The Toll of Childhood Cancer

Only 5% of research dollars in Canada go toward childhood cancer. Childhood Cancer Canada enhances and supports the lives of kids with cancer.

In 2013, Ayverie Caster-Smith was like any other seven-year-old. Her mother, Valerie, thought of her as “Miss Sassifrazz” — a soft, sweet soul who loved the Raptors and Raptors 905 teams. Then, her life — and the lives of those around her — changed drastically. “I didn’t think anything was wrong,” Valerie explains. “Ayverie was just showing symptoms of the typical flu.” But it wasn’t a seasonal bug.

A stark reality

Weeks of seeing doctors and specialists soon followed and to the family’s surprise, a five-centimetre mass was discovered on Ayverie’s brain stem. The very next day, she had surgery in an attempt to remove the tumour, a rare form of brain cancer called Stage 4 high-risk medulloblastoma. “There were a lot of tears and fears,” her mother recalls. “But Ayverie was the strong one. She told us, ‘every little thing is going to be alright.'”

Childhood cancer receives only 5% of the total cancer research dollars available in Canada. Even more shocking, one in five children diagnosed with cancer will die from the disease. As a single mom, Valerie didn’t have a plan for how the family would get through the ordeal, but she quickly learned to expect the unexpected and find support through online and in-person communities of parents of children with cancer.

Often overlooked is the realization that the disease doesn’t only affect the child — it leaves a mark on family and community members as well. Kids spend time in the hospital, away from their friends, and often experience gaps in their education that can have a negative impact on development. Families can lose their homes and jobs, and face financial uncertainty while attending to their ill child.

A future filled with hope

Since then, Ayverie has persevered through 30 radiation treatments, three brain surgeries, chemotherapy, and a variety of other procedures. Last May, Ayverie suffered stroke-like symptoms and had a series of seizures. Valerie was told to prepare for the worst, but two months later her daughter walked out of the hospital unassisted.

Now 14, Ayverie has beat cancer twice. Although she is still fighting for her life, she continues to beat the odds and baffle doctors. How do the mother-daughter duo cope? “We focus on living our best lives — with love,” Valerie notes.

Childhood Cancer Canada is focused on saving, enhancing, and extending the lives of kids with cancer. This means that from diagnosis and through every step of a child’s cancer journey, the organization’s members are there to support Canadian families.