As I prepare for the final competition of the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant, I wanted to take a final opportunity to post about my Platform; Childhood Cancer Awareness.

I don’t know if we can truly appreciate what these amazing young warriors and their families go through because we haven’t walked the walk.  We can’t fathom what it is like to watch a young child struggle to fight the dreaded disease and know that there is nothing physically that we can do to lessen their pain and suffering.  It is heartbreaking and just unfair.

I know that I am only one person and that I can’t take away the circumstances that surround these amazing kids and their families but I do have the ability to raise awareness on their behalf.  Do you know that only 4% of the funds raised for cancer research are donated to address childhood cancers?  This is just not acceptable.

Even with only 4% of all cancer research funding devoted to childhood cancers, great strides have been made in the battle against childhood cancer. Forty years ago, survival rates were less than 60%. Today, over 82% of children survive.

Imagine what we could do with more research funding.

It is my hope that by bringing the Childhood Cancer Awareness platform to the national level through the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant, my efforts may reach out to ONE more person who will see their challenges and choose to donate to one of the many charities that support childhood cancer champions and their families.  If my blog awareness campaign results in even $1.00 being donated that wouldn’t have been before, then I have made a difference in a small but impacting way.  You can never truly appreciate what heroes like Paige, Jill , Annie, Nathan, Jordan, Connor, Chris, Bryce, Kim, Chloe (the list goes on) go through and I hope you never find out, but we can do our best to help other kids being diagnosed so that their journeys will have a promising future.

Cancer Champions: Jessica, Jill, Paige Nathan, Annie

My life has changed over the past 16 months.  I have learned amazing life lessons from the young cancer champions that I have met and I have a new appreciation for the gift of life.  I have seen them push through their treatments with determination and a smile on their face.  I have played and interacted with them while at charity events and I have been inspired listening to many of them speak about their journeys at public functions.  I think one of the most impacting things I have ever experienced was listening to Paige speak and show her courage bead necklace that catalogues her cancer journey in coloured beads.  To have a visual representation of her journey was one of the most heartbreaking yet inspirational moments I have ever witnessed.  I have had the opportunity to hear  Paige speak on several occasions and her favourite quote gets me every time because I know she truly lives her life according to her quote:     “Cherish your memories, Dream your tomorrows, but always LIVE your todays!

1/2 of Paige’s Courage Bead necklace

I will continue with my Childhood Cancer Awareness campaign for the duration of my reign which concludes in April 2018 but I will continue to be an advocate for childhood cancer awareness as I go forward in life.  I want to do what I can to make a difference!

So, in conclusion, I want to personally THANK all of the incredible childhood cancer champions that I have met and their families for changing my life and for making me really appreciate the gifts we are given; to never take anything for granted; to always make time to volunteer for something you are passionate about because you will receive much more than you give; to never give up when a task seems to difficult and most of all to always be respectful and grateful for the important people in your life because they may not always be there!

I will always remain a passionate GOLD RIBBON advocate!

GO GOLD!

Sophia

 

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Dear Diary:

I can’t believe it is Day 4 already.  It really is true that “TIME FLIES WHEN YOU ARE HAVING FUN!”

Today we were up bright and early and after a lovely breakfast, were off to the Clarington Family Outdoor Adventure Park.  Oh and did I mention that Olivia and I were interviewed on City TV!  It was a great opportunity to promote the Clarington Family Outdoor Adventure Park  that was hosting us for the morning.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Do not wear a white skirt to a zoo!  Good thing I had a Tide stick in my bag.  One of the goats decided he should jump on me and although I loved the affectionate attention, his feet were not very clean!

Loved getting up close and personal!

 

After the Adventure Park we went to Bluffers Park.  The park and beach is stunning!  It’s located at the base of the Scarborough Bluff and is a gorgeous setting to spend the afternoon.  Located on Lake Ontario it has a scenic beach area and lots of hiking trails.  Eight of us were talked into trying paddle boarding.  What a great experience, although no one warned me that Lake Ontario is very cold!

 

After spending time in the great outdoors, we then headed off to the Yorkdale Mall for some serious retail therapy at NINE WEST!  Nine West not only sponsored our gorgeous shoes for the pageant but also gifted each of us with a $50.00 gift certificate to purchase additional shoes, purses or sunglasses.  Not only did we get the gift certificate but we also got a discount as well!  Did I mention I LOVE SHOES!

