NANAIMO — Stephen Mohan and his family first stayed at Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon when their son Jasper was diagnosed with cancer as a baby.
Twelve years later, Jasper’s cancer came back in another form of the disease. They spent about 18 months at the RMH, including a continuous stretch of 8 months.
Mohan shared this excerpt from a book he wrote on his experience:
In the middle of December Barb and I were able to obtain a room at the Ronald McDonald House, however, Jasper remained in the hospital until January. When we came to the house with Jasper as a baby we were in one day and out the next, so we didn’t connect with the staff or other families. Our family was now in need of extended stays here. The house became a sanctuary of love for us.
Ronald McDonald House provided a safe, economical, clean, friendly environment to stay at while in Vancouver. It was ideally situated close to the hospital. Cancer patients with a compromised immune system have strict guidelines of cleanliness to adhere to, and the Ronald McDonald House maintained these high standards. The fridges were kept stocked with donated food, and volunteers occasionally made meals for the families. The house was furnished in the spirit of an actual home, a welcome place to be when compared to the institutional surroundings of the hospital.
Jasper, Barb and I were comfortable at the house. We all made close friendships there. It was a special place. Jasper could play and interact with other kids there, or he could escape on his own with a book. Barb and I could share experiences and feelings amongst other parents who were on a similar journey. It provided us with a real home away from the hospital.
During our first week at the house, I cried for the first time since my dad had passed away. Late one night, Barb and I had a room to our selves. Barb had just shut off the lights in preparation for bed. A full moon was beaming through the window, casting the room in a blue light. As I stood looking out at the dark winter night, my mind began to race with worry.
“Are we going to lose him?” I asked. There was trepidation in my wavering voice. I felt that I could cry, but I was worried that I may wake or disturb other families in the adjoining rooms if I did so. The fear continued to spread over me. I fought back an outburst, trying to remain composed.
Barb approached and put her arms around me. I slumped forward and let it all go, weeping aloud and uncontrolled. “Are we going to lose him? I don’t want to lose my son! I can’t live without my son…” I sobbed. I didn’t care anymore if someone heard me wailing. I cried until there was nothing left. I felt drained and exhausted. I did my best to find my breath.
I had tried so hard to hold back my tears because I didn’t want to wake anyone. It turns out that’s okay at this house; because the folks down the hall completely understand. Those families are all in crisis too.
When you’re in crisis, sometimes the best thing to do is to put your head down and push on. Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” But for how long were we to endure this? With the swift passing of time, days turned to weeks, and then to months. When would we see home again?
We just kept going.
For over 30 years, Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon has been providing accommodation for seriously ill children and their families when they must travel to Vancouver for their child’s major treatment.
Their new campaign hopes to encourage people to Gift A Moment to a family in need. As part of our support of the program, we'll be sharing a series of four stories from local families whose lives have been impacted by RMH BC.