By: Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Newly married Meagan Eaton from Smiths Falls was tending to her first-born, eight-month-old baby Grayson on Nov. 23, 2020 when she noticed something troubling: the sight of blood in his diaper.
After rushing him to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa, Meagan, a dental hygienist, and her husband Jeff, an engineer, were given the news that their son had a rare, aggressive kidney cancer called rhabdoid tumour, and that he needed to be operated on right away.
“The cancer was encased in his kidney. The whole thing was full of cancer,” said Grayson’s grandmother, Debbie Botham, from Port Elmsley.
The family thought “that was it” once the kidney operation was over, but cancer was also found in his lymph nodes and lungs. Now at 10 months old, Grayson is still at CHEO, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for six months.
Grayson’s parents travel from Smiths Falls to stay at a hotel across from the hospital, as the Ronald McDonald house closed due to the pandemic. Meagan is still on maternity leave, while Jeff had to stop working to help take care of the baby.
“With the chemo, they have to wake up every hour to change his diaper, so his (urine) doesn’t burn his skin. There’s different side effects of his treatment that they have to contend with,” Botham said.
Botham was surprised that OHIP and Jeff’s work insurance combined didn’t cover a lot of their expenses. “You’d think for a baby, he’d be looked after (by OHIP) 100 per cent,” she said.
“It just blows my mind at how much (Meagan and Jeff) have had to put up (financially). If you don’t have insurance, I don’t know what people would do. It’s going to be very expensive. In six months, it would have its toll on them. They shouldn’t have to worry about this when they have a sick baby,” Botham said.
Some out-of-pocket expenses include a $1,300 feeding machine, the cost of needles, a $4,000 per shot monthly medication to produce bone marrow, plus hotel, gas and parking expenses.
Botham said that her daughter’s pregnancy and delivery was normal, and that the family has always been health conscious, with Meagan eating healthy, organic food. “She uses vinegar and baking soda to clean her house. This (cancer diagnosis) was quite a shock.”
When Grayson was a few months old, the only “sign” the family had that something was wrong was that Grayson didn’t like going in the car or in the stroller. “The bumps might have been hurting him — he would just scream,” said Botham.
According to Botham, “Grayson has such a happy spirit. He’s a wonderful baby. He started laughing when he was two months old. You wouldn’t think that there was anything wrong. One of the technicians at the hospital said, ‘I’ve never had any baby smile at me when I’m giving them needles.’”
Asked how she is handling everything, Botham said, “You just pull through. Just keep walking and going. He is the apple of my eye.”
To help Grayson with his treatments, an e-transfer may be sent to Meagan Eaton at [email protected] or call Botham at 613-285-5316.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help with fundraising. Their original goal of $10,000 has been surpassed, but needs are ongoing and donations can still be made.