I LOVE SHOE SHOPPING at NINE WEST!

After changing we headed off to Memories of Japan for a wonderful meal!  Dinner was an entertaining affair with lots of joke sharing, laughs and incredible food!

All ready for a beautiful dinner at Memories of Japan

I am trying to capture the essence of my Teenage Canada Pageant weekend journey but it is difficult to put into words what an incredible few days this has been.  New experiences, new places and wonderful new friends!

Well Diary, let’s see what tomorrow brings!

Sophia

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Dear Diary:

What an experience this is!  I am having so much fun!

All ready for my Photo Shoot

Tuesday was a very busy day.  We had our hair and makeup done and then it was on to do Media interviews, official photo shoots and our pageant interviews with the Judges.  It was an incredible day!  For those skeptics who say that pageants are a negative experience and that they don’t provide a positive environment for young women, I can honestly say, THEY ARE WRONG!  The interview experience and the confidence you gain doing public speaking, are life skills that all of us will use as we go forward into our chosen careers.

Its time for my official Interview with the Pageant Judges

Photo shoots, interviews and media interviews took us well into the early evening and then it was on to rehearsals!  We met with Shawn Cuffy the MTC choreographer and started to learn dance numbers and stage direction.  It was a wonderful day and we were feet-weary when we headed up to our rooms for the night.  I did some blogging and then lights out finished off the day!

Wednesday morning it was up and off to get some physical activity.  We headed off to the Vaughn Sportsplex and played volleyball soccer and bubble soccer.  Now that was an experience!  So much fun!  After a nutritious lunch from SUBWAY picnic style at the Sports complex it was back to the hall to continue rehearsals for the afternoon.

Ready for Dinner

We dressed for dinner and headed off to Dave and Busters where we had a lovely dinner and the hit the arcade!

A delicious dinner at Dave & Busters

 

Heading into the Midway at Dave & Busters

What a blast!  I played all kinds of games, had an aggressive dance off and tested my driving skills.  It was loud and I loved every minute of the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUITAR JAM

DANCE OFF!

These last two days have been incredibly busy but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a thing!  This has certainly been the experience of a lifetime!

Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

 

Sophia

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I am still finding it surreal that I am actually here representing Eastern Ontario at the 2017 Miss Teenage Canada Pageant.

I arrived Monday a bit nervous but SO EXCITED!  After registering  we were assigned our rooms and our roommates.  I got the BEST roommate; Lindsey from Northern Nova Scotia.  We were immediate friends!

With my Beautiful roommate Lindsey from Northern Nova Scotia 

We settled in and then it was off to the Welcome Party!  It has begun! The party was hosted by some of the wonderful Sponsors of the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant.  The fifty seven of us had a great time, met some amazing sponsors and had the opportunity to connect each other and have some fun!

Opening Night Party. Photo credit; Darren Lee The Celebrity Photographer

The Sponsors included Hashtagio the social media aggregator that was fetching pictures from Instagram all night.

Hashtagio social media aggregator was set up to show the Instagram feed for #MTC2017. All the best shots from the evening’s event were collected and displayed on the website in a special Go Behind the Scenes via Instagram page.  The unique service is co-sponsored by Standard Telecom business phone networks and all week long we are encouraged to use our cell phones and mobile devices to post our best moments using the #MTC2017 hashtag.

 

Dahlia Desouza from UptotheTime Watches was at the party displaying their beautiful watches for every occasion.  Each delegate was given the opportunity to choose their favourite watch and the delegate crowned Miss Teenage Canada 2017 will receive her chosen watch as a gift from UptotheTime.

The Wandering Minstrel Music School in Mississauga was at the party  running a Karaoke challenge.  Instagram #MTCSongSolo challenge.

 

Delegates were invited to select one of five instruments and record a musical performance on Instagram using the #MTCsongselo hashtag. The prize for the video with the most likes will WIN a new cordless microphone!

Super Adorbs jewellery and fashion accessories will accentuate any outfit no matter your style or occasion. Headquartered here in Toronto, the company sells online all across Canada; Superadorbs is built with feminine style for individual expression.

Super Adorbs jewellery gave us all cute little gift bags.  I love my Super Adorbs headband.

NINE WEST sponsored our gorgeous shoes for the Miss Teenage Canada pageant.  I LOVE Nine West shoes!  I am so excited to model them on the Miss Teenage Canada stage.

