A 17-year-old Vernon teen battling cancer at the Vancouver Children’s Hospital is “one tough cookie,” according to her mother.
“She has, most of the time, a positive, kick-ass attitude,” mother Irma Hopkins said of her daughter, Joyce.
Joyce was officially diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a malignant bone tumour, on Oct. 2 after five months of dealing with pain and misdiagnoses.
Now, in hospital for at least nine months, Joyce will undergo a series of intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments. While she’s fighting in Vancouver, her hometown and colleagues at Fun 4 All Pet Resort are rallying to support her.
A GoFundMe campaign, organized by Fun 4 All manager Landen Correale, has already collected more than $6,000 to help cover costs for Joyce and her family while they focus on getting well in Vancouver. Correale said he is also accepting cash donations at the 29th Street shop.
Hopkins said more scans are scheduled before Christmas to determine if surgery is possible, but the location of the tumour on the pelvic bone can make that difficult.
“The doctors will determine what the best plan is,” she said. “We do know that Joyce will still have another 22 weeks – or 11 cycles – of chemo, and possibly radiation after that.”
Overall, Hopkins said Joyce is handling everything very well.
“She is strong. Not because she wants to, but because she has no choice,” she said. “The good days are few and far between. It’s a struggle. Most days are filled with relentless fatigue and nausea. She has neuropathy in her fingertips, jaw pain, hot flashes. All side effects of the intense chemo.”
Hopkins said the realization that graduation with Joyce’s Grade 12 class, friends and boyfriend, was “out the window” was an added blow.
“Chemo brain is a real thing; it’s really hard, she gets very sleepy, can’t concentrate,” Hopkins said, noting Joyce was determined to graduate while kicking cancer.
Seventeen is a pivotal age where teens start to look beyond the hallways of high school and consider the possibilities and opportunities adulthood will present.
“Joyce’s life is on hold,” she said. “For now, we have to focus on treatment and recovery. School can wait another year.”
Joyce, who loves art and writing, is considering writing a book about her experience with childhood cancer, her mom said, noting others who have gone through treatments are encouraging her to do so.
“Joyce is gifted in everything she does,” she said. “She has a way with words so I have no doubt that the book will become a best-seller and she will touch many lives.”
Ultimately, Hopkins said the road to recovery will be a long and complicated one as it’s a matter of “going through the motions.”
“Having a child with cancer is hard on the whole family. Joyce misses her dad and boyfriend a lot.”
Being away from home until at least sometime in June means missing birthdays and holidays.
The family learned quickly to take it one day at a time, “because looking too far ahead is just overwhelming,” Hopkins said.
Donations can be made online at Joy for Joyce at GoFundMe.com or in person at Fun 4 All Pet Resort at 4508 29th St.