Thomas Parlee’s story touched our hearts and we’re sure he’ll steal yours too. This is the second of the Parlee Family’s story of hope, heartbreak and joy.
One month after the Parlee family arrived home, Darrel and Kyra decided to take Thomas’ medical team up on an offer for experimental treatment. The Parlees had been warned that the treatment could bring on pain for a few days, but they were not prepared to have the procedure demand so much morphine. Thomas was close to comatose from the high levels needed to minimize discomfort. Darrel and Kyra decided to discontinue the treatment, even though it could increase his chance of remission.
Early one July morning, Thomas woke with a bulging red eye and an irritable spirit. After discussions with doctors at the Stollery, they decided to medevac Thomas and Kyra to Edmonton.
On the plane, Thomas seemed calm, though his eye was still bulging and his mouth began to droop. He excitedly declared “Mommy! Airplane! Up, Up, Up,” as they took off, and “Mommy! Ambulance! Lights,” as saw the waiting ambulance.
An update on the family’s Facebook page stated that they were back in Edmonton indefinitely and were asking for prayer and support from loved ones. This caught the eye of the RMHNA team. A room was available at Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta and the family was able to settle in while they waited for results. When their vehicle pulled up outside the House, Thomas gleefully said “home.” The family was able to be together in their time of stress and need.
A couple days later, the doctors finally had results. The cancer was back and worse than before.
The first option for treatment was more chemo. There were no guarantees that it would even work, and if it did, it would serve only to shrink the tumors, not eliminate them.
The second option was for Darrel and Kyra to take Thomas home, to end the treatments and allow him to live as comfortably and as ‘normally’ as possible in his final days.
Darrel and Kyra found themselves having to make a decision that no parent should ever have to make.
That night, on an overnight pass at RMHNA, Darrel and Kyra talked, cried and prayed. Their hearts, while crushed, stood firm on their decision: their cherished child had been through enough. Thomas was coming home.
After letting the doctors know their decision, the Parlee family was discharged for the weekend to go home. On Monday they started one week of radiation treatments in hopes of shrinking the tumors enough to prevent seizures or personality changes in Thomas’ last days.
The week of radiation took a huge toll on Thomas, but there was a reward waiting at week’s end. Darrel’s employer was sending the family to a truck-themed suite at Fantasyland Hotel. Thomas was thrilled to sleep in the back of a fire truck!
At RMHNA, news of Thomas’ passion for hockey reached House friend and Edmonton Oiler Jason Strudwick. Jason decided that he needed to meet this little Oilers fan and made arrangements to visit Thomas at RMHNA. Thomas was so sick that all he was able to do was smile at one of his hockey heroes, but the photos and memories of that visit live on in the Parlee home.
Thomas had about a month and a half at home. The Parlees filled that precious time with activities Thomas would love. There was a trip to the Grande Prairie fire hall for a fire truck ride and a ride around the hockey rink on the Zamboni. When he was too sick to leave the house, the fire fighters from Grande Prairie came to the Parlees home and gave Thomas a ride around the block, lights and sirens blazing.
On September 29, 2011, Thomas drew his last breaths, surrounded by his parents and family. He was finally at peace.