Community rallies around local girl with leukemia

CALEB NICKERSON
A fundraiser was recently started in support of a young girl from Otter Lake who was diagnosed with cancer in June.
Delilah Grace Telford-Hodgins will turn four next month, and though she has returned home from a stay at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), she is still taking a variety of chemotherapy drugs. Her mother, Lindsay Telford, said that Delilah is currently in remission, but her treatment will continue for the foreseeable future.
“It’s two and a half years that we’re going to be travelling back and forth to Ottawa,” she said. “Now, she’s considered to be in remission … we do have to continue over the next two and a half years to keep her in remission.”
Telford explained that Delilah’s diagnosis was completely unexpected. She had bruises on her legs that took a long time to heal. In late May she dropped a tablet on her toe, which meant a trip to the Pontiac Community Hospital. After a few days, the toe started to look swollen, so they returned on June 2. Telford said that she had wondered if Delilah was anaemic but the answer she got that night was worse than she could have ever imagined. They had arrived in the early evening, and were eventually admitted around 11 p.m., but it wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that Dr. Boucher broke the news.
“[The nurses] said, lay your girl down, the doctor wants to talk to you,” she said. “He was just trying to figure out how to break this to a parent. He tells me, ‘We think your daughter has leukemia.’ It was tough to hear that. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”
“He just was shocked, that’s his second case in 24 years,” she continued. “It’s hard on a doctor to give that kind of news. Thank God for him.”
Instead of returning home, the two were packed into an ambulance and taken to CHEO immediately.
During the first 36 days of treatment, Delilah had to be within an hour’s drive of the hospital in case there were any complications, which meant staying at the hospital for nearly two weeks, followed by four days in a hotel before moving into the Ronald McDonald house on June 19.
They quickly got a more specific diagnosis of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer that affects the stem cells that become different types of white blood cells. Having a child with a compromised immune system is difficult at the best of times, but the current state of alert due to COVID-19 made the whole ordeal even more stressful.
“At the Ronald McDonald [House], there could only be one parent,” Telford said. “It was a COVID thing. Totally different experience being there because normally all the kids are out playing. It was odd going in there.”
In addition to the chemotherapy drugs, Delilah also has to take cycles of steroids, which her mother said can lead to rapid mood swings. She was also required to fast prior to various procedures.
“It was hard, those times with her being on the steroid and fasting,” Telford said. “She’s always been sassy but the steroid put it to another level.”
In addition to the strain of travel to and from the city, Telford said Delilah has missed her older sister Olivia and younger brother Lindon.
“She loves her siblings and that was the hardest thing, being away from them,” she said.
Delilah’s grandparents, Bruce Telford, Penny Telford, Evert Hodgins and Debbie Miron, haven’t been able to see their little girl regularly as well, which she said has been difficult.
This fall would have been Delilah’s first year attending school with Olivia, but she’ll have to wait another year before starting due to her fragile immune system.
“This would have been her first year she would have been taking the school bus with Olivia, and now … [it] kind of sets things back,” Telford said. “I want to get her out there, you know, normalize the situation.
“It’s frustrating because her brother, I made the decision to send him back to daycare,” she continued. “It was a tough decision to make, like do you send them, do you not?”
The treatments have also brought more than a bit of strain for Telford and Delilah’s father, Chris Hodgins, from countless trips to Ottawa, to juggling finances and childcare.
Telford has had to take a step back from some of her job at Pilon Kitchens.
“My employer has been extremely understanding and supportive throughout this time,” she said. “But looking long term, I still need my job, I still need to support my kids. They’re doing the Gofundme and all of that, but I don’t want to live off of that. That’s to help out with expenses, but I still feel like I need to work.”
She added that Hodgins’ workplace, Deslaurier Custom Cabinets in Renfrew has been extremely supportive, donating several
thousand dollars for their family.
Telford said that the money that has been donated will go towards their travel expenses as well as making some upgrades at home to ensure Delilah can stay comfortable and safe.
Telford said that her daughter has been very brave and strong throughout the ordeal, despite the numerous procedures she’s undergone.
She added that she was thankful for all the doctors, nurses and health care workers in both Shawville and Ottawa for their hard work, as well as for all the people in the Pontiac that have offered the family their support.
Those looking to donate can do so through a Gofundme that was set up by Delilah’s aunt: https://gf.me/u/ygd5p4

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