Family of baby battling cancer overwhelmed with support from charity initiatives

(Annaleigh Rabbit: Photo:APTN/Brandi Morin

Brandi Morin
APTN National News
Just days before Christmas 2014, eight-month old Annaleigh Rabbit of the Paul First Nation west of Edmonton, was diagnosed with stage 3 Neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer.

Annaleigh had been sick with reoccurring urinary tract infections for months prior, but on December 17, her health deteriorated.

“She wouldn’t stop crying for hours,” said her mother, Ashley Rabbit. “She wouldn’t eat, so we called an ambulance.”

Annaleigh was rushed to the Stollery Children’s hospital and admitted.

Less than 24 hours later during an ultrasound of Annaleigh’s abdomen, the technician jumped out of her chair and left the room, startling Ashley.

“I was sitting there wondering ‘what’s going on?’” said Ashley.

The technician returned with the radiologist who reviewed the ultrasound image.

“He looked at me and said, ‘We have a very sick little girl’…I broke down. I sat outside the ultrasound room crying.”

annaleigh2
Ashley and Annaleigh Photo:APTN/Brandi Morin

 

 

 

“It seemed like a nightmare. It doesn’t seem real. It was just horrible thinking that your daughter might not make it to her first birthday.” Ashley Rabbit[

 

 

 

 

 

The ultrasound showed a large mass growing in Annaleigh’s stomach. Following various tests she was diagnosed with stage 3 Neuroblastoma. Her mother said she knew right away what it was, because Annaleigh’s father’s eldest son had been diagnosed with the same type of cancer when he was just a few days old. He is now 14 years of age, and cancer free.

He is now 14 years of age, and considered cancer free.

The next few months would see the family’s life turn upside down.

“It seemed like a nightmare. It doesn’t seem real. It was just horrible thinking that your daughter might not make it to her first birthday,” said Ashley.

With two other young children to care for, Annaleigh’s father quit his job and split his time between being Mr. Mom at home and supporting his wife and baby at the hospital.

Soon, battling cancer took a toll emotionally and financially.

“It really saddened me and pained me that Kevin had to quit his work to look after the babies at home,” said Annaleigh’s Grandfather Dennis Paul.

Then family and friends set up a Go Fund Me account to help relieve some of the financial pressure of not only meeting basic needs, but the extra costs of traveling back and forth from the family home in Paul First Nation to the hospital in Edmonton.

“We never, ever even fathomed that kind of support and prayers that were coming from all over this great land- Canada, the U.S., Germany and Great Britain,” said Paul.

In April, a friend recommended the family for an initiative organized by Edmonton’s NOW Radio Station personality “Fitzy” called Bottles for Angels.

A bottle drive charity to help the families of those fighting cancer.

Click here for video of Annaleigh

In just a few weeks’ donations of empty bottles were collected that ended up filling three semi-trucks trailers and an entire garage full of bags of empties.

Yesterday, the family and supporters gathered at NOW radio station where they were presented with a cheque worth over $34,000.

“I cried,” said Ashley on the overwhelming flux of emotions that followed.

“We were just going through it all over again. There was so many things we wanted to say but just couldn’t.”

Paul felt the same.

Cheque-Jodi Lynn Gloss
Cheque presentation for Rabbit family Photo Courtesy of Jodi Lynn Glos

 

 

“We just wanna spend time together as a family.” Ashley Rabbit

 

 

 

 

“I didn’t have any words to describe the appreciation. And the generosity of all of these people to just come in selflessly and help the family.”

On April 7, Annaleigh celebrated her first birthday and on April 17 she was declared cancer-free. Annaleigh will have her next scan in June to confirm her current remission status.

Ashley is confident that Annaleigh has beaten cancer and said her daughter smiled throughout the ordeal despite going through intense chemotherapy treatments.

Her mother said Annaleigh’s resilient spirit can be seen shining through her sparkling eyes and as Ashley puts it “bossy pants” attitude.

Going forward, the family is looking to make up for lost time together.

“We just wanna spend time together as a family,” said Ashley.

Ashley also hopes to raise awareness about childhood cancer and encourages parents to be on the lookout for their children showing signs of unusual symptoms.

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