Tag Archives: McMaster Children’s hospital

May all their Stars Shine Bright

Emily Hammond with her five-year-old son Griffin at their home in Niagara Falls on Dec. 11, 2015. They have a special Christmas ornament they put on their tree every year as a reminder of all the children dealing with cancer. Mike DiBattista/Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network
The tiny silver star has a well-deserved place among the very tip top branches of my Christmas tree. The star has a hole in the middle with a crystal hanging inside. This little star means so much to me.
In Dec of 2011, my 22 month old son Griffin was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive type of muscle Cancer that grew in his eye orbit. That holiday season was the scariest and most heart wrenching Christmas my little family had ever been through. We didn’t know if Griffin was going to make it and my Husband & I didn’t know if this would be his last Christmas…
After 48 weeks of chemo, 25 radiation treatments directly to his face, and countless pokes, scans and appointments, December of 2012 rolled around and that year, Griffin was Cancer Free!!! You would think I would have been so happy, unfortunately I was not. My heart and soul were hurt from all the cancer kids we had lost that past year as well as all the kids still fighting. I could not let myself feel happy while others were still suffering. Some mothers did not have their babies that Christmas, how guilty and horrid was I to enjoy mine?
I struggled with PTSD, survivor’s guilt and depression until I found this cheap little tin star at our pharmacy while I was getting meds for my son. It sparkled at me, it reminded me of the sparkle in the eye of one particular child we had lost recently. I clung to that ornament all the way home, crying tears of sadness but also relief. I realized that I could HONOUR those children with a place on my tree. I can remember them, laugh at their memories and remember their sparkle. These families would not want me to suffer; they would not want me to be consumed with guilt over something neither of us can help!
 Emily Hammond with her five-year-old son Griffin at their home in Niagara Falls on Dec. 11, 2015. They have a special Christmas ornament they put on their tree every year as a reminder of all the children dealing with cancer. Mike DiBattista/Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network
So Griffin is five now, perfectly healthy and happy. And so am I. Each year, I hang that amazing little star near the tip of my tree, the little crystal catching all the light and winking at me. These Cancer Kids are not forgotten, but they are no longer painful. I will always remember those children with this little silver star. I will always remember their bravery, courage and heart.
May all their stars shine bright.
This story was published in the local Newspaper:
Emily Hammond with her five-year-old son Griffin at their home in Niagara Falls on Dec. 11, 2015. They have a special Christmas ornament they put on their tree every year as a reminder of all the children dealing with cancer. Mike DiBattista/Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network

Helpful Cancer Links

I HAD CANCER.com-is an amazing site for fighters, survivors and Care Givers to get together, ask questions and get support from others that “get it” from all around the world. Its an amazing resource for knowledge but also kinship. They also feature some of my blogs now and then! 🙂

OPACC-Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer

Canadian Cancer Society-Info, support services, Wheels of hope, screening and prevention, ways to volunteer

Camp Trillium-As we are a camp for children with cancer, our programs are tailored for all abilities whenever possible. We also have medical staff on the premises whenever camp is in session.

Ronald McDonald House-Hamilton-A home away from home for families with a child in the hospital.

Childhood Cancer Canada -Is an amazing resource! Check out their “Empower Packs” and scholarships and everything in-between!

My Fav Charities



Alivia’s Rainbows does amazing work! They donate money directly to families battling childhood cancer in our community. This important service is a life saver to most cancer families and their hard work and dedication to the cause is unmatched. Chantal and Craig honour their daughter who we lost to Cancer. As well as helping families directly, they also give much needed toys and electronics to McMaster Children’s Hospital and The Ronald McDonald House Hamilton and Camp Trillium.



Team Kelsey is a whirlwind force of Lime Green that fights cancer at every turn! They are heavily involved in the community, raising money and donating to both  The Ronald McDonald House Hamilton and McMaster Children’s Hospital‘s Stem Cell Research. They honour their daughter Kelsey who we lost from a brain tumor.



Jace Wars throws amazing “nerd” events that raise money in honour of their heroic little guy Jace who fought off a very serious brain tumor. All monies goes toward The Ronald McDonald House Hamilton.


The Box Run is run by an amazing man named Mike Strange. He is a man larger than life, an Olympic Boxer, a City Counselor, a business owner and most importantly, a man intent of killing cancer! He ran across Canada, raising money and spreading awareness of Childhood Cancer. He now hosts an annual Box Run that helps out local Children with terminal illnesses!


ForeverWe.org is an amazing organization that sells dolls. You can get one for yourself, send one to a friend or sponsor one to a hospital or sick child! Their philosophy is to teach through dolls that encourage purposeful play. “Jewel” is the first in their line of special dolls. She has removable hair, a port and even a superhero cape if you want! These special dolls are given to cancer kids across the US and even here in Canada! There is also a cute book that explains the dolls. As a family, we found this doll was a great ice breaker to bring up Griffin’s Cancer diagnosis and how it has/is effecting him.

