Rainbows bring the promise of sunnier times ahead, and little Lilia Wiebe will soon have a perfect place to keep one of her very own.
In the spring of 2019, then-two-year-old Lilia Wiebe had not been sleeping well in her home in Enderby, B.C., and she seemed to be feeling under the weather.
A few weeks later, in the month of May, not only was she still not feeling well, she didn’t even have the energy to walk anymore.
Eric and Kaitlyn Wiebe—Lilia’s parents—had already taken her to the doctor, but now they knew something was really not well with their daughter. A trip to the Shuswap Lake emergency room and blood test later, it was confirmed that this was no ordinary bug that Lilia was carrying in her young body.
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She was given an emergency blood transfusion and was immediately airlifted to Vancouver, where further tests confirmed a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
“We were in hospital, then, for 10 straight days,” recalled Eric Wiebe in a recent phone interview, as Lilia received her initial treatments that began her battle against the cancer.
The next two months were spent in Vancouver, with the Wiebes taking up residence at Ronald McDonald House, attached to B.C. Children’s Hospital. Lilia received intravenous chemotherapy at B.C. Children’s hospital once a week, and a daily dose of oral chemo and medication.
Treatments and a need to be in Vancouver continued for months. Eric had to continue his work in the construction industry back in Salmon Arm, and Kaitlyn had to give up the part time work she was doing, to be with Lilia on her treatment journey. Though they are now back in Enderby, there is still a lot of travel back to the coast for appointments and treatments every few months.
“Along the way, when we couldn’t always be together, we had support from our community,” said Eric. Friends and residents in Salmon Arm donated money to help cover lost wages, and “someone even donated flight tickets to us, to allow me to fly to Vancouver to be at the hospital.”
Lilia is still taking oral chemotherapy and medications in addition to the regular trips to Vancouver. Eric said that with only three more visits to Vancouver needed in the coming year, family is doing their best right now just to build as normal a life as possible for Lilia as she goes through her cancer battle.
And they’re also building something else, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Somewhere along the line of treatment appointments, Lilia’s her doctors informed that she would qualify for a wish.
“It took a bit of explaining to Lilia that she was going to be able to wish for pretty much whatever she wanted,” said Eric, but once she understood the concept, there was no stopping her.
“We must have walked through probably a dozen different ideas that she had”. From all the ideas that a three-year-old can have, a playhouse wish was born. Part of the Wiebe’s basement is being transformed into Lilia’s wish, but due to COVID-19 restrictions and the ability of workers to come and go freely the job is taking some time. Lilia doesn’t seem to mind the work in progress.
“She’s really enthused with it; she’s ready,” said Eric, who said she talks a lot about what she’ll do in the playhouse once her wish is fully built.
Lilia plans to make it a home for her dolls and stuffed animals, complete with a bedroom setup for them, and her play kitchen. Also of note: she really hopes there will be a rainbow somewhere in her playhouse, a nice reminder, perhaps, that after a storm the sunshine always comes back eventually.
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