On the morning of April 5, our daughter Elisabeth, barely 3 years old, did not wake up at her usual time. When I went to see her, she was pale, weak, and lethargic. We rushed her to the emergency room of the nearest hospital, a few miles from our home.
We were told that she was abnormally anemic but the doctor couldn’t give us a diagnosis as the hospital was not equipped for cases like hers. That night she was transferred by ambulance to Robert Debré hospital in Paris, 80km from our new home.
Just the day before, we were settling in and celebrating our new life in France after having left Montreal in January. The immigration paperwork was finally completed and we had an appointment confirmed with the French Embassy to get our work visas. My husband was starting a new job with Greenpeace France and our plan was to settle there for a couple of years. Elisabeth was enrolled in preschool for September, and a three-year lease had been signed for the house of our dreams. The stars seemed so well aligned.
A few days after being hospitalized, we got the diagnosis: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. A week later, we were all transferred by air with medical assistance back to Ste. Justine Hospital in Montreal. Upon arrival, we were informed that she carries a gene that increases the risk of recurrence. Elisabeth would have to undergo two years of chemotherapy.
This is when we realized we would need to ask for help. I cannot work for the next two years, as I have to be with my daughter. She cannot attend daycare and is not allowed to spend any significant amount of time in public places because the treatment puts her at a high risk of developing infections.
We need financial help to resettle, rebuild, refurnish our home and compensate for the lost wages we will have to endure over the next two years.
As for my husband, he is discussing scenarios with his employer to re-integrate into his work full time, despite having to live in Montreal. And given the hastiness of our departure, all of our belongings are still in France, forcing us to live out of suitcases, which makes life difficult.
Dealing with the cancer of our little princess combined with the financial insecurity, psychological distress, and the lack of a permanent place to call home, has placed an inordinate amount of hardship on us these past six months.
We are very grateful for the tremendous support we have received from close family and friends, but the reality is that it isn’t enough. The idea of asking for external help was a difficult decision for us, as we certainly believe in our own ability to take care of ourselves, but this situation is beyond our control.
We hope to raise money to help us repatriate our belongings, cover daily health-related expenses, and supplement the loss of two years of wages.
For those who are touched by our situation but cannot help financially, you can make a big difference by donating blood. Elisabeth has received several blood transfusions and continues to receive them. To give blood is to give someone a second chance at life.
To donate, visit the GoFundMe Page.
Christine Gauvin is a former employee of Montreal Families.