It was a tough year, but Olivia Carson came through it, rang the bell, and now she’s moving on.
There’s a few hurdles left, but she’s cancer free and now she’s concentrating on getting healthy again. Those who know the 13-year-old Nictaux girl have little doubt that she’ll succeed.
On April 20 they held a party for her at the Annapolis Royal fire hall, celebrating her cancer-free status. Friends and family gathered to shower the brave youngster with good wishes, play games, and take a look back at a year nobody wants to repeat.
In March of 2018 Olivia was diagnosed with a fast-growing form of cancer called medulloblastoma located towards the back and bottom of the brain in the cerebellum. She was rushed to hospital in Halifax and had surgery the next day.
“She’s been pretty brave through the whole thing,” said mom Laura Whitfield. “There were times when she didn’t want another needle and she had to really be convinced she really needs this needle. It’s a good thing. It’s meant to help her even though it hurts.”
Olivia, who described the year as pain and sadness, admitted she doesn’t have a great relationship with needles.
“Needles. I don’t really like them but I’ve gotten used to them,” she said, noting that blood work was the worst and there were a lot of needles. “Not so much now. The reason why I hate blood work is because I have tiny veins, so it’s like they’d have to poke me multiple times just to find them.”
TIRED OF HURTING
“There was a point, several times, she was just tired of hurting,” Laura Whitfield said. “But she never gave up. She always went forward with the next step that had to be done.”
And a lot had to be done. After that first 15-hour operation, there was chemo, radiation, catheters, gastrostomy tubes. There were infections, loss of hearing, vision problems, and mobility problems.
“It’s a lot of procedures. She still has one more to remove the g-tube, but it’s pretty simple,” said her mom. “And she might be facing eye surgery. We don’t know yet. To correct her double vision. So she hasn’t fully bounced back yet. There’s still some things to work on.”
But there has been progress.
“Her posture and her walking have really improved just with two lessons of horseback riding at Free Spirit Therapeutic Riding over in Aylesford,” she said. “They’re really great.”
“I’m doing horse riding,” Olivia confirmed. “It’s supposed to help me with my posture and all that sort of stuff, and walking.”
Her 15-year-old brother Owen, who is severely autistic, took therapeutic horse riding a few years back and Olivia went along, so she knew what it was all about. “It’s fun and it helps you,” she said.
Olivia’s stepdad Chris Whitfield is proud of how she came through a traumatic experience.
“It’s been a struggle for her,” he said. “A shock and a struggle. She did good. I think she’s done great for all she’s been through. This is a happy occasion for her. Very happy.”
Chris Whitfield knows about struggles. He’s a paraplegic and in a wheelchair after a car accident several years ago. His family is from down south in the US so when Olivia was granted a wish to go to Hogwarts in Florida, that was perfect. And every one is heading down in May and they can visit with relatives.
“Everyone’s anxious to see her,” said Chris Whitfield. “My mom especially. Every night we talk to her on Skype.”
“I’m very thankful for it,” Olivia said of the party. She rang the bell a couple of months ago, signifying a cancer-free diagnosis. “So this is kind of a late party.”
There were a couple of slideshows that told the story of her difficult year. Milo ‘T’ Clown was on hand, there was lots of food, games (including crokinole), and a cake that said ‘Olivia Kicked Cancer.’
“The party was a way for Olivia to celebrate her journey and all she’s been through,” said her aunt Tammy Andrews Tupper. “It was also a way to close that chapter of her story and to put the last year behind her and to move forward.”
One of the party guests was Wendy Rodda, Olivia’s tutor, who said Olivia is a pleasure to work with and has a good sense of humour.
“When I give her something tough to do we work through it,” Rodda said. “She finds out that she can do it. Survivor? Oh definitely. She’s not a victim. Never a victim.”
“The party was fun,” said Tupper. “Olivia said she had a really good time.”
Tupper said over the next few months Olivia will continue to build her core strength with riding lessons and Rodda will continue to tutor her and prepare her for school in the fall.
“I’d like to express my extreme gratitude to everyone who’s helped Olivia this past year,” said Tupper. “Your thoughts, prayers, gifts and kind words towards Olivia have touched my heart immensely. No one should ever deal with cancer alone. I hope the outpouring of love and generosity that was shown towards Olivia continues in our community and is passed on to whomever needs it next.”
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