ForeverWe dolly
ForeverWe dolly


Today we lost a Baby…

Today we lost a Baby…

Okay, so Austin was not exactly a baby, he was 13 years old, but he was still Jen’s baby and Cancer took him too soon, and I’m upset. I want to stomp my feet, I want to have a temper tantrum, I want to scream at the top of my lungs. But will any of this bring sweet Austin back to us? Nope, so here I am, stuck at work, trying to hold it together so my co-workers don’t think I’m even nuttier than I really am.

Let me introduce Mr Austin. (He is Adam in my other posts) He is a teenager. All the teens in the Chemo clinic sit in a special area that has a big TV and an arcade style video game. This area is off-limits to little kids. Try telling a 2 year old that. This off-limits area is tempting like honey to a bee. All the teens have iphones and ipads and various video games. My techie loving son was desprete to get his sticky little hands on it all. Most of the teens ignored the little kids (I don’t blame them) but Austin did not. Griffin would poke his head inbetween the seats to peer at whatever Austin was watching/gaming. Austin would grin ear to ear and tilt the screen so Griffin could see. They were buddies from that day forward. Austin was not a man of many words, generally quiet. So was Griffin, but they were still great buds!

About halfway through Griffin’s year of treatments, we were on the hospital ward for a routine round of in-treatment chemo for a week. And guess who was our roommate? AUSTIN! Griffin was VERY excited, but poor Austin was having a rough go. The poor kid was throwing up every three minutes. Since we were sharing a room, you can hear everything so we were trying to respect his privacy, but you could not help but to hear the BLAHHHHH of him throwing up, and then the sweetest, weakest little voice would pipe up, “Excuse me” or “Sorry” everytime he threw up! He was apologizing to us! He was in the worst shape of his life, puking up a gut and worried about us?!?!?! Yup, thats Austin for ya!

On Griffin’s LAST chemo hospital stay, Austin was also on the ward, right beside us in a quarentined room. He was flown in by helicopter, he was very weak and small looking in that bed. He had an oxygen mask on, and would lift his head and try to take the mask off to talk to Griffin! Since he was too weak to get up, he wrote a note so his Mum could write a special note on Griffin’s NO MORE CHEMO banner.

Austin was such a kind soul, seriously, its really rare to see that in teens these days. We are so lucky to have met him, even for such a little while. Somedays it just doesn’t seem fair. I cry my tears but now I’m just plain old MAD. Our babies shouldn’t be going through all this grown up stuff. My child shouldn’t have to go to THREE different funerals for his friends this year…its just not fair. But it just makes me want to fight harder, scream louder. Lets find a cure here people. NOt one more baby are we going to loose to this horrid disease. No more.

RIP Austin Whittom. May you be free of pain and at peace. Keep your stick on the Ice!

The Blessings of Cancer

Blessings of Cancer

Whhhhhhhhaaaaaat? You say? BLESSINGS of Cancer? What are you taking about???

Welllll, for me, and my story, as much as I HATE Cancer, I also love it. I know, take a deep breath, let me explain.

Before Cancer, I took life for granted, yes I was happy, but I didn’t really LOOK at what I had. My beautiful little family, amazing friends, supportive family and employer. I had my dream house, family living close, my best friend as my Husband, I was done school and just coasting through life. Cancer hit and threw everything into a tailspin. Now, that I’m on the other side, I appricate all that I have. I take nothing for granted. Life seems sweeter somehow. Music is more meaningful, a hug is emotional, a night in on the couch with my hubby is bliss! I laugh more, I smile at all that is beautiful. Once your life is ripped for you and you work HARD to but the pieces back together, you savour every moment you’ve got left.

Throughout our Cancer journey we have met up with some amazing people. We have attached ourselves to a couple of other cancer families. These families I care for like they are as close as family. I love to hear updates about how thier kids are doing and despite our busy sch’s, we meet up several times a year. The first family is of Miss S (privacy) She is Griffin’s girlfriend. She is a year older and had lukemia. They met in chemo clinic. She is the sweetest, cutest, sassiest girl you can meet! She bosses Griffin around, and Griffin totally does waht she says! LOL They hold hands and love the swings and compares snacks. Miss S only ate potatoes for a year. She has moved onto include bacon as well. Her mother is thrilled. Speaking of her Mother, We will called her Amanda (not her real name) is the most caring, most compassionate woman I have EVER met! We tend to gab for hours upon hours, we have cried together and laughed together and most of all, raised toddlers who kicked cancer’s butt together. One time, we invited Miss S and Amanda over for an afteroon playdate, Amanda and I yakked all afternoon and into the evening, The kids played with each other and my Mum was busy cutting out letters and numbers and chickens out of paper. Miss S was very impressed she was able to do this. My Dad ended up ordering from a chicken place to feed us and we kept on chatting! They ended up leaving at bedtime as our children were starting to fall asleep! LOL We invite this family to pretty much everything we do because an outing with Miss S is like a day without sunshine! LOL I value my friendship with Amanda and love being able to talk to her about life, but also about Cancer. She parents a lot like we do so we seem to be on the same page regarding our children as well as cancer. They are a great family. We are blassed to have met them and bonded over our clinic times!

