Lives turned upside down after diagnosis

The family of Cassidy Boland, 11, reaches out to the community for help

Cassidy Boland

Cassidy Boland

A local family is reaching out to the public after their world was turned upside-down this winter.

In November Cassidy Boland’s mother, Omdrea Walker, noticed the 11-year-old was less energetic than usual and was less motivated in her daily routines.

“It was quite sudden really,” said Walker. “We had noticed her being tired for a few weeks and she’s normally very active. She participates in all kinds of activities so when she no longer had the energy it was quite noticeable.”

Walker also noted that the family started receiving reports from school that Cassidy was less energetic than usual.

The 11-year-old, who has Down Syndrome, is involved in sports and other activities through school and her education assistant began to notice her lacking energy day-to-day.

“It just wasn’t like her, it felt like something was wrong. We had a lot of trouble getting her up and one day she just wouldn’t get out of bed.”

Soon after Cassidy’s drop in energy became evident, Walker took her daughter to the doctor who ordered blood work to be done the same afternoon. Around 10 p.m. that night the family received a phone call that would change their lives.

“The lab told us they suspected it was leukemia and by the next morning we were on our way to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver,” Walker explained. “It was confirmed the next day she had A.L.L. (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).”

Walker said the family was in shock after the diagnosis.

“We honestly hadn’t even considered leukemia even though we knew it was more probable in children with Down Syndrome,” she said.

“We were in complete shock because she didn’t have many of the symptoms you normally see.”

The family, including Cassidy, mother Omdrea, sisters Sierra and Shayenne and stepfather, Michael, has been in Vancouver since, including over Christmas which they spent at Ronald McDonald House. They only just returned home two weeks ago.

Upon their arrival at their mobile home in Saanichton, the family found something unexpected.

“When we were finally able to come home two weeks ago it was only because Cassidy’s cell counts were high enough for the hospital to be comfortable with discharging her. We were excited to be able to come home and be together as a family in our own home finally but we were shocked with what we found,” explained Walker.

The shock came in the form of a slow leak that had finally made it’s way into the family’s unoccupied home. While the family was in Vancouver seeking treatment for Cassidy, their home had become not only wet and moldy, but rodents had also made their way in, Walker believes, through the ducting in the home.

“As soon as we walked in the door we were shocked by the smell,” said Walker. “It was so bad, all we knew is that we had to get out because Cassidy can’t be around mold or anything like that. She has to wear a mask just to be out in public.”

After a few nights at a hotel and with friends, the family was taken in by Jeneece Place for a weekend. Over the two days, Walker and her husband were able to go back to their home to investigate the situation further.

“It was clear we weren’t going to be able to stay there once we’d had a good look around,” said Walker. “What we thought was going to be wonderful, warm homecoming after being away for six weeks turned into something completely different. Now we’re faced with a huge amount of repair and remediation that needs to be done.”

Walker works as a Grade 9 teacher at Arbutus Middle School and her husband is currently off work with chronic pain.

“Apart from taking time off work to be with Cassidy we now have to save enough to get the roof re-done, any of the structural and water damage that’s been done and we have to have air remediation done,” Walker explained.

The family is putting out a public plea to anyone who may be able to help them.

“The most important thing is having an interim home-base while we’re in Victoria,” said Walker, who added that some of Cassidy’s chemotherapy can be done at Victoria General, that way her other children can stay in school and with the family. “If we had a home base in Victoria it would mean we could all be together and that would mean so much for Cassidy.”

If you are interested in making a donation to Cassidy, donations can be taken at any TD Canada Trust Bank in the Greater Victoria area by requesting a deposit to the Cassidy Boland trust fund or by using the branch number, 0753 (Broadmead), and the account number, 6292677. Cheques can be made payable to Laurie-Anne Keith and Colleen Fulmore and in the memo, specify the donation is in trust for Cassidy Boland.