I LOVE my NINE WEST Shoes. Thank you NINE WEST

Golden Glamour Goddess is the official spray tan sponsor of the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant.  Delegates are given the opportunity to book a spray tan during pageant week by the wonderful tanning specialists at Golden Glamour Goddess.

Golden Glamour Goddess

STREET CHIC the sponsor of the Street Chic Fashion blog was there.  That was definitely the highlight of my preparations for the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant 2017.  I love the concept and the unique way to highlight the wonderful merchants in our individual areas.

Thank you Street Chic for hosting our Street Chic Fashion Blogs

Rob Campbell (MTC Social Media specialist) himself was running the Archer Dental booth and giving away handy little packages of  dental supplies.  What a wonderful sponsorship from Archer Dental.  Check out their webpage and VOTE Archer Dental for the NOW Magazine Best Toronto Dentist Award!

We were treated to delicious pizza from PIZZA VILLE and savoured our sweet tooth with a decadent cake officially cut my the reigning Miss Teenage Canada 2016 Samantha Pierre.  Samantha has been an exceptional titleholder for the Miss Teenage Canada organization placing  1st Runner Up to Miss Teen Universe and 1st Runner Up to Miss Teenager; an outstanding accomplishment!

Miss Teenage Canada 2017 Samantha Pierre cutting the cake

It was a wonderful evening and a fantastic start to my Miss Teenage Canada pageant 2017 journey!

Stay tuned,

Sophia

 

 

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  1. VOTING IS NOW OPEN ONLINE FOR MISS TEENAGE CANADA 

The following are the instructions to cast your VOTE for me for MISS TEENAGE CANADA PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD.

 

If this is your first time voting for Miss Teenage Canada then

Go to www.missteenagecanada.com
                                                             Sign up for VIP access
Input the information and REGISTER

You will receive a confirmation e-mail (check your junk mail if it doesn’t show up in your IN BOX)

Once you are REGISTERED, you can vote!  Clicking the PINK VOTE button will direct you to my FINALISTS Page.  Simply input your e-mail address in the vote box (bottom right hand corner of the pate).   CLICK VOTE

CLICK the VOTE BUTTON above to go directly to my Page

Or Follow these directions:

Go to www.missteenagecanada.com
Select FINALISTS PAGE
Find me — SOPHIA (in the ONTARIO SECTION)
Click on DETAILS
At the bottom right hand side of the page you will see the box to input your e-mail
CLICK VOTE

TELL ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS AND CONTACTS TO REGISTER AND VOTE AS WELL! The delegate with the most votes will be fasted tracked into the TOP 20.

Thank you so much!

Happy Voting!

Sophia

 

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The Day has Arrived!  Thanks for helping me get here!

I spent last night relaxing and enjoying some “ME TIME” before heading off to Toronto.

Thanks Nolan Murphy for capturing this moment

This morning I woke up so excited!  The day is finally here!  I’m packed up,  sat on the suitcase and managed to get it closed complete with outfits, shoes, makeup, essentials and treats.  Loading up the car was a challenge but we managed to get everything in and my Mom and I headed for Toronto.

Mom and I are packed up and ready to go!

Before I get busy with pageant week activities, I wanted to take some time to send some very special THANK YOUs to those folks who have helped me get here.

Some of my MTOE Family at my Good Luck Send off party

First and foremost, thanks to my Teen Ontario East Family;  the wonderful ladies at the helm of the pageant who have mentored me and shown me the true meaning of volunteering with a passion (all while having a blast), the current reigning Miss Teen Ontario East Danika and First runner Up Megan and Second Runner Up Alexa for your support, my Teen Ontario East Sisterhood for always being there to give me advice and assistance particularly my predecessors the gorgeous Kathleen Barr, Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario 2016.  Kat, I love you and appreciate all that you have done for me not only to prepare for this week but also throughout the past 16 months.  I would also like to thank the many followers of our Teen Ontario East pageant for being so supportive of everything that our Pageant stands for and thank you to everyone who came out to the Good Luck Send Off Drop In hosted by my Teen Ontario East family on Thursday night!  I was truly touched!

Kathleen Barr I will try and do you proud!

Thank you to the wonderful group of MTOE Pageant judges who selected me for the title of Miss Teen Ontario East 2016 and have provided me with this opportunity of a lifetime.  My life has been so enriched by my experience as a regional titleholder and a voice for childhood cancer awareness.

