Facing cancer with friends and family

August 30, 2018
Hanging out with friends is important for a 13-year-old and battling cancer doesn’t change that. That’s where RMHC Toronto comes in.
Brianne with friends
Brianne Van Allen is a typical 13-year-old girl who likes to hang out with her friends, spend time outdoors, play hockey and figure skate.

This July, tests at a hospital near her home in Havelock, Ont. revealed a mass on her liver and spleen, and she was immediately sent more than two hours away to Toronto.

On July 24, 2018, Brianne was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. After three days in the hospital, Brianne’s mother, Jennifer and her father Jeff, came to live at RMHC Toronto while she continues her treatment. On July 30, Brianne was able to leave the hospital and join her family in the House.

“Arriving at RMHC Toronto immediately gave me a feeling of home. I loved that I could go downstairs and make breakfast with my family. It gives us a little bit of normalcy during a difficult time,” says Jennifer.

Teachers from Havelock-Belmont Public School visiting Brianne at RMHC Toronto.

Being at RMHC Toronto means that Brianne can be close to her 11-year-old brother, Carson, during her treatment. Other family members were taking care of Carson at home before the family moved to the House.

“Being at the House is amazing because my family can be together. Carson likes that he can check on Brianne and make sure she’s alright,” says Jennifer.

Brianne and Carson have a typical brother/sister relationship, and he can’t wait until she gets better so he can make fun of her again, she says.

RMHC Toronto also allows Brianne to spend quality time with her friends. Her friends make the trip from Havelock to Toronto to see Brianne as much as possible. When the girls are visiting at the House, they like to hang out outside, in the Family Lounge, or in the kitchen.

“When I can’t be home, this is my home. I can still be me, my friends can visit, spend the night or come for dinner. It makes being away from everyone easier,” says Brianne.

Jennifer shares that the support from family and friends has made a big difference for Brianne while she receives treatment. “It’s amazing to know that everyone is behind her.”

On August 25, Brianne was able to go back home. The family will need to come back to Toronto for three days every three weeks for treatments, and they hope to stay at the House during these visits.