A can­cer-free Christ­mas for Liam Wrice

Two-year-old home for Christ­mas af­ter year-long bat­tle with brain can­cer


Hav­ing Christ­mas at home with your fam­ily is one tra­di­tion many peo­ple wouldn’t want to give up.

But for the Wrice fam­ily liv­ing in Fort McMur­ray, their only Christ­mas tra­di­tion as a com­plete fam­ily unit is one they don’t want to ex­pe­ri­ence again.

Af­ter spend­ing his first Christ­mas at a hos­pi­tal in Al­berta, Liam Wrice, who is al­most two, got to spend this Christ­mas at home.

The vi­brant young boy was di­ag­nosed with a rare and ag­gres­sive form of brain can­cer last year — Atyp­i­cal Ter­a­toid Rhab­doid Tu­mour. He had to have a large tu­mour re­moved from his head. The tu­mour had filled a quar­ter of his cra­nial cav­ity.

Natasha Hewlin of Cow Head and Jerry Wrice of Car­bon­ear have been to hell and back on Liam’s jour­ney, since he was di­ag­nosed at just 10 months old.

“Christ­mas of 2015 was a bit­ter­sweet Christ­mas,” Wrice said. “Bit­ter in the way that it was Liam’s very first Christ­mas and that he was in the hos­pi­tal un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy treat­ment, not some­thing you ex­pect to hap­pen in the first year of your child’s life. It was sweet in a way that we all came to­gether as a fam­ily and spent it to­gether.”

Fam­ily flocked to their sides when Liam was di­ag­nosed, some from New­found­land, oth­ers from Bri­tish Columbia and other places.

They had to get an apart­ment in Ed­mon­ton while Liam was re­ceiv­ing treat­ment, but he spent a fair amount of time in the hos­pi­tal.

“On Christ­mas day, Liam’s blood cell counts were low be­cause of the treat­ment, how­ever, we did get to get him out of the hos­pi­tal to spend a few hours at our apart­ment in Ed­mon­ton to open gifts, have fun and be with fam­ily,” Wrice added.

It has been a long year, filled with highs and lows, and an ar­ray of emo­tions.

Hewlin and Wrice never gave up hope, even through the hard­est strug­gles this year. Liam was in the hos­pi­tal in Ed­mon­ton from the be­gin­ning of the year re­ceiv­ing in­duc­tion chemo­ther­apy. In April, he was trans­ferred to the Al­berta Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Cal­gary for high dose chemo and stem cell trans­plants.

Wrice noted that on top of ev­ery­thing they were go­ing through, their town of Fort McMur­ray, a place where many friends and sup­port­ers live, was evac­u­ated dur­ing the mas­sive wild­fires.

The cou­ple say that 2016 has been the worst year of their lives, but also the best year of their lives.

“It has been a year of fear, anx­i­ety, happy mo­ments and chaos,” Wrice said. “Our baby boy started out a fight for his life with brain can­cer, and ended 2016 can­cer free.”

A lot of the emo­tions were brought on by not know­ing what was go­ing to hap­pen next or what the next day would bring. Liam will con­tinue to re­ceive fol­low up scans ev­ery three months, to check for re­cur­rence. That still causes anx­i­ety for the fam­ily.

“Chaos in this whole or­deal was in­evitable,” said Hewlin. “Jerry hav­ing to work in Fort McMur­ray and drive to Ed­mon­ton or Cal­gary ev­ery week­end to be with his fam­ily, (mom) and Liam in hos­pi­tal, Ryler be­ing taken care of by his nana and try­ing to fin­ish his school year suc­cess­fully.”

Even be­ing as young as he is, Liam con­tin­ued his fight with his fam­ily by his side.

“He is truly our su­per­hero,” Wrice said.

Cur­rent up­date

As of Oc­to­ber, Liam is liv­ing can­cer free.

“He is home with fam­ily en­joy­ing life like a nor­mal kid, hav­ing fun with mommy, daddy and older brother Ryler,” Wrice said.

The fam­ily was set to get to­gether for Christ­mas, and not at the hos­pi­tal, which is a good change. They looked for- ward to fam­ily time over the hol­i­day, and en­joy­ing their time at home.

It’s not an easy thing for those that are hav­ing a rough time dur­ing Christ­mas, es­pe­cially those who are in the hos­pi­tal, said Wrice.

“When faced with a sit­u­a­tion like ours, you go in to bat­tle mode and you pre­vail,” he con­tin­ued. “We did not think we had the strength to get through this as suc­cess­fully as we did, how­ever we did it to­gether. “

He has ad­vice for oth­ers who might be fac­ing a dif­fi­cult time.

“Al­ways re­mem­ber to value each minute, hour, and day. En­joy your time with fam­ily to the fullest no mat­ter what life throws at you. We ex­pe­ri­enced a very tough year and through it all we leaned on each other to get through this event. There is noth­ing more valu­able than life it­self and this past year has demon­strated that to us. It made us stronger peo­ple.”

The cou­ple at­tributes the suc­cess, not only to the de­ter­mi­na­tion of Liam and their love for each other, but also to the fam­ily and friends who have been by their side through the whole bat­tle.

“Our fam­ily, friends, and com­plete strangers from all over, whether it be back in New­found­land or else­where, have been there by our side 110 per cent of the way,” Wrice said. “We are for­ever grate­ful to the many peo­ple who have reached out in one way or an­other whether it be a gift for Liam, fi­nan­cially, a phone call or mes­sage to ask how he was do­ing or com­ing to visit when in hos­pi­tal.

“Our sup­port sys­tem was truly in­cred­i­ble. Kind­ness and car­ing is alive and well in this great coun­try of ours and we are for­ever thank­ful for the sup­port near and far that helped our baby boy be­come can­cer free.”


The Wrice fam­ily was all set to spend Christ­mas at home this year af­ter young Liam spent his first Christ­mas fight­ing can­cer. Mem­bers of the fam­ily are, back (r-l) Natasha Hewlin of Cow Head and Jerry Wrice of Car­bon­ear. In front are sons Ryler (left) and Liam.

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