Our names are Hayley and Kevin, and the last year has been the hardest of our lives.

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The strength and resilience of our daughter Ruby as she went through months of difficult cancer treatments is what has helped us get through this challenging time.

Donors’ generosity has improved Ruby’s chances of survival and given us more hope.

Donor’ support of research, clinical trials and enhanced treatments have led to new discoveries and has helped thousands of kids with cancer. Still, there are no guarantees for us. No guarantee for Ruby that her cancer will be cured forever and that she will have the opportunity to thrive.

We are sharing Ruby’s story with you today in hopes her strength and resilience inspire you to make a gift this holiday season. 

Ruby and her parents snuggle with fall trees in back.

It was one year ago that we first began to notice a change in Ruby’s behavior. She was lethargic, and not her usual, three-year-old, playful self. She has Down syndrome and is naturally quite happy most of time. We knew something wasn’t right as she struggled with a cough, fatigue and high fevers. It was a month filled with uncertainty and worry as we navigated multiple trips to the doctor, different medications and many visits to the emergency room. Then, a blood test at the hospital led to our world being turned upside down.

We were told that Ruby had cancer.

More tests were required to determine the type and severity of her cancer. Two days felt like an eternity as we waited for the diagnosis. Then, the doctor confirmed Ruby had acute myeloid leukemia, and laid out a rigorous, six-month chemotherapy treatment plan.

There is nothing that could have prepared us for how sick Ruby would become.

We were unprepared for how sick Ruby became as she endured her chemotherapy treatments. Before each cycle, she underwent a lumbar puncture, a painful procedure that requires children like Ruby to be sedated. She also underwent multiple bone marrow biopsies. Because these treatments were so intense, and Ruby had a risk of life-threatening infections, we had to stay in the hospital for weeks at a time. One of us would stay with Ruby during the daytime, and the other at night. It was challenging and we could both feel the toll it was taking on our mental health.

The support of people like you ensures that important programs at CancerCare Manitoba are available for families like ours during difficult times. Without access to therapy sessions, this year would have been very different for us. It’s hard to imagine how we would have gotten through it.

Ruby in pajamas in hospital room with blanket wrapped around her like a cape.

Ruby is so brave.

Overall, Ruby did well during the hospital stays. She was always smiling and cheerful, even on the toughest days. It was her strength that enabled us to be strong too. Then, as Ruby began her third cycle of chemotherapy, the unthinkable happened.

Ruby unexpectedly needed urgent life-saving care.

We were shocked when shortly after an infusion of chemotherapy, Ruby developed a terrible rash, began vomiting and was having difficulty breathing. Ruby was experiencing a severe life-threatening allergic reaction to the chemotherapy drugs. She was in anaphylactic shock. It took two shots of epinephrine before she responded and started breathing normally again.

Afterwards, we sat there, numb, watching her lie in the hospital bed. Seeing her hooked up to so many tubes and wearing an oxygen mask was terrifying. This experience only increased our fear that something devastating would happen to Ruby.

By donating monthly, your gift will help ensure that Ruby and other Manitoba kids with cancer receive the very best care, right here in our province.

Gifts from monthly donors are invested in local cancer research, and continued investment in research is needed so that when patients like Ruby experience serious complications, alternative treatments are available. We hope you will consider joining this loyal group with a monthly gift.

In mid-August after what felt like a lifetime, Ruby completed her chemotherapy treatment. After months and months of being in and out of the hospital we were desperate to return home but learned that it wouldn’t be possible. Ruby’s blood count was dangerously low due to her treatments. Weeks went by. Then, good news and instant tears from our entire family when we learned we could finally go home for good.

Ruby’s journey with cancer is far from over.

Each day Ruby requires three different medications to prevent infections. If Ruby were to get sick with a regular cold or other virus, it would be very dangerous. We’re worried that we’ll expose her to something simply from going to work each day.

We still have regular visits to CancerCare Manitoba where they continue to monitor Ruby. Every time she has a blood test, we are sick with anxiety as we wait for the results.

Ruby close up cuddle 1024x1024

Before Ruby became sick, she had just started walking on her own. Spending so much time in a hospital bed really set her back. But now, day by day, she’s starting to get stronger.

We are so proud of her and like every parent, we look forward to many future milestones in Ruby’s life. A life we hope will be free of cancer thanks to your kind support.

With you in our corner, we are optimistic for the future.

Your gifts ensure that Manitobans like our daughter have access to the best patient care and support programs right here in our province. Your thoughtful donation today will make a difference for our family, and we are so grateful.

Our deepest gratitude,

Hayley & Kevin


p.s. I am pleased to share with you a recorded webinar of Ruby’s doctor, Dr Ashley Chopek, speaking to the benefits of donor-funded research for people like Ruby with leukemia. You will also hear from me, Ruby’s mother, sharing my family’s personal experience.