Some of my inspirational Childhood Cancer Champions

A special thank you to the amazing young childhood cancer champions that I have met, who have shared their courageous stories with me and have allowed me to share them with others over the past 16 months.  You have all touched my life in ways that you will never really know.  I have adapted your “Live everyday like it’s your last” philosophy and I truly appreciate the gift of life.  I will never take it for granted.  You have all truly changed my life.  And thank you for the wonderful messages of good luck from all of you.  I am truly blessed to have you all in my life.

To the gorgeous Angeline MacDonald of Bells and Bows Bridal Centre, thank you for assisting me with my gown selection.  I absolutely LOVE my Bells and Bows gown and can’t wait to wear it on stage.

To the sponsors of the Miss Teen Ontario East Pageant, thank you for supporting my home pageant organization and giving me this fabulous opportunity to represent our region at the national level.

To my friends, thank you for being my constant cheerleaders.  I love you all.

Last but certainly not least, thank you to my wonderful family.  I would not be here if it wasn’t for all of you.  Thank you for sacrificing our one car (shared by all of us and Mom) so that I could attend my events and truly dedicate my time to my Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario responsibilities but most of all thank you for always being there for me, just because you love me.

My wonderful family

I love you all and I will do my best to do you proud!

My adventure to the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant has been a GROUP EFFORT for sure.  I love you all and now it’s time to put on my heels and get my “SPARKLE ON”.

I’m here! Let the week BEGIN!

Stay tuned,

Sophia

Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario

 

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Annie – A loving soul

“I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not
And who I am “        The world according to Annie 

Can you imagine being 4 years old and being diagnosed with cancer?  Can you imagine if you are the parents of that child?

It is truly heart-wrenching and overwhelming when I learned the stories of some of the kids that I have met over the past couple of years with my Childhood Cancer volunteer activities.  One beautiful soul that I met through the Teen Ontario East Pageant is Annie, a childhood cancer survivor of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Annie was that 4 year old child who’s childhood life changed with her cancer diagnosis.

Annie (front left) beside me in the Teen Ontario East Pageant’s Tribute to Childhood Cancer Champions

Annie’s parents were concerned when she didn’t have the energy that a 4 year old would normally have and she didn’t seem to have much of an appetite.  A trip to CHEO’s emergency department and some bloodwork indicated Annie had leukemia; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (better known as A.L.L.)

Annie exhibited the common signs of Childhood A.L.L.  According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada some of the other signs and symptoms are as follows;

  • Fever
  • Easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Petechiae (flat, pinpoint-like dark red spots under the skin caused by bleeding)
  • Bone and/or joint pain
  • Painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach or groin area
  • Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs.
  • Weakness, feeling tired, or looking pale.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common type of the childhood cancers. It is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and will worsen quickly if not treated immediately.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer and occurs when a child’s bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells).  It can affect red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.  Acute lymphoblastic leukemia invades the blood and can spread throughout the body to other organs, such as the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.  It does not normally produce tumors like other types of cancer but it is an acute type of leukemia, which means it can progress quickly.

According to research published by the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on:

  • How quickly and how low the leukemia cell count drops after the first month of treatment.
  • Age at the time of diagnosis, gender, race, and ethnic background.
  • The number of white blood cells in the blood at the time of diagnosis.
  • Whether the leukemia cells began from B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes.
  • Whether there are certain changes in the chromosomes or genes of the lymphocytes with cancer.
  • Whether the child has Down syndrome.
  • Whether leukemia cells are found in the cerebrospinal fluid.
  • The child’s weight at the time of diagnosis and during treatment.

Treatment options depend on:

  • Whether the leukemia cells began from B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes.
  • Whether the child has standard-risk, high-risk, or very high–risk ALL.
  • The age of the child at the time of diagnosis.
  • Whether there are certain changes in the chromosomes of lymphocytes, such as the Philadelphia chromosome.
  • Whether the child was treated with steroids before the start of induction therapy.
  • How quickly and how low the leukemia cell count drops during treatment.

Because of acute lymphoblastic leukemia’s (A.L.L.’s) rapid growth, most patients need to start chemotherapy soon after diagnosis. During chemotherapy, Annie was  given potent drugs that had to be toxic enough to damage or kill leukemic cells. At the same time, these aggressive drugs  can take aim at normal cells and cause side effects.

