Young cancer survivor will be participating in the Red Shoe Walk in aid of Ronald McDonald House
© Diane Crocker
Steven Kendell, right, will be walking in the Red Shoe Crew — Walk for Families in aid of the St. John’s Ronald McDonald House in Corner Brook on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. Walking with him will be members of his family, including sister Megan.
CORNER BROOK — Steven Kendell and his family know that “cancer sucks,” and they’ve even got the T-shirts that say so.
But in Kendell’s mind cancer doesn’t only suck, it rocks, too.
That thought came about just recently during his last art therapy appointment at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s.
“I was thinking I saw how cancer sucks,” he said, “I didn’t really think the good side of cancer, too.” So for that appointment he decided to draw a poster to show how cancer rocks.
In a wisdom beyond his 12 years, the Corner Brook boy, said “good things happen too.”
When asked what, he replied “I made all kinds of friends.” People he said he never would have met if he didn’t have cancer.
“I lived in St. John’s, which is a lot bigger than Corner Brook,” he added. Then there was the opportunity to see and do some new things including watching the St. John’s Santa parade. It’s also meant the opportunity to have a wish granted by the Children’s Wish Foundation.
And finally having cancer meant he got to experience living at a Ronald McDonald House.
“I was the first person to ever check into the St. John’s Ronald McDonald House,” said Kendell. The home provide him and his family with more than just a place to stay.
“It didn’t feel like a hotel or anything,” he said. “It felt like a home, or as they say a home away from home. It’s like a normal home.”
The home now means so much to Kendell that he and his family will give back to Ronald McDonald House this Saturday by participating in the second annual Red Shoe Crew — Walk for Families here in Corner Brook. The city walk is one of 31 taking place across the province to raise money for the house.
Kendell, who walks either with a cane or a walker, said it just feels like the right thing to do.
“So, I decided even though I would be with a walker, I’m walking or rolling,” he said.
“It’s not how many feet he goes, it’s the fact he wants to do this for the house,” said his mom Doreen Noseworthy. “He is quite a hero.”
Noseworthy said her son’s battle with cancer has been a long process and long journey that isn’t quite over. Kendell is now back in school in Grade 7 at G.C. Rowe Junior High and while his prognosis is “awesome,” mom said he still has ways to go in terms of his rehabilitation. “His poor little body has been through so much.”
In late March, early April 2012 Noseworthy said she knew her son was quite ill but couldn’t figure out what was wrong. After many visits to the doctor he underwent a CAT scan that detected something wasn’t right.
Kendell was admitted to Western Memorial Regional Hospital on May 1, on May 2 came the diagnosis of a brain tumour and by May 3 he was airlifted to the Janeway.
Originally, the family was told that there was an 85 per cent chance the tumour was not cancer. Still Noseworthy said they had to deal with “the fear and anxiety and the shear panic” of the situation.
Following surgery to remove the tumour located in his cerebellum came the diagnosis that it was cancer. The official type was medulloblastoma.
The next 15 1/2 months were spent in St. John’s where Kendell underwent 30 treatments of radiation and 30 treatments of chemotherapy at the Janeway. He spent 72 days in hospital and only got to come home to Corner Brook for a bit in October.
While she and her son stayed in St. John’s, husband Richard Kendell returned home with their other two daughters, Megan, 16, and Steven’s twin Sarah.
Besides dealing with the impact of having a child with cancer, Noseworthy said they had to deal with the separation of the family and the financial impact.
For a while they were able to stay at a friend’s apartment in the city and also rented at a local hotel.
“But as soon as the Ronald McDonald House opened it became our home away from home,” said Noseworthy, echoing the feeling her son said the facility instills in guests. The shelter offered them more than just a place to stay at a modest rate.
She said the volunteers and staff respect your privacy and need for space, but are also very concerned, loving and supportive when you’re able to and wanting to talk.
“So there’s a really nice balance between giving families the need to have privacy and the time to grieve as things come up.”
Noseworthy said the grief not only comes from dealing with a loss of life, but also with changes in every day things. Watching him lose his hair, become less mobile and no longer be able to do the things he used to do like play sports and dance.
“As painful as it was, every day I count our blessings when I look at my son.”
That’s why she’ll be alongside him for every step he makes on the walk.
‘Aiming for $15,000’
The city walk is being organized by crew leaders Jeremy Cleveland and Susan Oxford.
Last year more than $10,000 was raised from the Corner Brook walk. This year the goal is to match or exceed last year’s total and Cleveland said “we’re aiming for $15,000.”
He said there are about 75 pledge sheets in circulation and two staff members have brought in more than $2,500 each on their registers just by asking the public for donations.
“Corner Brook in general we never have a hard time asking for donations. We’re very generous that way.”
And in this case, he said people see the importance of the facility.
“It’s become more relatable,” he said, “especially for us folks on this side of the island.”
The walk, sponsored by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will take place in Margaret Bowater Park. Registration is at 1 p.m. with the walk scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. The walk will be followed by a barbecue.