Team Finn rides for a little boy who lived, was lost, but will never be forgotten. Since 2009, they’ve raised hundreds of thousands to help change the story for other families facing cancer. This year, Paul Drabble is joining their Tour de Cure ranks in honour of the 10-year anniversary of his daughter Scarlett’s leukemia diagnosis.
“In the evening, the intensive care ward goes very quiet and the lights get turned down. I remember walking around, seeing the other rooms occupied by children. Many of them with no hair. Their parents holding them close and reading to them. And thinking, ‘How did I get here?’” says Paul Drabble of how quickly in August 2013 his 3-year-old daughter’s fever escalated over four days to a cancer diagnosis.
“One day you’re going to work, grocery shopping and taking your child to daycare, then the next you’re living in a pediatric intensive care unit watching your daughter fight for her life.”
Ten years later, Scarlett is a happy, healthy 13 year old, excited about entering high school in the fall. “The funny thing is, now she’s absolutely terrified of needles. I keep telling her, ‘You know, you probably had several hundred or a thousand of them,” says Paul.
Let alone become accustomed to constant injections, Scarlett remembers very little from those two years of treatment. For Paul, however, “there are some pretty jagged memories. After one treatment, she lost all her hair in one day.”
“But, Scarlett was lucky,” he says. “We caught it in time, it hadn’t metastasized. And she had a type of leukemia that was quite receptive to chemotherapy. She went into remission within a few weeks of the initial treatment, and never relapsed.”
After her strength returned, Scarlett went back to school. Doctor’s visits dwindled from monthly to every six months to once a year. Life with two young kids — Scarlett’s brother Preston was only 3-month’s old when she was diagnosed — became normal and busy again for the Burnaby family.
“As parents of a cancer survivor, your life resets and you can easily forget about those tough times,” he says. But there are grim reminders. Paul and Scarlett attended a memorial service two years ago for a young girl they’d gotten to know at a camp for kids with cancer. “She’d been in and out of the hospital for 10 years,” he says. “They’re a strong family, but it took an enormous toll.”
Scarlett with Preston who was just 3-month's old when she was diagnosed.
Honouring through action what others facing cancer go through is incredibly important to Paul. In addition to regularly donating blood and platelets (which cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, including Scarlett, often need transfusions of) he’s signed up to ride for the first time this summer in the Tour de Cure, presented by Wheaton Precious Metals.
The August ride will mark almost 10 years to the day that Paul wandered the hospital halls, clinging to hope for his own daughter, and catching glimpses of other families facing similar. Despite the blur of raising young children he remembers it like it was yesterday. And those images will play through his mind on the long open road while he rides side by side with others fuelled by their own memories.
“Being on a bike, there’s a lot of time to reflect. I’m riding in tribute to the incredible courage and resilience that Scarlett displayed during her treatment. She’s my daily inspiration and source of strength whenever I need to overcome life’s challenges.”
The Tour de Cure, presented by Wheaton Precious Metals, is B.C.’s largest cycling fundraiser powering leading cancer care innovation across the province through the BC Cancer Foundation. Sign up to ride or volunteer this Aug. 26-27, or donate to fuel a participant or team at tourdecure.ca