This story is dedicated to #9…Mr. Bobby Ryan
Lead with Courage
For most people, Friday is one of their favorite days of the week. Last workday, the end of a long week in school or the start of an exciting weekend. For our family, Friday is a little different. For the past 50 weeks, our Fridays were spent at CHEO watching our daughter receive her chemotherapy. Fridays are a day that we know Bria is going to be sick, a day that we can never make plans for but its a day that we are so very thankful for. A day closer to Bria getting her life back.
We arrive at CHEO at 8am every Friday. Bria walks in with a smile and walks out feeling sick but she still gives every passing person a smile. Here is a typical chemo day for Bria that I captured a few weeks ago.
She registers at the desk and waits for her name to be called.
Next is height and weight. This is very important when on a journey with chemo.
Off to her room for treatment.
Bria is the bravest person I have ever met. This room has become her Friday morning go-to place. I am sure at 12 years old this should be the last place she would want to be walking into to start her weekend.
It’s time to start
Instead of getting an IV every week, Bria has a port-a-cath that was surgically inserted under her skin and the nurses access her through there every week. This makes life so much easier for Bria.
Now we are ready for chemo
During her treatment, Bria is usually her happy self. Cracking jokes or making silly Snapchat photos with some of her doctors and nurses. Bria has an amazing team that we appreciate beyond words. CHEO is a wonderful facility that I will be forever grateful for.
Then towards the end, she starts to feel a little ill. She doesn’t usually say much at that point and you can see the changes in her face.
Time to get unhooked and on the road to home.
We leave Ottawa shortly after and Bria usually sleeps all the way to Kingston. We arrive home and she goes straight to her room and lays down. She is feeling so sick by this point that she won’t talk and she wants to be left alone. I have tried everything to help her feel better but in 49 weeks, nothing has helped. Her day turns to night and then the vomiting will begin, its a rough day for her but this is what is helping her get better. This is my typical Friday night view while sitting with Bria.
Saturday morning arrives and she is feeling a little better but it’s usually a PJ day as she recovers from yesterday’s ordeal.
There is a reason why I shared that with you. I wanted you all to see how Bria spends her Friday. She heard some time ago that it was Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Canadian Tire Centre and felt devastated that it was on a Friday night. We all knew that she could never attend a hockey game on chemo day. Last year in November for that game, she was recovering from major brain surgery. It led us to find out that she had an inoperable brain tumor that was cancerous. That is when our 70-week journey of chemotherapy began and her love for the Ottawa Senators was revealed.
Over the course of her journey, the people inside of the Canadian Tire Centre has made a life-changing impact on Bria and our whole family. The love and support from the staff, the players and the fans have been tremendously amazing. We gained a new family. A child traveling on a cancer journey is hard, but these people have made it so much easier for her and shown her so much love. The very first NHL player that Bria met was #9, Bobby Ryan. I will never forget the look on her face that night and how kind he was to her. He took the time to listen to her story and that stuck with Bria. She knew that night that a little hockey spirit was just what she needed to help her push through. That night she knew that this was her happy place and when she walked through the arena doors, she was Bria and had no worries at all.
When Bria was told she had a brain tumor, like any parent would, you ask a million times “why?” I did that for the first week or so and then it occurred to me that I can’t be on this journey questioning “why.” I had to help Bria find a way to help others. It quickly turned into “how.” How could we turn this horrible experience into something positive? Whether it be her strength and courage that would help someone, her infectious smile or her positivity towards her brain cancer was simply mind-blowing. This ought to help someone out there! I think if I asked people inside of her favorite stadium if she has touched them in some way, it would be a lot of yes answers. Bria was helping these people just as much as they were helping her and we didn’t even realize it. But as her mother, this made my heart so happy and we were on this journey for a reason.
November 22, 2019
I woke early this morning wondering how Bria was going to survive the day and attend a hockey game. Bria woke up and I quickly reminded her that it was chemo #50 and she quickly reminded me that it was Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Canadian Tire Centre and she was determined she was going. I knew it was impossible but she wasn’t taking no for an answer. I had to think of something fast to get her feeling good enough to go. We have tried numerous meds over the past weeks but nothing has really helped in her favor.
We arrived at CHEO for her 50th chemo! This was a huge milestone for Bria and she thought it was great that it was on Hockey Fights Cancer night. She had to wear her Ottawa Senators jersey to celebrate. Bria has worn her Sens jersey multiple times at chemo and all the staff know she is a big fan!
Here we go! Let’s get this party started because she has a game to attend!
I told Bria we were going to stay really hydrated as most Friday’s she refuses to eat or drink. She didn’t agree but I told her to trust me on this one if she wants to get to tonight’s game.
Chemo went well and we were on our way. We headed back to the Ronald McDonald House.
I asked Bria when we arrived if we were heading home or staying. She said she was staying because she had a game to attend. We agreed and she went to rest. I sent Kerry to Shoppers for Ginger ale and pretzels. I thought this may help alleviate some nausea that she was experiencing. Around 11am, she looked at me with a soft voice “I don’t think I’m going to make it to the game.” She looked heartbroken. I got her up and gave her some salted pretzels and ginger ale. Her color started to come back and in about 15 minutes she said “Mom, this is really helping, the game is back on.”
She was fighting hard to beat this sickness and she didn’t let it stop her. A few hours later, we were stuck in traffic with the happiest girl in Ottawa. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we saw our favorite place in Kanata!
GO SENS GO!
