Our story began in late December 2008 when our then 3 and half year old daughter, Alivia was complaining of tummy aches.  A seemingly innocent enough trip to the hospital in Fort Erie uncovered every parents worst nightmare…..our daughter had a tumor in her abdominal area?  Couldn’t be…there must be a huge mistake….our child is healthy and normal…Christmas is just a couple of days away, this can’t be happening. An immediate trip to WellandHospital confirmed it.  Alivia had neuroblastoma cancer, stage 4.  We were whisked away to McMaster Children’s Hospital and on December 22, 2008, our journey with cancer had begun.

A surgery followed a day later which told us that the tumor was bad… very bad.  Extensive chemotherapy and radiation and more surgeries would be needed.  This was going to take time…lots of time and lots of breaks to go our way.  We put our careers on hold and went ahead with the treatment plan, taking life one step at a time.  One day at a time.  Over the next year, we spent the majority of our time at McMasterHospital in Hamilton, essentially living there.  Later on in the year, we were fortunate to get into the Ronald McDonald House next to the hospital which became our home away from home.  Throughout this time, friends, family, co-workers, community and even total strangers poured out their support and generosity to us.

Throughout 2009, Alivia underwent 3 major surgeries. 7 cycles of chemotherapy, 60 radiation treatments, spent three weeks in a coma and had hundreds upon hundreds of needles, scans, pokes, and blood tests.  Through out it all she never once complained.  She had an unshakeable confidence, maturity, sense of humor and love of life that made all those who came in contact with her love her. 

Alivia may have left us on March 19, 2010 but her memory and spirit and energy will not.  There are many more families still going through what we did.  It is this reality that begs us to do something to help others as we were helped.  The staggering long term costs of fuel and travel to Hamilton daily, parking, food, and loss of income can be a stress and a burden to families that cannot afford it…or afford to think about it.  The priority is to be with your family and keep your head as clear as you can so you can focus on important life decisions.

These are things we can help through Alivia’s Rainbows.  We can get money and support to a family that needs it.  We are a non-profit organization and 100% of the money raised goes to families dealing with pediatric cancer situations in Niagara and for items in need by children under going treatment at McMaster.  

Our daughter made a positive difference in our lives and we can all make a positive difference in others lives if we choose to.

That is what Alivia’s Rainbows is all about.

Craig and Chantal Vanderklei