Penticton police hitting the roads for kids
For Brian and France Burke news their daughter Paige, who was three at the time, had cancer, sent their world crashing down around them.
“When the doctor broke it to me I was stunned, it was like somebody kicked me in the gut,” recalled Brian after hearing the results of the X-rays on that day 15 years ago. “My next biggest worry and one of the toughest things I had to do in my life was to go and tell France our three-year-old daughter might not be with us in a couple of weeks.”
The road ahead for the family was a rocky one. Paige, who was diagnosed with Stage Four Wilms Tumour, spent nearly two years undergoing radiation and chemo treatment before she even turned five.
As well, she has had four major surgeries, including the removal of a kidney, and still goes to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver twice a year for checkups.
“It was hard, looking at your kid full of tubes and gaunt with no hair and wondering: Where are we going with this? The last thing any parent wants to do is outlive their children,” said Brian.
“My only wish was to change places with Paige and allow her a childhood shielded from the realities of surgeries, chemo, radiation and countless pokes from needles but unfortunately that wasn’t possible.”
At the time, the Burkes, including their oldest child Colin, were moving to North Battleford, Sask. from Prince Rupert.
Both remembered the tremendous support, financial and emotional, they received from both communities, and the compassion of their supervisors as their daughter’s treatment took them from Saskatoon, Ottawa, Vancouver and Penticton.
“It’s what got us through the days,” said Brian. “We would come back to Ronald McDonald House and there would be an email or parcel there from someone who cared. It just got us over the hump of that day of having to deal with something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.”
Currently Paige’s prognosis is good and now, at 18, she is looking ahead to graduating this year from Summerland Secondary School and going on to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.
Paige and her parents were at Boston Pizza this week for the kickoff for this year’s Cops for Cancer campaign.
“I’m very proud of my parents for doing this, it’s something that is very important to all of us,” said Paige. “It’s so good having their support and this really hits home. I’m good, I’m healthy and I just enjoy every day.”
Brian and France, who are corporals with the Penticton RCMP detachment, are also actively trying to recruit more members for the Cops for Cancer team from the ranks of area’s emergency service personnel.
This year’s ride will be part of the Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan cycling event scheduled for July 13. Sign up deadline is Monday, April 7. Local confirmed riders include the Burkes, Cpl. Warren Kraft, Const. Brad Caruso and Penticton Search and Rescue’s Mike Porter.
Members of other detachments, including Insp. Brad Haugli, the former officer in charge in Penticton, have also signed on. It is hoped to raise $30,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society and Camp Goodtimes, a Lower Mainland summer retreat for children with cancer and their families. While a cure for the deadly disease has not been found, great strides have been made in treatment options.
“The research done prior to Paige being diagnosed with cancer was sufficient to save her life, the generation before Paige wasn’t so lucky,” said France.
“I’m a firm believer if it hadn’t been for that research that our daughter would not still be with us.
“Giving back it’s huge. Paige is a portrait of health, she’s been given a second chance and there is a big team behind that.
“She is here in part because of the children that didn’t make it.”
Anyone who would like to help can make a donation at www.copsforcancerbc.ca.