Four necklaces of bravery beads and a few photos are nearly all that Adara Haskins has to remember the cancer that struck when she was just a toddler.
“I don’t really remember it at all,” says the 12-year-old student at Sir John Moore School in Corunna. And that’s a good thing.
The memories still bring Adara’s mom to tears as she talks about how sick her little girl was and how hard the fight was to beat the cancer. It’s been 18 months now since Adara was considered completely cured.
She was only three when she began suffering from ear infections, leg pains and swollen glands. Her parents, Jennifer and Geoff Haskins, were convinced something was seriously wrong, but it took months and a trip to Victoria Hospital in London before little Adara was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
On Dec. 27, 2006, Adara was admitted into the pediatric oncology ward and began 27 days of intense chemotherapy. At the time of the diagnosis, doctors gave Adara a 75 per cent chance of long-term survival. Nine days after aggressive treatment began, they boosted that to an 83 per cent chance.
“She responded so well,” said Jennifer.
And, because of new research, Adara became one of the first patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia not to undergo radiation therapy as a preventive measure to stop a recurrence.
Instead, newer drugs were used that could target her specific kind of cancer and could replace the radiation, explained Jennifer, who is a pharmacist.
“When we spoke to the doctors and heard how confident they were in the new research, it meant a lot,” she said.
Chemotherapy for Adara lasted 2.5 years, both at home and in hospital. Each time she required a blood transfusion, nurses gave the family a red bead to add to the bravery necklaces. Adara has 17 red beads.
Quite quickly, the chemotherapy killed the cancer and Adara was well enough to start kindergarten just a few months late.
“She really came out of it unscathed. It’s phenomenal,” said her mom. There was some nerve damage to her feet that Adara has managed to overcome. In fact, she took up figure skating without any problem.
The chemo also impacted Adara’s memory during those years of therapy but her memory since about age seven is intact. The only residual problem has to do with her ability to visually process, so Adara has used a computer in class in recent years.
This year, she has been asked to be the Terry Team Member, the face of hope at Sarnia’s Terry Fox Run on Sunday, Sept. 20.
“I’m so glad they asked Adara because I think it’s important for parents with sick children to see that children do survive and can be healthy again,” said Jennifer. “It’s so hard to see all those sick and dying children in the hospital.”
Adara, who now spends her time horseback riding, sketching, and taking piano lessons, says she’s happy to be Terry’s Team Member and has participated with her family in the run for the past three years.
Pledge sheets are now available at area banks, LCBO outlets and online at www.terryfox.org.
Last year, the Sarnia Terry Fox Run raised $28,000 for cancer research.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Sarnia’s annual Terry Fox Run
WHERE: Terry Fox Loop at Canatara Park near the cannon
WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 20. No-cost registration at 8 a.m. Event from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.