Cancer protocols (treatment plans) can vary for each child depending on the stage of their cancer and their age.  Most A.L.L. childhood protocols will include high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant.  In Annie’s case, she underwent two and a half years of high-dose chemotherapy and became a “frequent flyer” at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.  Imagine two and a half years of chemotherapy at the age of 4!  That is not the way a child is supposed to spend their kindergarten years!

Annie with Molly Penny, therapeutic Clown at CHEO

Despite what she was going through, one of the moms that I spoke with who was in the hospital with her daughter when Annie was there said you would never see Annie without her uplifting smile.  She would dress up and clown with Molly Penny the therapeutic clown at CHEO and would hand out funny stickers to the other kids who were just a sick as she was.  Annie fought through her intense and lengthy chemotherapy protocol and then immediately got involved in several charity events to benefit CHEO her home away from home.

I think that is what amazes me most about the cancer champions that I have had the privilege to meet; their passion for giving back and making a difference.  Annie became very active in the CHEO community fund raising, acting as a spokesperson and representative at several fund raising events.

Annie’s passion for making a difference and her determination to do something to help others were key factors in her being chosen as the CHEO Champion.

Children’s Miracle Network Champions presented by Walmart Canada is an awareness program designed to educate communities on the life-saving work being done at member hospitals and the role that Children’s Miracle Network plays in supporting them. Each year, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals identify a remarkable child to serve as their Champion. As ambassadors, these patients represent more than two million children and youth treated at Children’s Miracle Network member hospitals each year in Canada. “

A young Annie honoured as CHEO Champion

As CHEO Champion, Annie represented CHEO at an international gathering of young champions at Disney in Orlando, Florida.

Annie is now a beautiful young woman who has recently completed her first year of university.  I cannot express enough how in awe I am of these amazing champions.  Young cancer survivors like Annie who took on this incredible battle and managed to get through it and turn the devastation into a motivating factor to make a difference.

Annie’s favourite quote from Patch Adams

I am inspired everyday,

Sophia

 

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MY AFTERNOON as a MODEL

What an experience this has been and I haven’t even headed to Toronto for pageant week yet!

When I am not working, I am in full “pageant prep mode!” I have been shopping, fund raising, getting wardrobe selections made, organizing appointments, blogging and rehearsing my song for the talent competition.  In the midst of all of this “organized” and exciting chaos I had the opportunity to have a spectacular photo shoot with Kelly Cobus Photography at the scenic and historical Bonnechere Caves.

What a great way to spend the afternoon!  Kelly and Aaron were so wonderful to work with!  Their eye for photography is exceptional and they had me on the rocks, in the rocks, on the water and in the water!  I am still surprised I didn’t end up face first in the water but I managed to stay relatively dry.  It was so much fun!  I was so thrilled with the photos, I wanted to share them.  Photo credit for all of the following photos belong to Kelly Cobus Photography.

ON THE ROCKS Photo credit Kelly Cobus Photography

ON THE ROCKS IN THE WATER Photo credit Kelly Cobus Photography

IN THE ROCKS Photo Credit Kelly Cobus Photography

IN THE WATER ON THE ROCKS Photo Credit Kelly Cobus Photography

ON THE ROCKS IN THE WATER Photo Credit Kelly Cobus Photography

ON THE ROCKS Photo Credit Kelly Cobus Photography

ON THE ROCKS OVER THE WATER Photo Credit Kelly Cobus Photography

ON THE ROCKS BESIDE THE WATER Photo Credit Kelly Cobus Photography

IN THE WATER. Photo Credit Kelly Cobus Photography

For anyone who is looking for an exceptional photographer and wants to work with a lovely and engaging couple, please contact Aaron and Kelly at Kelly Cobus Photography.  You will NOT be disappointed.

Pose and Smile,

Sophia

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The Day RAGLAN Street in Renfrew went STREET CHIC!

What an amazing Blog Assignment!  I had an incredible time coordinating and executing this STREET CHIC Blog post.  My only problem was cutting the content and the pictures to make the post space efficient.  I had over 300 photos to choose from thanks to my volunteer amateur photographer, Doug.

Our directive was to pick a street, visit the merchants, choose some eye-catching outfits and have customers and/or friends model the fashions to incorporate the STREET CHIC fashion sense.

