A family that the Aldergrove community rallied around last holiday season, with warm meals and donations, continue to struggle during their “hardest time of the year.”
For many families, Christmas is a time of gift-giving and celebration. For Aldergrove’s Seydel family, it is a time of continual perseverance and pain.
Five-year-old Ariel has undergone treatment for craniopharyngioma, a cancerous and terminal brain tumour, for two years now.
She’s had little success from four rounds of chemotherapy thus far – treatment the Seydel family had hoped would shrink the growth of her tumour so she could have more play time and less in hospital at BC Children’s.
“Ariel is going through something so terrifying, something I’d call a nightmare but she deals with it with such strength,” mom Makaila said. “She’s a superhero.”
Ariel’s tumour only shrunk 70 per cent after her last chemotherapy round; the same size it will grow to in three months, explained her 23-year-old mother.
“It’s been really hard,” Makaila continued.
READ MORE: Spreading Christmas cheer around Aldergrove
For Ariel to spend some time as a carefree kid, doctors need to see the tumour collapse at a shrinkage rate of at least 90 per cent.
“When the tumour is fully collapsed, it makes it a lot harder for it to grow, fluid to spread and the cancer” Makaila added.
Her little girl is currently on her fifth round of chemotherapy as of Dec. 4, spending one day each week at the hospital.
The Seydels are hoping this round will be the one that secures Ariel at least a few more months without invasive treatment.
“Ariel suffers from really bad headaches, strong flu-like symptoms, and sensitivity to noise and light” as a reaction to both the tumour and chemotherapy, mom said.
It’s Ariel’s second Christmas battling the disease, and though the family is together, the Seydels are struggling emotionally and financially as a result.
Makaila finds herself sad around this time of year, especially when she witnesses Ariel “feeling left out” of Christmas activities due to her treatments in Vancouver and the sickness that follows them.
Ariel’s parents were first alerted to her condition in February 2017, when she complained at four years old that she couldn’t see out of her left eye. An MRI at Nanaimo hospital confirmed the condition.
The family was then referred to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where doctors said the only option was to insert a shunt, which would drain the tumour as well as provide local application of chemotherapy.
In the time since, the family has been back to BC Children’s for two emergencies, including one where Ariel’s tumour had to be drained immediately, Makaila explained.
Moving from home
Both Makaila and Ariel’s dad, Shea, decided to relocate from Vancouver Island to Aldergrove to be closer to BC Children’s for their ailing daughter.
The uprooted family has now amassed considerable debt from the move, among other day-to-day expenses including gas to get to-and-from the hospital.
“We wouldn’t have been able to move if it wasn’t for GoFundMe” where friends, family, and strangers donated over $4,500 last year, Makaila expressed.
This year, the family – though grateful for everything – is hoping to reach their goal of $15,000 and continue caring for their terminally ill child, new baby, and medically-disabled husband.
Those wanting to donate can do so online at gofundme.com.
For Makaila, staying at home to care for Ariel and Shea – who was injured badly in a house fire and remains on disability assistance – has left the family depleted financially.
“Our main concern is medical. Right now it is keeping the vision in Ariel’s right eye. And since she has to fast Fridays before chemo she’s losing a lot of weight.”
At only 40 pounds, the kindergartener doesn’t have much left on her little frame to lose, mom added.
The Seydels have grown into a family of four this past year as Makaila and Shea welcomed baby Aeris into the world on Oct. 11.
Mom thought it would be a difficult transition for the five-year-old but “she has been an incredible big sis.”
“She is so patient and understanding with Aeris,” mom said.
Ultimately, Ariel’s small but growing family is determined to enjoy the time they have left together.