My name is Jorie, and when I was in 10th grade, I was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. A teenager living in Kincardine ON with my family at the time, I recall being in love with two things – turtles and sports. Little did I know that trips to practice would soon be replaced by trips to the hospital, and advocating for turtle safety would develop into advocating for kids with cancer…
I remember packing a few things and making the trip to the hospital in London with my mom and dad, where I received the diagnosis and would be admitted for treatment.
Looking back, we had no idea that the small bag we packed would have never held all the things we would need for the long stay ahead. Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia is a rare form of cancer and the average age of people who get it is 40 – I was only 16…
My treatment protocol consisted of an initial one-month round of chemotherapy in the hospital, then a three-month round of outpatient chemotherapy, and then two three-week rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. It was going to be a lot of time away from home and I had so many questions – What about school? Would I see my friends? And what about my family… At least one of my questions was answered right away with a bedroom at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), steps away from my hospital room, ready to welcome my parents.
It's been 10 years since our stay and we’re still so grateful for the support we received from the volunteers, staff, and other families at RMHC Southwestern Ontario. When I walked in for the first time after being in a hospital room for weeks, I can still remember being amazed by how much it felt like home. It wasn’t just the cozy bedroom, but the beautiful kitchen that always had a delicious smell, and the living room where I was able to spend time with family and friends who would visit.
I must have become a familiar face to the staff and volunteers because I was asked to be featured on the posters for McHappy Day 2013 to raise awareness for RMHC. It was one of the first times I realized how powerful my journey was and how it could be used to make a real difference, advocating for the importance of having your family beside you while facing a serious illness.
While I was sick, my friends raised awareness about childhood cancer by fundraising through the #turtlesforjorie campaign – it was a nice distraction from the challenges of my cancer treatment. When I think back, the moments of “normal” at RMHC-SWO offered a needed mental distraction from the hospital and my illness.
Today I’m working at Bruce Power in the Electrical Design Engineering section, and I will always advocate for the home that gave my family comfort, support, and a way to be by my side at the hospital every time I needed them. RMHC not only kept my family close but reminded me I wasn’t alone in this journey – advocating for others has shaped so many of the decisions that led me to where I am today. Please do not underestimate the difference your donation dollars to RMHC-SWO make to families dealing with cancer or any childhood illness.
Help spread awareness about your home-away-from-home in your community.
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