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.
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.