So, take one historical street in small town Eastern Ontario, add a selection of unique boutiques offering a variety of fashion choices, compliment it with a selection of wonderful women from various generations and you have a snapshot of Fashion in the Valley!

Raglan Street in Renfrew, Ontario will provide you with just that mix!  The street itself has been in existence since the early 1800s and although obviously transformed over the decades it remains the hub for exceptional fashion in the Valley.  The architectural structures can date back to the late 1800s and today’s merchants have enhanced the historical features and have captured the essence of yesteryear in their store facades.  Strolling down Raglan Street (main street Renfrew) is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and certainly personifies STREET CHIC in the fashions that can be found in this hidden Valley gem!

CLICK on the PHOTO BELOW to visit my official STREET CHIC Blog Submission!  Like it and Share it if you would.  It will promote the wonderful and unique Fashion forward retailers in Renfrew, Ontario!

I am so proud of this piece and so appreciative to my models (some who needed a bit of encouragement to get in front of the camera) and to the merchants who were warm, accommodating and excited to participate.

My choice to choose everyday customers and clients of my Raglan Street merchants was to emphasize that you can be STREET CHIC no matter what your age!

I would also like to highlight STERLINGS NO FRILL JOE FRESH in Renfrew.  Although not located on Raglan Street they were excited to welcome us into their store and allowed Abby and I to model some fun outfits on their Street!

The entire day was a blast!  Thank you to STREET CHIC for promoting this activity for Miss Teenage Canada and to the wonderful people of Renfrew who always make everyone feel welcome and part of the family!

I am now STREET CHIC!

Sophia,  Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario

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What do you know about Childhood Cancer?

What do you know about what the kids diagnosed go through just to survive?

Are you aware of the various types of childhood cancers and which ones are the most common?

If you are anything like I was two years ago, you likely never thought about childhood cancer other than when you would see a bald child at the shopping centre or on the TV at an event of some kind.  Unless childhood cancer affects someone in your family or in your close circle of friends, we tend to not focus on it at all.

Paige; Childhood Brain Cancer Survivor

My life changed in 2016 when I was introduced to the Childhood Cancer Awareness campaign primed by the Teen Ontario East Pageant.  My eyes and heart were opened to an incredible group of young cancer champions that I met throughout my reign as Miss Teen Ontario East 2016 and now as Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario 2017.  The impact that their stories and their struggles made on me has been life-changing.  I remember sitting as a delegate in the 2016 Miss Teen Ontario East Pageant and listening to Paige’s story, an extraordinary young woman who battled brain cancer at the age of 8 and getting completely overwhelmed with her Courage Bead Necklace; a special representation of her cancer journey visualized in specific coloured beads that represented all of the facets of her cancer journey.

1/2 of Paige’s Courage Bead necklace

It was something I will never forget.  It is an impacting visual presentation of what Paige went through over her long journey battling through her cancer diagnosis.  Paige’s final message that day was “Cherish your yesterdays, Dream your tomorrows, but ALWAYS LIVE your TODAYS!”  I will never forget that message.

I mentioned in my initial Charity Platform post that I want to focus on introducing my readers to some different childhood cancer diagnosis and how that specific cancer and treatment affected the life of the child.

The first childhood cancer that I would like to highlight is BRAIN CANCER.

Some brief statistics provided by The Canadian Cancer Society:

Childhood cancer accounts for less than 1% of all new cancer cases in Canada.

The 3 types of cancer that account for the majority of new cancer cases in children 0–14 years of age in Canada are:

  • leukemia – 32%
  • brain and central nervous system – 19%
  • lymphomas – 11%

The 3 types of cancer that account for the majority of cancer death in children 0–14 years of age in Canada are:

  • brain and central nervous system – 34%
  • leukemia – 26%
  • neuroblastoma and other peripheral nervous cell tumors – 11%

“A brain tumor is a collection, or mass, of abnormal cells in the brain. Brain tumors can be cancerous or benign (noncancerous); however, any growth inside the skull, a restricted space, can cause problems.”

“Pediatric brain tumors are the most common form of solid tumors among children under the age of 15, and represent about 20% of all childhood cancers. Childhood tumors frequently appear in different locations and behave differently than brain tumors in adults. Treatment options vary and can be strongly influenced by the age of the child. Children with tumors may also have a much better prognosis than adults with a similar condition.”

