They Say a Mother Always Knows...

They Say a Mother Always Knows... It's True

I first heard of Ronald McDonald House back in 1994, when I was hired for my first real part time job at McDonald’s Arthur Street in Thunder Bay which is about 18 hrs away from here. It has recently crossed my mind a few times…

imagine if I had known back then in Grade 9 that my future son would require critical care and my family would come to know firsthand everything that RMH is and stands for. 
Our son Luke was born Dec 9, 2012. Prior to Luke’s ALL Leukemia diagnosis he was a healthy active little boy who loved to run and walk around Boulevard Lake, build snow forts, participate in ‘All Boys Dance’, care for his pets, bake, cook and most importantly engage in imaginative play. 
Luke was first recognizably sick in January 2017. The unexplainable pain he felt in his legs was diagnosed as growing pains. When it worsened it was thought he had Toxic Synovitis of the hip from infection and later Arthritis. I knew it was Cancer in my heart. They say a mother always knows, it’s true. Luke’s Cancer was missed and was not diagnosed until March 10th, 2017. I will never forget the wee hours of that morning, as Luke had emergency surgery on his hip that was believed to have gone septic. It was this surgery that finally diagnosed Luke’s Leukemia. Time stood still when the bomb was dropped on our family and our life together.

I remember Luke comforting me as I tried to hold my tears back. I was given 1.5 hours to pack for an Orange flight to London Children’s Hospital. It was a nightmare that I realized I wasn’t going to wake up from. Many people have seen bizarre Facebook posts of what people pack in emergencies. I packed a ton of lip balm and a bunch of dirty clothes as I was so behind on laundry and life in general. The lip balm has come in handy but I am not so sure why I packed so much?

It turns out my dirty clothes were later washed by a complete stranger on the 6th floor of the hospital at the RM Family Room, a respite for family members of sick children. I have no memory of what the caring volunteer’s name was or even what she looked like. I probably should have given her a lip balm as gratitude. The level of care Luke immediately received truly helped me stay calm. 
Luke’s first Ornge flight landed in London during a snowstorm. While being led to his hospital room I remember passing a small Disney Poster at child level in the hallway. It said “Bald Is Beautiful” with several princesses lined up all sporting bald heads. I was so scared seeing this poster and wondering what Luke was up against. I felt like I was in a club against my will and I wanted to run away with Luke. Running wasn’t an option.
My husband Mike and toddler Avery arrived 2 days later having driven in full winter conditions. Luke hadn’t seen his dad in a few days so we agreed that I would stay at RMH with Avery.

I arrived at RMH London across the street from the hospital. RMH’s prominent red door was visible from Luke’s hospital window. I was so impressed with how nice everything looked and the vast amounts of space and supplies. RMH has truly thought of everything…literally everything! There are handmade slippers and large umbrellas by the door. I was so impressed with our room and its décor.

Because I packed as fast, or similar to, a fleeing criminal or someone escaping a natural disaster like a volcano…I forgot many things I needed but RMH had everything.

We are forever changed as a family and we will never be the same but it is for certain that RMH has kept us together by supporting an environment in which my children can truly still be kids. I think or actually feel confident in saying we are probably the loudest family there! One regular daily occurrence is certain…both Luke and Avery always end up in the office helping with something and really just being genuinely loved by staff and volunteers.
I have struggled with guilt knowing my daughter is not sick and has missed out on regular life and I struggle with guilt knowing my son who is sick has missed out on significant events as well. But one thing is certain that the RMH has gone above and beyond giving our family routine and emotional support. My husband and I joke that Avery thinks she’s on a trip!
I find myself recognizing the gifts we receive in the small moments together of being “normal”. Supper, playing outside and our bedtime routine. Whenever we arrive at RMH London we are  welcomed with open arms – Avery walks in confidently and is always excited to be back! We have a long road ahead of us (boys treatment is a complete year longer than girls) and Luke will beat it! He is our Chemo Sabee who fights cancer daily.
We are asked every day by friends and family what can we do to help? After careful reflection I suggest to donate your blood and support RMH. It is also important to sign your donor card and let your family know of your intentions. Always see the good in yourself and others and it is a must to always remain positive. Both Luke and Avery say a little song each night before bed called The Song of Resolve. 
I am safe and I am strong!
Take a breath and sing this song!
I am stronger every day!
Everything will be okay!
RMH really does help everything truly be okay. 
Susan Dohan (Luke & Avery’s Mom)
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