When I think about everything we’ve been through, it seems like it happened to someone else --- not my wife, my baby daughter and me. But, this is our reality.
We come from Suzhou in eastern China, a busy city of more than 4 million people. My wife is a kindergarten teacher and I work in finance. When our baby daughter Zhiyun (Julie) was 13 months old, doctors found two tumours --- one in each of her eyes. We were devastated.
We travelled hundreds of kilometres to Shanghai, then Beijing, from one doctor to another.
Our baby endured two cycles of chemotherapy but nothing worked. Certain medicines are not licensed in China so doctors told us that we had only one choice to save our baby’s life --- specialized medical treatment in Canada.
My wife and I have no siblings. Our parents told us “we will do anything for our grandbaby. Go get the help she needs in Canada”. We had to quit our jobs, borrow money from family and friends to pay for hospital bills and our plane tickets. To be allowed to leave China, we had to deposit $30,000 in the hospital’s bank in our home country. This would prove that we would return to China after our daughter’s medical treatment was finished in Toronto.
Just over one month after her diagnosis, my wife, my baby and I landed in Toronto after a 14-hour flight. We knew nobody. We didn’t speak English. For the first two weeks, we lived in a small inn located in the east-end. We found it on the internet before arriving here. It was cheap but not clean.
We travelled back and forth by subway and taxi to SickKids. It was so expensive. Doctors performed six separate surgeries on my baby. They were not able to save her left eye. It was removed and doctors told us the cancer could spread to other parts of her body.
We called Ronald McDonald House Toronto every single day for two weeks, hoping to get a room in the House. They told us there was a waiting list. Finally in mid-October, a room became available. We were so happy.
We have lived in both the old Ronald McDonald House Toronto and the new House. We feel so lucky to stay here. Our money was starting to run out because we had to be $31,000 in hospital bills. The House is close to the hospital, affordable and clean which is so important for our baby as she fights the cancer.
Thanks to the doctors at SickKids, the tumour in my daughter’s right eye is getting smaller and the cancer is not spreading. We tell our friends in China that Canada is a great country.