If you were to walk through the Cancer Centre recently you may have seen a spooky gathering of ghouls, ghosts and superheroes. Although scary looking in nature, this group was gathered for a very fun reason.
“I wanted to throw a party for other kids to show that when they come for their clinic visit it can be fun, that it doesn’t have to be all about needles and procedures,” says Abigail (Abby) Heffernan, a patient with the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario. “I also wanted to shed light and bring awareness to the issue of childhood cancer.”
This is an issue that is close to Abby and her family’s heart. A little over halfway through her own treatment, Abby knows first-hand the impact that cancer can have.
“As a kid going through cancer treatment you feel different and separate from those around you, which is a hard feeling to deal with,” says Abby. “I wanted to give kids a day with others who understand their story and know what they’re going through, and have a chance to just be a kid.”
The idea for throwing a party for pediatric oncology patients first started as a joke. Abby told her family and doctor that she wanted to have cake to celebrate reaching the one-year mark for her chemotherapy treatment. Invitations and a party were planned, and when she saw the joy it also brought other patients she decided to make it a party for everyone. Now in its second year, the party has grown into a celebration that Abby imagines getting bigger and bigger every year.
“Abby has put so much work and effort into this and it has given her something joyful to focus on,” says Lisa Heffernan, Abby’s mom. “Not only has she done so much to plan it but we have also been overwhelmed with the support from our friends, family and community in helping to pull this together.”
At the party, there was a photo booth, arts and craft station, food and door prizes to keep everyone busy and entertained. Many of the items were donated for the party or purchased by the Heffernan family with money they raised from a yard sale.
While chatting with Abby at the party a superman flew by and a group of kids were huddled in the corner hard at work on their arts and crafts.
“Seeing everyone here today is an amazing and unbelievable feeling. It’s been a lot of work but seeing kids and families happy is the best feeling,” says Abby. “I’m already looking forward to next year to make this even bigger and have more kids come and have an opportunity to forget for a while what they’re going through.”