  • A childhood brain or spinal cord tumor is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissues of the brain or spinal cord.
  • The brain controls many important body functions.
  • The spinal cord connects the brain with nerves in most parts of the body.
  • Brain and spinal cord tumors are a common type of childhood cancer.
  • The cause of most childhood brain and spinal cord tumors is unknown.
  • The signs and symptoms of childhood brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every child.
  • Tests that examine the brain and spinal cord are used to detect (find) childhood brain and spinal cord tumors.
  • Most childhood brain tumors are diagnosed and removed in surgery.
  • Some childhood brain and spinal cord tumors are diagnosed by imaging tests.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery).

Together, the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS).

The brain controls many important body functions.

The brain has three major parts:

  • The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. It is at the top of the head. The cerebrum controls thinking, learning, problem solving, emotions, speech, reading, writing, and voluntary movement.
  • The cerebellum is in the lower back of the brain (near the middle of the back of the head). It controls movement, balance, and posture.
  • The brain stem connects the brain to the spinal cord. It is in the lowest part of the brain (just above the back of the neck). The brain stem controls breathing, heart rate and the nerves and muscles used in seeing, hearing, walking, talking, and eating.

Brain and spinal cord tumors are a common type of childhood cancer.

The cause of most childhood brain and spinal cord tumors is unknown.

The signs and symptoms of childhood brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every child.

Signs and symptoms may be caused by childhood brain and spinal cord tumors or by other conditions, including cancer that has spread to the brain.  Brain Tumor Signs and Symptoms:

  • Morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting.
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems.
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking.
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level.
  • Unusual changes in personality or behavior.
  • Seizures

In Paige’s case, she experienced severe headaches, a pounding in her left ear (which she later found out was from a build-up of fluid on the brain), frequent vomiting, and loss of balance, no energy, and confusion.  She would do and say things that wouldn’t make any sense and would just sit down in the middle of a store when shopping to rest.  Not normal behavior for an 8 year old.

Paige on her chemotheraphy protocol

Paige’s parents took her to the family doctor who sent her to a neurologist.  The neurologist saw Paige, did some testing and then sent her immediately to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to have a CT scan to confirm his diagnosis.  Immediately after the CT scan, Paige was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit at CHEO and that day began what would be a very long journey through the world of a childhood cancer patient.  The very next day Paige had a 6 hour MRI to mark her head in preparation for a 14 hour brain surgery the following day.  Immediately following the surgery, the Neurosurgeon indicated to Paige’s family that the tumor was in fact malignant and they were then appointed to an oncology team to determine treatment options for Paige.

Like the tumors, the treatment options vary based on the type of tumor, the age of the patient and the grade of the tumor.  In Paige’s case, she was stage 4 with a highly aggressive tumor called MEDULLABLASTOMA.

Post 2nd surgery to insert a VP shunt to relieve fluid build up

  Medulloblastomas

Most CNS embryonal tumors are medullablastomas. Medulloblastomas are fast-growing tumors that form in brain cells in the cerebellum.  The cerebellum is at the lower back part of the brain between the cerebrum and the brain stem. The cerebellum controls movement, balance, and posture.

Children diagnosed with medullablastomas may have certain problems after surgery or radiation therapy such as changes in the ability to think, learn, and pay attention. Also, cerebellar mutism syndrome may occur after surgery. Signs of this syndrome include the following:

  • Delayed ability to speak.
  • Trouble swallowing and eating.
  • Loss of balance, trouble walking, and worsening handwriting.
  • Loss of muscle tone.
  • Mood swings and changes in personality.

Post-surgery, Paige was affected with cerebellar mutism syndrome and was unable to speak, swallow, walk or move her arms.  In addition to dealing with a cancer diagnosis, Paige also had to go through extensive physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy sessions to teach her brain how to do everything all over again.  It was a long, slow, painful and tiring process in addition to the sickness and fatigue that comes with high grade radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Paige undergoing extensive therapy sessions to teach her brain to do everything over again.

