If there’s one thing Claire and Ryan Bertoli have learned over recent years, it’s their children are fighters.
Their first-born child, Lucie, now 11 years old, bravely beat leukemia in 2020 after first being diagnosed at the age of seven. Another of their four children, six-year-old Harper, suffered a seizure when she was just seven months old and has since made remarkable strides in her recovery, as well.
Unfortunately, this past May 21, Claire and Ryan learned the worst: Lucie had relapsed — her cancer had returned.
Claire has now travelled with Lucie to be by her side at Vancouver’s BC Children’s Hospital, while Ryan has stayed behind in Williams Lake to work, and care for their children and Lucie’s siblings: Nolan, 8, Harper and Wren, 3, until the end of the school year.
Harper’s Kindergarten class at Cataline elementary, taught by Rya Enns, had been working on Identity Day Projects — students create something important to them, or their family — but after learning of Lucie’s relapse decided to start an online auction to sell those projects to help raise money for Lucie.
Other family members, friends and the community at large, has also come on board to help fundraise for the Bertoli family — both through a GoFundMe page started by family friend Shalene Ostrom, More Love for Lucie, and a Facebook auction running this weekend, ‘More Love for Lucie Fundraising,’ from June 11-14. The Bertolis, meanwhile, are expecting a long road ahead of them as Lucie receives chemotherapy treatment and works to defeat leukemia for the second time.
On Monday, June 7, Harper, to the uplifting cheers of classmates, students and staff, enacted her Identity Day project — a walk-a-thon for her sister, Lucie.
Up until this year, Harper had been largely confined to a wheelchair, but has since started to walk on her own. With the assistance of a walker, Harper completed three laps around the school, followed and supported by classmates carrying hand-made signs for Lucie, teachers and support staff, all while collecting pledges.
“Harper thinks it’s very cool,” Claire said of her daughter’s initiative. “She’s so proud of her sister, and she’s come such a long way, herself.”
And while being back in Vancouver and away from the rest of the family has been challenging, to say the least, Claire said it has been Lucie who has been her rock.
“She’s had the best attitude about everything,” Claire said. “It’s just amazing, and she’s just been really grown up about the whole thing, even comforting me when I’m upset. She has an amazing sense of humour, and she’s really tough, and just an amazing kid.”
Lucie is currently receiving chemotherapy injections into her leg muscles every two days, and also intravenously through lumbar punctures each week. She is also required to take oral steroids daily to help with nausea and to protect her kidneys.
Now three years older than when she was diagnosed for the first time, Claire said Lucie has remained positive throughout.
“She’s in Grade 5 now, and it’s a bit harder in that respect that she understands more of what’s going on,” Claire said. “But she’s done it before, and knows how painful and nauseous the treatment can make her, and how hard it’s going to be. She definitely has a more mature outlook this time and she’s willing to just get it done, and to do it and get better.”
Currently, the family is waiting for the results of a bone marrow biopsy, which will take place after Lucie’s first month of treatment.
“That will answer a lot of questions for what comes next,” Claire said. “The big question right now is whether she is going to need a bone marrow transplant — we’re hoping not — but that’s something we are preparing for.”
During Lucie’s first bout with leukemia, the family spent eight-and-a half-months travelling back and forth to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver while Lucie received chemotherapy, followed by another year of travel from Williams Lake to Vancouver for doctor appointments and follow-up treatments.
“We’re anticipating something similar this time,” she said.
Both Claire and Ryan, meanwhile, said the support they’ve received from the community is completely overwhelming.
So far, Enns’ Kindergarten class, including Harper’s walk-a-thon, has raised upwards of $6,000. The ‘More Love for Lucie’ GoFundMe page has a goal of $15,000 set for the family.
“We’re overwhelmed with all the support,” Claire said. “It’s been just incredible, and we’ve really been able to see how amazing our community is, again. It’s been even more amazing this time around.”
Claire has also been keeping the community updated through her own Facebook page, titled ‘Love for Lucie.’