Childhood Cancer Stories: Valentina MacDonald

Your story is powerful and inspiring.

Childhood Cancer Canada will be featuring families that have been affected by childhood cancer. Every story needs to be told to inspire families that feel they are battling with all the emotional stress alone.
Below there are questions that we would like you to answer. We encourage you to share as much as you want. Once you have completed the questions please send them back to [email protected] and attach 3 images, 1 of the family, child before diagnosis and child after diagnosis. These images will be shared on the Childhood Cancer Canada website as well as all social media.
Please submit by August 29th 2018 at noon.
Thank you so much for your participation.

  1. Name: Valentina MacDonald
  2. Name of your child (If applicable): Brenda MacDonald
  3. Year and name of child’s diagnosis: 1999 NF1/optic glioma
  4. Where do you live (City and Province)? Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia
  5. If applicate, how long has you/your child been cancer free? The brain tumour is still there
  6. Tell us about your child/yourself: Brenda is resilient. She was diagnosed at 9 months, and had MRI’s every 6 months, at age 2 ½ doctors recommended chemotherapy, she did 52 weeks of it, she never complained, we started in Houston at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and after the initial 10 weeks of induction we went back home to Mexico where we lived at the time, for her the trip to the hospital was kind of a party, because  my sisters and her cousins will come visit, bring little trinkets and games, so she actually looked forward to those days, she had such a sunny disposition that even other people in treatment wanted to come to the hospital when Brenda was there. Then it was in and out of doctors’ offices and because of the NF1 a lot of other surgeries, debulking tumours or getting rid of them, in all 5 surgeries and then at age 10 there was a regrowth on that brain tumour and she needed radiation therapy which they did at the IWK in Halifax, NS
  7. What were the first clues that you/your family noticed something was wrong? Brenda was born with numerous Café au lait spots and had a bit of a droopy eye, we were not sure what the deal was.
  8. How did you/family react when you/child was diagnosed? She was diagnosed with NF1 but we were not aware of all the implications, we started seeing a specialist in Houston, TX. We were living in Mexico at the time and had the means to see a specialist there.
  9. What were you/your family’s initial plans after diagnosis? We were in complete disbelief, we didn’t understand what it all meant, we tried to figure out what went wrong.
  10. What are somethings you/your family did to cope during this challenging time? I think that my husband and I made a really good team, I managed all the research and schedules and appointments, and he was always there as a sounding board and being there for Brenda the rest of the time when I needed to recoup. Of course it meant a lot having my mother and my siblings rallying around her.
  11. If you have other children/siblings how did the diagnosis affect them? Brenda is an only child, we decided we couldn’t have another kid not knowing what the future brought for Brenda, it wouldn’t be fair to the other kid, not being able to do something or go somewhere because Brenda needed treatment.
  12. If you/your child is a survivor how did you/they behave leading to the last chemo appointment? How are you/they today? We were hopeful that treatment had worked.
  13. If treatment was unsuccessful how did your family cope? One day at a time, MRI appointment to MRI appointment. One ophthalmology appointment to the next.
  14. If you could describe your child/your family in one word what would it be and why? Adaptable, we have adapted to every circumstance, every change.
  15. If applicable, how has Childhood Cancer Canada helped through your family cancer journey? Once we moved to Nova Scotia the IWK has been there all the time, even now when they have graduated Brenda to adult care. She received a scholarship last year. And when she first started at the IWK she fundraised for Childhood Cancer Canada.
  16. How has you/family’s cancer journey inspired you? I now know what really matters.
  17. What advise do you have for children and/or families affected by childhood cancer. Be there for each other, recognize the strengths on each individual and take advantage of them.
  18. How can more people get educated and help those affected by childhood cancer? It is important to let other people know that cancer happens and to support the child from school, the community, etc.
  19. If Applicable, if you are a cancer survivor what are you doing today? Brenda has gradually losing her vision, she is 19 now and legally blind, she is taking full time Hotel and Resort Management in Nelson, B.C. She found her passion ski racing, and is looking to be part of the Para Alpine Canada Team.