We arrived and we are always greeted with the best smiles and warmest hugs. Everyone knows that Bria is never inside that building on a Friday evening but hockey was fighting cancer and she had proven it that day. She wasn’t missing this for anything!
Her awesome friend Bill was waiting for her arrival. There aren’t enough words in the English dictionary to describe how kind and thoughtful this human being has been to Bria and our entire family. We met as complete strangers and he has become a huge part of Bria’s story. Bill is the light at the Canadian Tire Centre and he can make Bria smile on any occasion. I always ask him how will we ever thank him for his kindness, it is appreciated beyond words.
At this point, she was feeling great! How was this happening on a Friday night!!
At chemo that day, Bria had mentioned that she hoped to see Mark at the game. I love how she speaks of the hockey players like they are her friends. From the very beginning of her journey, I told her to treat the hockey players like you would treat anyone else, they are human like you and I. Treat them with respect and thank them for taking time to speak to you. That is exactly what she did! Last season she met Mark and he left a huge impact on her and her brother Maison. Mark Boroweicki has the kindest heart and an amazing listening ear. He always took the time to give Bria a hug and check in on her when he saw her. That is huge to a child and Bria will never forget each time he checked in. I had mentioned to Bill that she spoke about him at chemo and off we go. Just look at the smile on her face…priceless!!
Bria is shy and not very chatty but her smile said it all! She was about to see Mark for the first time this season. Those hugs mean more to her than anyone will ever know!
We had a wonderful little chat and Bria told me her day was made. Again, how could we ever thank him for taking time out to visit? Mark, you are a wonderful person!
We got to meet Rookie, Bria was quite happy about that!
Next, Bria helped Bill with a tour of the Canadian Tire Centre. This was a girls hockey team that was attending tonight’s game and they invited Bria to be in their group photo. They are a lovely bunch of ladies.
I loved how the arena was filled with Hockey Fights Cancer signs.
It was almost game time but we had one more special stop. Our game would never be complete without a visit to see our awesome friend Kelsey at Bobby Ryan’s All-Star Suite. This suite means a lot to Bria as it introduced her to her love for hockey and made her realize that it was more than just a game. This suite will always hold a special place in her heart. Kelsey makes Bria laugh like no other person in the world and gives the best hugs!!
Kelsey always takes her CHEO All-Star Kids to ice level during warm-up. Bria has done this before but she wanted to join the group. She loves being at ice level and she wanted a close up of tonight’s purple jerseys.
She spotted her friend Mark on the ice and he gave her a wave back. Then he called her over and she was so excited as she thought he was giving her a puck. He handed her his stick. It even had purple tape on it to match the theme. She was so happy and so thankful. Before the game started, we met Mr. Peter MacTavish. He is the Assistant General Manager of the Ottawa Senators and he was very intrigued by Bria’s story. He was such a kind soul and he gave Bria the hat she is wearing. She now had a matching hat and stick. What great memories of her 50th chemo! This is a night she would never forget!
Bria and I were standing by the glass and she said to me “Mom, that is the coolest jerseys I ever saw, they even have cancer ribbons on their numbers.” I agreed of course!
About a minute after, Bria gets a tap on her shoulder from a gentleman that we have never met, wearing a purple Ottawa Senators Hockey Fights Cancer jersey. He said to her in the kindest voice “would you like my jersey? I want you to have it.” Wait, what was happening? This is someone we never met and he’s handing Bria his jersey right off his back. Bria was shocked and speechless. You always hear the saying that people are so kind-hearted that they would give you the shirt off their back, well world, we found someone that fit that saying perfectly!
Bria kept saying “I can’t take his jersey.”
Kelsey told him she was celebrating her 50th chemo that day. He saw her wearing a #9 and he knew what he had to do. But what he didn’t know was how special Bobby Ryan meant to Bria. For her to receive a purple jersey that Bobby had worn at last year’s cancer night meant the world to her. This moment was priceless!
We didn’t have anything to exchange for this amazing gift but a hug.
This incredible human being is Richard. We later found out that he attended last year’s cancer night and at the time he was fighting his own battle. Richard is now in remission and helping Bria fight her battle. That jersey will always be with Bria as it tells a story, a story about how a kind man who shared the same number on his jersey as her and the love they both have for hockey. She now has a stick and a jersey from her 2 favorite Senators.
The game hasn’t even started and so much has already happened. Bria was having the time of her life and feeling great! She even ate supper that night, which never happens on a Friday!
We love the singing of the National Anthems. This was a special moment for me. Watching and listening to Bria sing our anthem in both languages, gripping her new hockey stick and still wearing her hospital bracelet from this morning. Was she really at a game on a Friday night?
We met up with Theresa and Bob. They are such amazing supporters of Bria and just so sweet to her. They have become family to us as well.
Let’s watch some hockey!
We were excited to run into a Candlelighters table. They play a huge part in Bria’s journey as well. If you have never heard of them, check them out, such great supporters for childhood cancer patients and their families.
This photo has 3 heroes!
The Sens win and Bria is quite happy! She completed her 50th chemo Sens style and it was a night to remember!
Tonight Bria has proven to the world that Hockey does indeed fight cancer and not every victory shows up on a scoreboard!
We are so very thankful to every person who made this night so special. Our Canadian Tire Centre family is simply incredible!
Here are a few photos I took of Bria wearing her new jersey that she truly admires and holding her favorite hockey stick.
Bria said she can relate to what Wayne Gretzky once said…
“The greatest thing about hockey is the people you meet. The people I’ve met…the friendships I have, the memories, and there’s nothing like it. It’s the greatest game in the world.”