Treatment Option Overview

Key Points

  • There are different types of treatment for children with brain and spinal cord tumors.
  • Children with brain or spinal cord tumors should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers who are experts in treating childhood brain and spinal cord tumors.
  • Childhood brain and spinal cord tumors may cause signs or symptoms that begin before the cancer is diagnosed and continue for months or years.
  • Some cancer treatments cause side effects months or years after treatment has ended.
  • Three types of standard treatment are used:
    • Surgery
    • Radiation therapy
    • Chemotherapy
  • New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
    • High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:

  • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
  • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

·         Chemotherapy

Paige having chemotheraphy port-a-cath flushed

  • Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly in the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
  • Anticancer drugs given by mouth or vein to treat brain and spinal cord tumors cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Instead, an anticancer drug is injected into the fluid-filled space to kill cancer cells there. This is called intrathecal chemotherapy.

Paige’s cancer treatment plan (called a protocol)  consisted of 30 doses of high grade EXTERNAL radiation to the brain and the spine and a 56 week aggressive chemotherapy plan with 3 different types of chemotherapy drugs.  Paige had a port-a-cath ( a small device surgically implanted under the skin to feed the chemotherapy drugs through) inserted into her chest so she could get her chemotherapy drugs injected directly to the vein.  The chemotherapy drugs that Paige received caused significant side effects but were required in order to kill the cancer cells.  Bone pain, dry mouth, excessive nausea, hair loss and hearing loss were just a few of the side effects that plagued Paige during and after treatment.

“The radiation freaked me out because I couldn’t talk when I started so I didn’t know what was happening to me and I was put in a plastic mold that went from my head to my butt and I couldn’t move.  The only thing that got me through them was when my Mom would read Junie B Jones books to me over the intercom while I had the treatment.  It was funny because it actually got to be that the technicians were waiting for the end of the story every day when I would go.  I think they enjoyed the stories too!”  Paige said.

“The chemotherapy made me very sick and I lost all my hair right after I started treatment.  It gave a whole new meaning to “BAD HAIR DAY!”  I also had to be kept away from friends because the chemotherapy affected my immune system so I couldn’t go to school but I was lucky to have a great home school teacher.”

Always masked to go in public

Children with brain tumors should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers who are experts in treating childhood brain tumors.

Treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer. The pediatric oncologist works with other health care providers who are experts in treating children with brain tumors and who specialize in certain areas of medicine. These may include the following specialists:

  • Pediatrician
  • Neurosurgeon
  • Neurologist.
  • Neuro-oncologist.
  • Neuropathologist.
  • Neuroradiologist.
  • Radiation oncologist.
  • Endocrinologist.
  • Psychologist.
  • Ophthalmologist.
  • Rehabilitation Specialist.
  • Social worker.
  • Nurse specialist.
  • Respirologist
  • Audiologist
  • Fertility specialist

In Paige’s case she had all of the above including speech, physio and occupational therapists who worked under the direction of the Rehabilitation specialist.  She told me it was her list of “ologists.”

I love her sense of humour!

Paige conquered her treatments with the same spirit and determination that she portrays in her life after cancer.  Paige is now 12 years post treatment and is now dealing with late side effects of the tumor and subsequent treatments that she endured.

Some cancer treatments cause side effects months or years after treatment has ended.

These are called late effects. Late effects of cancer treatment may include the following:

  • Physical problems.
  • Changes in mood, feelings, thinking, learning, or memory.
  • Fertility challenges
  • Secondary cancers (new types of cancer).

Paige having her testing for Central Apnea

Paige still has issues with her motor skills (she uses a walker or wheelchair), she still has some learning challenges, has paralysis in her left diaphragm, hearing loss in one ear, is quite short in height due to radiation to her growth gland and suffers from severe central apnea which has compromised her breathing significantly, but none of these challenges SLOW HER DOWN!

As soon as Paige could speak her first words, just 8 weeks after her original brain surgery, she was lobbying friends and family to start what would be an incredible fund raising charge for childhood cancer that she still champions today.  Paige is a strong advocate and motivational speaker for Childhood Cancer Awareness and has received various awards of recognition for her efforts including: National Youth Philanthropy Award, the Governor General Award for Youth Volunteering, United Way Community Builders Award, CAYFO Courage Award and was recognized as one of four Canadian Heroes of Hope by the Cancer Society in 2011.  Paige is truly an inspiration to everyone she meets and her sense of humor despite all she has gone through in her life is infectious.

Paige receiving the Ontario Medal of Honour for YOUTH VOLUNTEERS

I am very proud to call this remarkable BRAIN TUMOR survivor my friend!

“Cherish your Yesterdays, Dream your Tomorrows but LIVE your TODAYS!”

Forever inspired,

Sophia

Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario 2017

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