Six-year-old Isaac Ciarlo is excited to be nearing the end of his chemotherapy treatment.
The Grade 2 St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School student was the guest of honour during Chalk Day on Thursday, Sept. 20, at the north Kanata school. When Isaac strolled onto the playground just after 2 p.m. to kick off the event, his classmates erupted in shouts and cheers.
“You can tell your friends are really happy to see you,” said teacher Sue Dauncey, as Isaac settled himself in among his friends.
Around 60 students from three Grade 2 classes took to the pavement, drawing colourful pictures and writing inspiring messages for Isaac and other children undergoing treatment. Students wrote messages such as “Know U R loved,” “Get better soon,” and “Smile.”
“I want the people who have cancer to feel better,” said one girl about her “Hope you get well soon,” message.
“We wanted to support him,” said Dauncey about hosting the Chalk Day event. “It’s great now that the kids can see him.”
Isaac helped his friends draw pictures on the ground and raced on the grass with his classmates – who were almost all covered in chalk dust by the end of the period.
Isaac’s mother Tricia drew a gold cancer ribbon among the student’s messages of love and hope.
The school has gone “above and beyond what we’ve ever expected,” she said. “They’re doing it for us. They’re doing it for Isaac.
“It really helps.”
She said her family is “incredibly grateful” for the support from school staff for all her children, which include Jacob, who’s in Grade 4, and Matthew, a Grade 7 student at All Saints Catholic High School.
“They look after my other kids,” she said. “We’ve just been absolutely overwhelmed by the support.”
Chalk Day is an initiative started by the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO). The organization donates chalk to schools that want to take part by drawing pictures and messages of encouragement and hope for young cancer patients and survivors during September, which is childhood cancer awareness month.
“(It’s) to lift the spirits of kids who are fighting the fight,” said Tricia.
END OF TREATMENT
Isaac was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumour, a cancer of the kidneys found most commonly in children, on March 16, 2012.
He wasn’t experiencing pain or discomfort, said his mother Tricia, who happened to notice some slight swelling and took him to the doctor. Tests picked up the tumour, as well as dark spots on Isaac’s lungs.
“It all happened within a week,” said Tricia, adding the staff at CHEO were helpful. “We were really fortunate.”
Wilms’ has about an 85 per cent cure rate, and within six weeks of radiation treatments, Isaac’s tumour, which had measured in at eight by 13 by nine centimetres, had shrunk to four by four by four. The doctors were then able to remove his kidney.
Isaac proudly showed off his scar, which he calls his “shark bite.” He’s been granted a Disney Cruise to Disney World from the Children’s Wish Foundation, said Tricia.
When asked what he’s most excited for, Isaac answered, “being done with treatment!”
Isaac has entered his last round of chemotherapy, which should wrap up in about nine weeks.
“He will be done treatment by his seventh birthday,” said Tricia.