Leukemia diagnosis turns family's life upside down

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 22, 2016
Eight-year-old Callum Thomson of Pinette was diagnosed with APL leukemia on New Year’s Eve after experiencing a nose bleed that just kept getting worse. Callum has begun nine months of treatment at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. A number of initiatives have taken place in Belfast to help the family with money. A benefit concert goes Sunday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. at Belfast Consolidated School while an online auction is underway at www.gocalgo.com.

A Pinette mother says her family’s world was turned upside down on New Year’s Eve.

Kyla Thomson’s eight-year-old son, Callum, developed a nose bleed that afternoon, but this wasn’t just any nose bleed.

It was pouring out of him, and there was nothing his parents, Kyla and Brian, could do to stop it.

Callum’s parents took him to the emergency room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

By this point, Callum was throwing up blood, too.

They got right in to see a doctor.

Five hours later came the news — Callum had acute promyelocytic (APL) leukemia.

“It was one of those times when you hear the worst news, what nobody wants to hear,’’ Kyla Thomson said in an interview Wednesday from the IWK Health Centre in Halifax where Callum is undergoing treatment.

“I feel like we’re living in a dream; like it’s not real.’’

RELATED: Community rallies around seriously ill child

Kyla, a mother of three children, didn’t have a lot of time to process what was happening.

She raced home to pack a bag. An ambulance was set to take them to the IWK a few hours later.

“As soon as (the doctor) said the blood test came back (showing) low platelets . . . you get that gut feeling. Neither of us said anything,’’ Kyla said, referring to her and Brian.

“We were both thinking they were testing for leukemia.’’ Word spread through eastern P.E.I. like wildfire.

Kyla used to work at Cooper’s Red & White in Eldon and, like most parents, she developed a lot of friendships through Callum’s hockey and baseball teams.

Callum will spend the next nine months getting treatment in Halifax putting an obvious financial strain on the family.

The youngster won’t have to live at the IWK all the time, but he is required to stay in the city.

Kyla says they’ll likely stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Halifax, a national organization that provides homes near medical facilities for seriously ill children.

A number of people jumped in to help. A benefit concert at Belfast Consolidated School has been scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 31, 2 p.m., with a lineup that includes Eddy Quinn, Kendall Docherty and Kelley Mooney.

Amanda MacTavish, one of the organizers, said everyone had the same mindset — what can we do?

“It has been overwhelming,’’ MacTavish said of the offers to help, noting that musicians have been calling her to ask if they could play at the benefit.

“I never imagined it would be as big as it was. I can’t imagine how overwhelmed Kyla must feel if we’re feeling like this.’’

Miranda McKenna, who helped set up an online auction (www.gocalgo.com), said it’s amazing how people have rallied for Callum.

“It helps solidify my belief there is good in the world,’’ McKenna said. “I can’t begin to imagine what this family is going through, but at least they know they are not going through it alone.’’

Kyla said the prognosis for Callum is good. APL leukemia is considered one of the most treatable forms of leukemia.

Kyla struggles to find the words to describe what the community support has meant.