Energetic Lola Audet scampers up a climbing wall

Lola’s rising above cancer

Leukemia's in remission for Grade 2 student from Campbell River

Watching Lola Audet run around the school gym, you’d never know the eight-year-old bundle of energy was fighting cancer.

Audet, a Grade 2 student at École Mer-et-Montagne, is no longer testing positive for cancer cells, but is still undergoing treatment for leukemia, which was she was diagnosed with in September 2010.

“She’s into the maintenance phase of her treatment. I believe her cancer cells are in remission,” said her mom Thereasa Martin. “Out of every three months, she goes to Vancouver twice for lumbar punctures [spinal taps] and the rest can be done here at the cancer clinic in the hospital.”

The punctures are done to test for cancer cells, plus Audet takes four to five different oral medications. Martin said the steroids Audet takes for two week periods have some side effects.

“She’s always hungry, so on steroid days I’ll pack her two sandwiches,” Martin said. “And she’ll have mood swings. At first I didn’t know what was going on so it was hard but we’re a year into it now so we’re getting more used to it – it’s more manageable.”

Audet was first diagnosed with cancer the night before the first day of school when she was just six-years-old.

Martin said Audet was constantly tired, pale and had an infection on her toe that wouldn’t go away. Martin said she got a call from the doctor at 9 p.m. on Sept. 6.

Audet’s blood test showed her hemoglobin, platelets and white blood cells were so low that she was flown to Vancouver’s BC Children’s Hospital that night. Audet, her mom, dad Allan Audet, and sister Lizzie, who is in Kindergarten, stayed in Vancouver until spring 2011 in an apartment paid for by the non-profit YANA (You’re Not Alone) which helps families with medical expenses.

“They’re awesome. They even helped us out with gas money,” Martin said. “We had to make three trips (to Vancouver) in December and one in January, and with Christmas and birthdays it got pretty tight.”

Ecole Mer-et-Montagne also hosted a number of fundraisers for the family and educational assistant Martine Chabot wrote Audet a story. The book, titled Reve en puix petite fille, is written in French but translated in English on a side flap. The book is full of pictures of Audet before she got sick. Chabot hopes to sell copies of the book around the school to contribute to the fundraising efforts.

Although Audet is on the mend, she still has to go to Vancouver for treatment and the costs add up. Fortunately the trips to Vancouver are getting shorter and further apart, and Audet is starting to settle back into a regular routine.

“In September she started school again and she did tutoring in the summer so she didn’t have to fall behind a grade,” Martin said. “She loves school and it was hard on her not to go. She’s doing really, really well. She has fun and she’s not fragile at all. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t be able to tell.”

The only thing she can’t do is play dodge ball. Audet has to wear a Venicular Access Device in her chest, underneath the skin. The device is an alternative to an IV hooked up to her arm. Any fluids, medication, including chemo, that Audet needs can be put in the tube, which comes out at the side of her neck and is connected to the device.

Still, it doesn’t hold her back.

“She jumps on trampolines, she climbs trees, she rough houses, all that stuff,” Martin said.

Which is just how she’s always been.

“She’s sunshine,” said her principal Dominique Joyal. “We’re very happy she’s back.”