The Parlee Family: Part 1

On February 8, 2007, Darrel and Kyra Parlee were blessed with the arrival of their beautiful baby boy Thomas. He came three and a half weeks early and experienced some minor delays in growth and development as a result. He more than made up for those delays in love and laughter.

“He was not a ‘by the book’ child,” said mom Kyra. Though he could not speak in full sentences even after turning five, he had a way of joining words and expressions together to tell a great story. He loved hockey and his Grandpa’s tractor. He loved life.

In February 2010, Thomas and his mom were airlifted from Spirit River Hospital to Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. Thomas had been complaining of severe leg pain since New Year’s Eve and required massages to abide the pain. His diagnosis at that time: growing pains and an iron deficiency. After no improvement, the reality was that something else was wrong.

Here is Kyra’s account of the conversation that changed her world:

“The doctor’s first words were that it wasn’t leukemia. My heart skipped a beat. I immediately thought, ‘OK, then it will be something simple and we can easily fix it,’ until the doctor looked at me and finished, ‘It’s not leukemia, it’s another form of cancer.’ Barring confirmation via biopsy, it was looking like a cancer called Neuroblastoma. My heart sank.”

“Even though I wanted to be strong for my little man, who was lying in his hospital bed on oxygen and morphine because he was in so much pain, whose belly that we thought was bloated was actually a tumor that was taking over his insides, pushing all of his organs out of the way, I couldn’t help the tears from coming as I listened to the doctor say that they were admitting Thomas and scheduling a biopsy for a day and a half later. Our lives became so unfamiliar.”

On Mother’s Day weekend in 2010, the Parlees made some special memories. They described Thomas as his ‘goofy self’ that weekend. Darrel arrived in Edmonton on Mother’s Day morning and couldn’t believe what he saw in Thomas. They were even given a day pass because Thomas was responding so well to treatment. Where did they go? To Zellers to ride the escalator!

After a couple of day passed, the Parlees heard the wonderful words ‘you can go home.’

“When we got home, it seemed that peace washed over us and we could relax,” said mom Kyra. “The first night we were home, Thomas turned to me when his dad was taking him to bed and called ‘Night night, I love you’ as he blew me a kiss. I hadn’t heard that in over three and a half months. That did my heart good.”

Thomas would get through his remaining chemo treatments with flying colours. In August 2010, Thomas had all but a grape-sized piece of the tumor removed. Doctors felt certain that the piece of tumor left behind was most certainly dead like the rest of the removed.

After a break to go home, the Parlees returned to Edmonton for radiation treatments. Radiation was done via outpatient therapy, so the family did not need to stay in hospital. They did, however, need a safe, sanitary place to stay because of Thomas’ compromised immune system. It was at this point that the Parlee family ‘came home’ to Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta. They found comfort in the familiar atmosphere of home and the shared experiences of other families going through similar situations.

In December 2010, the family was finally given the blessing by their doctor to go home because the cancer was gone. The Parlee family spent the Christmas season enjoying the gift of time and togetherness.

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