Ten-year-old Ruby Poirier and her family received news that none of them wanted to hear a couple months ago.
Ruby’s cancer had come back.
The Grade 5 École Puntledge Park Elementary student was first diagnosed with leukemia when she was six, and now she’s at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver receiving leukemia treatment again four years later.
Her mother Janette Poirier is on extended leave from work so she can be by Ruby’s side, and Ruby’s father Dylan Canterbury brings her brother Emmett Canterbury, 7, to Vancouver every weekend so the family can all be together some of the time.
Janette says Ruby will likely have to stay at the hospital until the summer, except for a couple of short breaks at home.
When Ruby’s class found out the news they were devastated, according to Grade 4/5 French immersion teacher Kari Mathew.
“Many of the students had been in class with Ruby since the first time she underwent treatment,” Mathew says as she recalls the day she had to tell the class about Ruby. “We spent the rest of that day making crafts, doing art and making cards to send to Ruby to decorate her room.”
Mathew and her class then raised $5,000 for the family through a class I Can project — projects to inspire and empower students to set goals for themselves and help others. A number of students and staff shaved their heads to raise the money, and they also donated $1,175 to BC Children’s Hospital. Educational assistant Jennifer Hubert raised over $2,800 for the hospital.
Janette says she’s thankful for the support, noting the emotional support the family’s been getting is more important to them than the cash.
“It’s just nice to know that everyone’s behind us,” she says. “It’s like a gesture, people saying, ‘We really care,’ and it’s heartwarming.”
Meanwhile, Amber Wilcox, a fellow parent at the school, has a few fundraisers on the go to help Ruby and her family.
Wilcox organized a bottle drive a couple of weeks ago, and she says that’s brought in $1,550 with further funds still coming in.
She’s in the midst of organizing a benefit night, which will be called Rocking for Ruby. Wilcox hasn’t set a date yet as she’s in the early stages of planning, but she’s looking for a band for live music, donated items for a silent auction and a 50/50 draw, as well as a venue. She can be reached at 250-871-2890 for more information.
She also set up an indiegogo account called Prayers for Ruby this week to fundraise for the family and create awareness around childhood cancer.
Wilcox says she understands what Ruby and her family are experiencing right now and wanted to help as soon as she heard Ruby’s cancer had come back.
“Personally, we know how much of a financial distress it is when your child is sick,” says Wilcox of her family. “We lost our oldest daughter three years ago from childhood cancer so we know exactly what they’re going through.”
Wilcox says she hopes community support for the family will help Ruby come home to be with her friends again soon.
Janette notes YANA (You Are Not Alone) has been a big help as well, and the family is set up in a YANA apartment while Ruby receives her treatment.
“We knew YANA from the last time when she was six so it was a good transition,” says Janette. “YANA’s awesome; we love YANA.”