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Nanaimo family shares story of daughter's cancer treatment

Tanya Iatrides sees every day with her daughter Mary, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 14 months, as a precious gift.

“It’s so exciting to see every little phase of her life,” said Iatrides, about watching her daughter grow up.

Iatrides and her husband Peter spent six months with Mary at B.C. Children’s Hospital, starting in July 2009, as she underwent treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. They left their jobs and sold their vehicle to stay with their daughter.

Mary, now four, has been cancer free for two years.

“Looking back now, a lot of it is just a blur. You just go day by day because you have to and you draw strength from those around you,” said Iatrides.

Mary had always bruised easily, but when the family brought their concerns to doctors, they were told it was just part of the experience of a normal toddler learning to walk. When the family got the flu in the spring of 2009, Mary didn’t recover.

The family brought her to the doctors who ordered tests. Iatrides received a call at work to take Mary to the hospital.

The doctor wouldn’t tell her what the diagnosis was, but told her a helicopter was waiting to take Mary to B.C. Children’s Hospital. As soon as they arrived, tests started. Mary started chemotherapy treatment and was given a different cocktail of drugs every month.

Iatrides said the experience was overwhelming, but the staff were amazing at Children’s Hospital.

“Without [B.C. Children’s Hospital] and the staff, my daughter would not be here today,” she said. “They became family. They became a really important part of our lives. You have to trust your caregiver when they are taking care of such a precious thing.”

The Iatrides family is appearing on the Shaw Cable broadcast of the 14th annual A World of Smiles Telethon, in support of B.C. Children’s Hospital, Sunday (May 27), from 5-11 p.m. The Iatrides will share their story during the first hour of the broadcast.

“You don’t think about how necessary [B.C. Children’s Hospital] until you need it,” said Iatrides.

Joanna Newman, B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation spokewoman, said money raised goes into the excellence of child health fund and helps purchase equipment and fund education programs and research.

In 2010, Children’s Hospital received more than 205,000 visits from more than 78,000 sick or injured children across the province. More than 700 children receive life-saving cancer treatment each year.

For more information about A World of Smiles, please go to www.bcchf.ca and click on the events tab.

reporter3@nanaimobulletin.com

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