By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: May 11, 2013
A few weeks ago, something remarkable happened in the lives of Mike and Kati Palethorpe.
They went for a ski date.
But before they packed their skis, they made a promise to each other: They won’t talk about cancer.
For over two years, Lina Palethorpe’s cancer has cast a bone-chilling shadow on the family.
A day without talk of cancer is rare, but something has changed now.
Lina’s cancer is in complete remission.
A complete remission means there are no symptoms and no signs of cancer.
However, it doesn’t mean the cancer is cured.
Even in remission, there may be microscopic collections of cancer cells that can’t be identified.
Still, the news of remission has embroidered new hope in the lives of Palethorpe family.
“We are daring to dream again,” says Kati Palethorpe, Lina’s mom.
And yet, Kati has seen enough to be prepared for everything.
“I’m happy my child is alive”
Originally from Germany, Kati and Mike Palethorpe moved to Squamish seven years ago for its lifestyle.
Kati had an ‘uncomplicated and healthy’ pregnancy with both her children, Frieda and Lina.
But two weeks after Lina was born, Kati sensed that something was wrong.
Lina had an unsettling, haunted look to her, a deep stare that suggested pain.
Lina would always try to lie in an S shape, as if trying to create space in her back to ward off pain.
Sometimes, she would let out what seemed like a silent scream.
A few weeks later, Kati held the results of an ultrasound test which showed a large mass around the spine.
“She has cancer, doesn’t she,” Kati quietly asked the radiologist.
Six weeks after she was born, Lina was diagnosed with an intermediate risk, stage 2, paraspinal, neuroblastoma cancer.
The cancerous tumour, doctors said, was causing the kidney displacement and had grown into the spinal column, causing nerve compression.
When the tears drained, Kati says she was left with just thought.
“I want my child to live.”
Since her diagnose, Lina has had 11 rounds of chemotherapy and steroid treatments.
The first few rounds of chemotherapy reduced the tumour, and for a little while, life seemed normal again.
But six months later, a routine MRI found out the cancer was back, this time more malevolent.
After her tumour samples were sent to hospitals in New York, Seattle, and Germany, Lina also tested positive for a chromosomal abnormality, a rare subgroup on which there is little research.
Unresponsive to chemotherapy, Lina underwent another spinal surgery last September at the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.
A post-surgery scan this February revealed that five per cent of the tumour appeared to have disappeared.
The Palethorpes heard the words they never thought they would.
NED: No Evidence of Disease.
Kati and Mike always pictured themselves like the young families they saw around town.
“The typical thing; chaos, happiness, diapers, sleepless nights, way too many toys, hardly any adult time, lots of play dates, kids groups and and and…”
But never had they imagined they would have to see their daughter fight for life every single day.
It’s made them stronger, helping them focus on the essentials of life: Lina, Life, and Love.
Life has got easier with a supportive community in Squamish.
There are emails and Facebook messages, impromptu fundraisers, and food and notes of encouragement left at the door.
“I would have never done it without the support of the community,” Kati says.
Even though the cancer is in full remission, there is a chance it might return.
Still, there is relief and a silent jubilation in the family.
For the first time in three years, Mike and Kati went skiing, taking some time off for themselves.
After they made a pact to not talk about cancer, Mike planned the day.
“Where do you want to ski?,” Mike asked Kati.
“Wherever,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter.”