Even before eight-year-old Lilah Petersiel was born, her parents knew the youngster was set to face a tough road.
The Petersiels knew from ultrasounds she was going to have only one kidney, which would not necessarily cause problems, but on the day she was born, the Petersiels got some more bad news.
“She had an ultrasound and when the G.P. read the results, he said ‘the kidney’s fine, but there’s something else here and it’s something I can’t treat here.’” said Lilah’s father, Eric Petersiel.
She was transferred to the Hospital for Sick Children and within two weeks she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – an aggressive cancer most common among young children – and had surgery to remove a tumour from her adrenal gland.
A few short months later, a routine CT scan showed she had early stage liver cancer and Lilah had to undergo additional surgery to remove part of the organ and eight months of chemotherapy.
“We’re so thankful that we had SickKids to take care of our daughter and our family,” Petersiel said. “It was quite an ordeal, but we were incredibly lucky to have this institution in our community.”
While Lilah has shown no evidence of cancer for years – the family celebrated her anniversary with no evidence of disease on Dec. 8 - the Petersiels have not forgotten the care she received while at SickKids.
The Forest Hill family started Lilah’s Fund (www.lilahsfund.com), which has raised some $700,000 in funds to help neuroblastoma research. Money raised through Lilah’s Fund goes directly to SickKids to fuel research into childhood cancers.
“It’s amazing to me that they have the world’s leading scientists and clinicians (at SickKids),” Petersiel said. “They are literally on the edge of breaking through and finding out so much more about the sources and cures for kids’ cancer.” While SickKids was able to save Lilah’s life, many others are not so fortunate.
Petersiel said Lilah has had five friends die, whom she had met over the course of her treatment, and the family hopes Lilah’s Fund can help bring about the necessary breakthroughs.
“If you look back, 30 years ago, the cure rates for leukemia were under 10 per cent and now they’re over 90 per cent,” Petersiel said. Lilah’s story will be told as part of a two-hour special called Believing in Heroes, which outlines the stories of many of the children who have been treated at SickKids.
The program takes an in-depth look at the difficulties many children face and how the care provided at the hospital helps them and their families during difficult times. Believing in Heroes will air on CTV from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22.