Tuesday offered a good, busy exploration of the Cowichan Valley, the riders pinballing between schools and community events.
Wednesday will be a day that taxes the cyclists. Not particularly long, at 78 kilometres, but riding from Duncan to Shawnigan Lake to Mill Bay to Sooke offers enough hills, including the Malahat, to remind you that you’re on a bicycle. Clearing the Malahat is a nice milestone for the riders, though.
A more important milestone was passed not long ago by Daisy Irwin, who will be greeting the riders when they pull into Sooke. This past Christmas, she celebrated five years in remission from the cancer that struck her when she was just 10 weeks old.
It was a rare, hard-to-treat combination of two types of leukemia, one that left her in B.C. Children’s Hospital for eight months, including a month on a ventilator after her first round of chemotherapy. A life-saving stem cell transplant at six months of age brought its own complications.
Her story ultimately had a happy outcome. But it also highlighted a common story, the drain on Vancouver Island families whose sick children need to go to the Lower Mainland for treatment.
One day, they’re an average, two-income family, the next their life is in turmoil, with one parent and the ailing child suddenly flying to Vancouver, the other scrambling at home.
As it often the case in families with more than one child to care for, Daisy’s parents — Patrick, in the restaurant business, and Emma, a software developer — had to quit their jobs. There was no choice. “It was 24-hour care,” said Patrick. “One of us always had to be with Daisy.” Even with that help, and help from their colleagues and community, wallets emptied quickly; Vancouver is an expensive place to maintain a second life, particularly with no income coming in. Hospital meals add up.
They lived in Ronald McDonald House, with the Canadian Cancer Society picking up the cost. Later, the family was able to enjoy Camp Goodtimes, another cancer society endeavor funded through the Tour de Rock.
In return, the Irwin family has remained immersed in the cause. Daisy’s eight-year-old sister Molly put up a lemonade stand this summer to raise money for the Tour de Rock. Both Daisy and Molly (who now have a baby sister, Violet) have appeared at Tour fundraisers, including a golf tournament in Sayward this summer. To top it all off, Molly plans to shave her head when the team arrives in Sooke. Imagine that from an eight-year-old girl — it will give the riders something to look forward to when they climb on their bikes.
Learn more about this year’s tour at Copsforcancer.ca or tourderock.ca. The riders would appreciate any messages of support you may care to add to the blog on the latter site.
COMING UP ON DAY 12
After stopping at Frances Kelsey and Shawnigan Lake schools Wednesday, it’s off to the Mill Bay Centre for an event hosted by Thrifty Foods and Coast Capital Savings just after 10 a.m. They should reach Sooke’s Ecole Poirier around 2 p.m., arriving at the West Shore’s Veterans Memorial Park just before 4.