Jayne Hardy Cathro’s training and experience as a medical professional didn’t make it any easier to handle the worst news any parent of a young child can receive.
Chemainus couple Jayne and husband Dan Cathro’s daughter Charlotte, just three years old, was diagnosed with leukemia in March. Jayne has the exact date pegged, March 30, and it’s been a challenge ever since with a young family that also includes son Hudson, 5, and another daughter Evelyn, 1.
“It all really started in December 2016,” pointed out Jayne, 34, a Chemainus Secondary School 2001 graduate who’s a registered nurse and obtained her nursing degree at Malaspina College. “Charlotte had a swollen lymph node on her neck.”
That, in itself, wasn’t unusual, she added, but Charlotte later developed a lump on the top of her head that isn’t common with leukemia.
Visits with a pediatrician in Duncan and bloodwork did not turn up anything initially.
“It was fine in January,” said Jayne. “The lump did get a little bit bigger.”
Chest X-Rays were also done and Charlotte was referred to a plastic surgeon to find out if the lump on her head was anything to worry about.
“Over the time from January to March, I thought she seems a little pale,” noted Jayne.
This aroused some suspicion in her about Charlotte’s condition. Again, that medical training was kicking into high gear in her mind.
“I started to randomly Google ‘leukemia,’ Jayne explained. “My inituition led me to that, but I started to question whether I was being a paranoid parent.”
The whole situation still seemed bewildering to Jayne leading up to Charlotte’s appointment with a plastic surgeon in Victoria in March.
“She didn’t have the traditional things,” Jayne indicated. “She wasn’t sick and she didn’t have bruises – all of the leukemia textbook things.”
Eventually, Jayne wanted Charlotte’s bloodwork repeated and once results were obtained the pediatrician called and said she needed to see the Cathros right away.
“I called Dan at work,” recalled Jayne. “Obviously, something is wrong. They want us to come in with her.”
The Cathros were told to pack their bags and go to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver right away.
“They had all the paperwork set up for us,” noted Jayne.
“We thought we’ll go home and pack and go tomorrow morning,” recalled Dan at the time. “They were, ‘no,’ you go now.”
A bone marrow biopsy confirmed the leukemia diagnosis at Children’s Hospital.
The day after their arrival, Charlotte was taken into surgery. A port, an implanted device, was inserted into the right side of Charlotte’s chest under the skin to administer chemotherapy treatments.
“It’s much easier, much more reliable and much safer,” noted Jayne. “They do everything through it.
“Looking back on it, it’s super traumatic. You don’t realize how upset you are. You just do it.
“Everyone reacts differently to the situation. My personality is I want to know everything. I want to know the worst case scenario. Tell me everything.”
Jayne said the care at Children’s Hospital is phenomenal and the facilities at neighbouring Ronald MacDonald House have been a godsend for the family.
The Cathros stayed at Children’s Hospital two weeks when Charlotte was first diagnosed and have since also made visits to the pediatric oncologists clinic at Victoria General Hospital where they’ve also received exceptional treatment.
Four trips were made to Children’s Hospital over the summer where the Cathros had to stay a week at a time and a total of 10 so far since March.
While Charlotte’s cancer was considered in remission after the first month, careful monitoring must always be done because cancer can always return at a moment’s notice and treatments will continue until at least September 2019. Jayne has been on three maternity leaves from her job at Cowichan District Hospital and won’t be returning any time soon while Dan works for the Nanaimo RCMP detachment and managed to make a suitable arrangement.
“There’s a medical type leave I’m on that allows me to stay at home for now,” he explained.
Jayne said Charlotte will remain in what she calls “a very intense part of the treatment,” until at least January. “They’re giving you every drug and they’re giving you lots of drugs.
“Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer and it’s the longest treatment protocol,” she added.
“The first nine months is the most aggressive. After that, it’s less aggressive. I don’t want to downplay it because some of the drugs are pretty nasty.”
Charlotte starts the next round of chemo Oct. 30 at Victoria General and the next appointment in Vancouver is Nov. 2.
Family, friends and complete strangers have poured out their hearts and support to the family.
“Neighbours randomly bring over baking or dinner,” noted Jayne. “We had a few surprise random drop-offs.”
Marlie Kelsey, Irene Vanepeaar, and Lesley Lambert have opened a trust account for people to make donations at Island Savings Credit Union in Chemainus. The account number is 2609956 under the name Trust Account for Charlotte.
“This is just the first of several fundraising activities that we hope to initiate to help ease some of the stress that this young family has been facing since Charlotte was diagnosed earlier this year,” noted Kelsey.
There has also been a Go Fund Me account created.
“We are very grateful for the community’s support,” noted Jayne. “They have helped carry us through a challenging time. Our village is amazing. Dan and I have always made an effort to be giving members of our communities (work and home) and we will definitely continue to offer our love and support to others in the future to help carry them when needed. Sometimes the hardest times of your lives are when you the see the best side of humanity.”
Charlotte is mainly pain-free and well at the moment, but it will clearly be a long haul no matter what.
“You have to watch your child for the rest of their life,” noted Jayne. “They have to have very strict follows with Children’s Hospital even into adulthood.
“You know you have to have faith and she should be fine,” she added.