia caused in my legs. I just ran my first half marathon with Team in Training on September 23, 2012, so I not only walk, I run. I also lift weights at the gym 4 times a week and I feel great.
Nothing stops me from doing or trying something. If someone tells me I can?t do something, you are only challenging me to try it. The words ?you can?t do it? mean ?I dare you? to me.
This season when the participants of Team in Training are out on their long runs and your body and mind is telling you to give up, that you can?t do it, then think of me telling you ?I dare you to finish.? Quitting is not an option for someone battling cancer and it is the toughest fight to endure.