Next is Mr Adam (name changed) he is a teenaged boy. Griffin first encountered him in the open chemo clinic. There is a “teenager” area of our clinic where the same children are not supposed to roam. Well, tell at 2 year old that, it just makes them want to go there more. Usually we were there very early in the morning so as you can imagine, the teens were sleepy, grumpy and feeling like crap. Adam stood out because he actually looked you in the eye and smiled when Griffin would come near him! Griffin would come up behind Adam’s Chair and stick his head in between the 2 seats to see waht kind of eletronics Adam had this week. Well, then, one week, Adam was our roommate on the hospital ward. Adam was NOT feeling well, At all. For the the entire week stay, he was throwing up every couple of minutes. You would hear Blahhhhh (him puking) and then a very weak but polite, “excuse me” from behind the curtain. Then a mintues minutes later another Blahhhhh and then Adam would pipe up with a “sorry!” Oh my gawd, I would laugh my head off! What a sweet boy! He is throwing up a storm and he bothers to excuse himself? What a champ! So from then on, he was our “favourite” room mate for being so polite and cute! So Griffin and Adam had a cute little relationship from then on. On Griffin’s last in hospital chemo treatment, we were in a private room and Adam was beside us, he was too weak to get up but he wrote a note for griffin on a piece of paper for his Mum to write a saying on Griffin’s “congrats” poster on Griffin’s door. I’ll have to dig it out because its the most amazing quote ever…I will have to find it! Adam’s mother is an amazing example of Cancer mama WARRIOR! And an amazing woman in general. I love yakking to her too! Adam is such a sweet boy, he finished his treatments and sent Griffin a Xmas package last year that included one of those story books where you can record your voice so now Griffin has Adam reading him the sweetest little christmas book. It brings a tear to my eye everytime. Adam has recently relapsed with his cancer and is in the process of getting a bone marrow transplant from his brother. Our hearts and thoughts are with this family right now!

Next is Miss M, another chemo clinic buddy! Miss M and Griffin became buddies over thier mutual need for food during a steroid week. Griffin would steal her strawberries, Miss M would steal his crackers. They were buddies ever since! Again, from a wonderful family who we really enjoy doing stuff with. Miss M is usually the life of the Party, wearing a tutu and sparkley shoes pretty much at all times and loves to DANCE! Her hair has started to grow back (she is still in treatment) which makes her have this wild child look that totally suites her personality! She lives over an hour away but you can count on Miss M’s family showing up for events which are always fun!

Through facebook and emails, us Cancer Mamas (as I call us) have formed quite a pwerful and wonderful group that can reach out and rant or ask for help or a tip for a problem. Its actually quite amazing!!! I look to these Mamas for thier wisdom but also thier friendship. I actually cannot imagine my life without these people now. And I thank Cancer for bringing us together.

Throughout Griffin’s journey, we have come in contact with some really great stangers that became vital to our Cancer Fight! Linda (name changed) lost her husband to cancer years ago and her son had it too and now she works hard for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life every year. We actually met her there. Griffin was still battling his cancer and I was crying on the side of the road. Linda picked me up and gave me a hug. And just held me for awhile…like my angel! She met us with us a couple of months later with gifts and cash and more hugs. She and her children are a blast, such a caring group of people! We are planning to get to gether soon to go to the aquarium with the kids! YAY! But she is an awesome example of someone whose life was ripped apart by cancer and instead of letting it ruin her, she stands tall, and fights everyday for a cure. She is my hero.

Within a week of Griffin’s diagnosis, a friend at work was very active about reaching out to community help for us. She was concerned abotu the cost of cancer. At the time I was very overwhelmed and totally did not pay attention to what she was saying (sorry J!) But thanks to her stubborness and plain old stepping over my head, she got in contact with Alivia’s Rainbows which is a FAB foundation her in Niagara Falls that directly supports cancer families with things that they need. They had lost thier daughter Alivia to cancer a couple of years before and this is how they honour thier daughters memory! How wonderful is that??? They came over one night, right before Xmas and dropped off SEVERAL gift cards for food and gas. I cried and cried. These people understood! And they were the first “cancer family” that we had come in contact with! I was desprete for information so it was wonderful to get the “inside scoop” and another cancer families input. I think they were surprised that I wanted to talk to them since they lost thier daughter, but I didn’t care, I was so glad to speak to them! Chantal & Craig have been amazing friends and our idols to look up to on our journey through cancer. One day I want to grow up to be like them! Strong, caring and amazing!!! They continued to support us on many levels. And we are now working hard to support thier cause! We will never be able to repay everything they gave to us, because its priceless but we try! Please check them out at www.aliviasrainbows.com/

Another amazing Cancer Family we came across was the crazy people at “Team Kelsey” Kelsey Hill lost her battle with a brain tumour and her supporters, all dressed in the brightest green you have EVER seen group together and move mountains! Her Mum Lana (and family) are very active in the cancer community, they raise money for the Ronald McDonald House and sponser Brain Tumour Kids in our community. Lana reaches out and touches each kid with her love and care and you can’t help but to desire to be part of Team Kelsey! Check them out at: http://www.teamkelsey.ca/

So in short, yes cancer sucks, but you can either let it consume you, or you can fight back!!! Don’t just sit in the corner and feel sorry for yourself, get up, talk to the people in clinic with you,