Maia, 4, is a smart, curious little girl who loves animals - drawing animals, playing with animals, and dressing up like animals. Earlier this year Maia had a lingering fever and rash, she didn't want to eat and complained about pains throughout her body. She wasn't acting like herself and her parents, Alicia and Rob, intuitively knew something was terribly wrong with their daughter.
A trip to the hospital confirmed their worst fears - Maia had cancer. The diagnosis … high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Rob was working outside Winnipeg and had to race back as fast as he could. He said the news from his wife absolutely rocked him.
"I received the kind of phone call nobody wants to get and it's one I will never forget. All of the dreams and aspirations we had for Maia flashed before my eyes. It was heartbreaking," said Rob.
Soon after the diagnosis, the pediatric oncology team at CancerCare Manitoba began to care for Maia. She started chemotherapy and steroids immediately. Her treatment will last three long years and also include cranial radiation. She is one of just a few kids who need this radiation to survive their cancer.
Alicia and Rob recall the early weeks of Maia's treatment were really traumatic. Their hearts broke seeing their beautiful, happy child emotionally and physically melt away.
"Maia had a look of pain in her eyes no child should have. She would lie in her bed and stare up at the ceiling. It was excruciating to watch her go into herself," said Alicia. "She was very little before she got leukemia and then she lost a lot of weight from the treatment. Hugging her teeny body was a constant reminder she was incredibly sick."
Maia's doctor and the nurses who care for her have become like family. As hard as it might be to believe, CancerCare Manitoba now feels like their second home. Her parents say Maia looks forward to going to the pediatric clinic.
"She hates the things which are done to her there, but the team does everything they can to make it just that little bit easier for her. She gets to put her blood in the "rocket ship" and let it shoot through. And she gets to pick her bandages which might seem trivial but is a really big deal to her," says Alicia. The family's daily routines are now defined by Maia's neutrophil count, a type of white blood cells which fight off infections. They take every precaution to try to keep her safe. Even a simple cold could be life threatening.
The first six months of her treatment have been extremely difficult but amazingly, Maia can still be heard giggling, especially when she's dressed up in some of her favourite animal costumes and playing with her baby sister.
Alicia and Rob are optimistic about Maia's future; a future they know is in front of her because of Hockey Fights Cancer supporters. They know the treatment she is receiving has been informed by decades of research and clinical trials. Trials which you are funding. They are eternally grateful for your donations as they have helped save their precious daughter's life.